United Nations plans Cyprus talks in March

The United Nations plans to host multi-party talks on Cyprus in early March, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a news conference on Thursday.

"I am always ready to go to the Security Council if there is an agreement of parties in enlarging the scope of negotiations,” he said in New York, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The U.N. meeting would include Greek and Turkish Cypriot representatives, as well as the island’s three guarantor countries - Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom.

Guterres said the talks would be informal and would not be subject to pre-conditions, the in-Cyprus news website reported.

“That meeting we decided to be an informal meeting without preconditions…There are these changes in the administration of northern Cyprus,” he said.

“It is important that there is a chance of all the people to frankly discuss among themselves how they see the future and to see how to move forward.”

Ersin Tatar, the Turkey-backed newly elected president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), has called for fresh U.N.- sponsored talks on the future of the divided island, but has said he will only participate if negotiations are focused on a two-state solution.

Turkey has said that it also opposes longstanding U.N. initiatives based on a federal model for the island. Both the Greek Cypriot-controlled Republic of Cyprus and Greece oppose a two-state solution.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in November that Turkey cannot wait another 50 years for a political solution. Negotiations on a two-sided, bi-communal federal model have failed and will continue to fail, he said.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a brief Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. Since then, the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus has controlled the southern two-thirds of the island, and the TRNC, only recognised by Turkey, the northern third.

A succession of talks to reunite Cyprus have failed over disagreements on core issues, including the presence of thousands of Turkish soldiers in the north. A meeting in Crans Montana, Switzerland in 2017 constituted the last attempt at settlement talks.

The Mediterranean island has become the focus of a dispute over rights to tap hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey opposes unilateral drilling by the Republic of Cyprus and has sent ships to search for oil and natural gas around the island, prompting the European Union to sanction Turkish officials who are involved.