Last chance for Cyprus reunification lost as UN calls off conference
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (C) attends a photo call next to Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias (L) and Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu during a meeting with the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cyprus communities at the Greentree Estate in Manhasset, New York on Jan. 23. (Photo: Reuters)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders have not made sufficient progress during talks on reunifying Cyprus to call an international conference at this time.
Ban's spokesman made the announcement Saturday afternoon following the secretary-general's meeting Friday with Alexander Downer, the UN special adviser on Cyprus, and telephone calls earlier Saturday with Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey intervened after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state in the north in 1983, but only Turkey recognizes it and keeps 35,000 troops there.
Ban has been pressing the two leaders to reach a settlement, and Downer said last month he had planned to call an international conference by early May, bringing together Britain, Greece and Turkey with the aim of putting the finishing touches on an accord.
But Downer said the two sides have not yet converged closely enough on key issues. He said talks are stalled on how executive power would be shared under an envisioned federation and on how to deal with private property lost during the intervention.
Ban's spokesman said that on the basis of the meeting with Downer on Friday, "the secretary-general shared his assessment that there is not the sufficient progress on core issues that would provide a basis for calling an international conference at this time."
Eroğlu accused Greek Cyprus of failure in peace talks and said UN chief called off the conference after Greek Cyprus declined to come to the five-party talks that included Cypriot sides, Turkey, Greece and the UK.
Eroğlu said he told UN’s Ban in his last letter that he will show necessary flexibility during the five-party talks with respect to thorny issues such as administration, power sharing and property. Turkish Cypriot president said Greek Cypriot’s reluctance for the UN conference affected the Secretary-General in his decision to call of the conference.
Greek Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the south enjoys membership benefits.
Turkey, an EU membership candidate, doesn't recognize Greek Cyprus as a sovereign country and has threatened to freeze its relations with the bloc if the island takes over the presidency before a reunification accord is reached.
Eroğlu has said that there would be no point in carrying on with talks after June, but Christofias insists that negotiations ought to continue even during the Greek Cypriot EU presidency.
Long-running negotiations to reunify divided Cyprus will likely halt in July, when Greek Cyprus takes over the European Union's six-month rotating presidency. Alexander Downer, the UN Special Adviser on Cyprus, earlier said Turkish Cypriots believe negotiations during that period would be "meaningless" since Christofias would be preoccupied with EU matters.
Numerous rounds of UN mediated peace talks over four decades have led nowhere. The latest round, which began amid high hopes in 2008, has achieved limited progress, and both sides have begun blaming each other for the impasse.
Speaking about the prospects of the peace talks in Cyprus, Eroğlu said he will have the last bilateral talks with Christofias.
Greek Cypriots object to any fixed negotiation deadlines to avoid repeating their rejection in a referendum of a 2004 UN-brokered deal they said was weighed against them. Turkish Cypriots had approved the deal.
Eroğlu said Greek Cyprus has no intention for peace in the island and argued that embargo on Turkish Cyprus will continue forever as Greek Cyprus the EU pegged the lift of sanctions to reunification of the island.
Eroğlu also denied speculations that Turkish Cyprus is mulling to change its name, saying that he is not disturbed by the current name of the country.
Turkish media, citing unnamed official sources, reported last week that if a solution is not found by the time Greek Cyprus takes over the EU presidency on July 1, Ankara and the Turkish side will initiate a “Plan B.” Plan B would entail beginning to exert unilateral diplomatic efforts for the international recognition of Turkish Cyprus as the “Turkish Cypriot State.”
The Turkish Cypriot State was the name used to refer to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) in former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's 2004 Cyprus Plan as one of the federal units of a United Cyprus Republic. Greek Cyprus was referred to as the Greek Cypriot State.