UN’s Guterres says common ground elusive in Cyprus talks

In this file photo, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a joint press conference with the German Foreign Minister after a meeting in Berlin, on Dec 17, 2020. (MICHAEL SOHN / POOL / AFP)

GENEVA / NICOSIA – The United Nations said on Thursday there was not enough common ground to resume negotiations on Cyprus, after a three-day summit attempting to break a four-year impasse in peace negotiations. 

Diplomats had been trying to make headway to end a decades-old conflict between rival Greek and Turkish Cypriots which destabilises the eastern Mediterranean and is a key source of tension between NATO allies Greece and Turkey. 

For decades, the United Nations has been attempting to piece Cyprus back together as a two-zone federation – the only thing the two sides have been able to agree on in principle

"The truth is that at the end of our efforts, we have not yet found enough common ground to allow for the resumption of formal negotiations," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a news conference in Geneva. 

Cyprus was split in two in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek inspired coup. The seeds of division had been sown when a power-sharing administration of Greek and Turkish Cypriots crumbled in violence, just three years after independence from Britain in 1960. 

READ MORE: North Cyprus leader backs two-state proposal for UN talks

For decades, the United Nations has been attempting to piece Cyprus back together as a two-zone federation – the only thing the two sides have been able to agree on in principle.

Only Turkey recognises the breakaway state in Northern Cyprus. Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu told reporters in Geneva that the Greek Cypriot side did not bring a new proposal and had sounded "like a broken record". 

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said there was no point in holding formal talks on Cyprus without recognition of his state, and that he would not turn back from the two-state proposal his delegation made on Wednesday. 

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Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades said the Turkish proposals for a two-state solution were a clear violation of UN resolutions over the island and would never be accepted. 

His government nominally represents the whole island, both internationally and in the European Union. Guterres said the United Nations would make a fresh attempt in "probably two or three months". 

"Unfortunately today we are not able to reach the agreements that we would wish to reach, but we are not going to give up," he said. The summit at the UN European headquarters was attended by the foreign ministers of Britain, Greece and Turkey which are guarantor powers under the island's independence treaty. 

Britain welcomed the commitment by all sides to meet again in the near future, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Twitter. "The UK will continue to work with all parties to seek a fair and lasting settlement," he said.