“The suggestion of the Greek Cypriot side is outdated, aiming solely at engaging directly with Turkey,” Turkish officials approached by Today’s Zaman stated on Wednesday in response to remarks by the Greek Cypriot leader during an interview with a Turkish daily. Christofias reportedly said he would be ready to come to Turkey if Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan invites him to discuss the dispute of the ethnically divided Cypriot island.
Christofias suggested that Greece and Turkey, the two motherlands and guarantor states, “step aside” in the negotiation talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, yet nevertheless insisted that “Turkey holds the key to a solution” and should give the green light before negotiation talks will produce results, the Hürriyet daily reported on Wednesday.
However, Ankara traditionally dismisses calls from the Greek Cypriots for direct talks with Turkey as attempts at bypassing the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC). Ankara’s response to Christofias’ call carried the same attitude, as officials ruled out such a meeting “unless the KKTC and Greece are also present at the table.” Turkey does not recognize Greek Cyprus as an interlocutor and has no diplomatic or trade contacts with the country. Turkey is also the only country in the world that recognizes the KKTC as a sovereign nation. Cyprus has been ethnically divided into two communities since a brief, Greek-inspired coup attempted to unify the island with Greece in 1974, and Turkey intervened to avert the unification and support the Turkish community, which had already been left out of the Cypriot administration since the 1960s.
Commenting on a variety of topics that make up the main points of concern blocking the reunification talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, Christofias raised doubts about the progress of negotiation talks between the community leaders, who have been engaged in intensifying talks since last summer to come up with a roadmap for reunification that would then be moved on to the UN table to have any remaining issues ironed out.
“The negotiation talks are not going well. …Unless there is progress in the last two meetings, there will be no point in going to New York for the second time late this month,” Christofias told the Hürriyet, referring to a tripartite meeting to be held under the UN roof with the participation of UN chief Ban Ki-moon. The UN has urged the sides to agree on the core issues at bilateral meetings and to arrive in New York ready to progress further towards reunification. However, there has so far been little progress achieved in the years of efforts on the part of the UN, the last of which, called the Annan Plan, was turned down in 2004 by the Greek Cypriots in a referendum although the Turkish Cypriots voted in its favor.
Regarding the reunification talks, KKTC Foreign Minister Hüseyin Özgürgün also expressed his feeling that the road is leading nowhere, since the “Greek Cypriots’ intention is to pursue insolubility in the island, not to reach consensus,” the Anatolia news agency reported on Wednesday. Özgürgün also accused the Greek Cypriot administration of slander against the Turkish Cypriots and trying to deteriorate the relations between Turkey and the KKTC.
On Wednesday, the leaders of the two communities held one of their last meetings before traveling to New York on Jan 22.