UN chief says to seek new informal talks with Cypriot leaders

BERLIN: UN chief Antonio Guterres said Monday he agreed to work towards setting up a new round of informal talks with rival Cypriot leaders, after the parties acknowledged at a Berlin meeting that any fresh discussions “must be different”.

Guterres had met President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in the German capital for “informal, trilateral” talks that had raised hopes for a new impetus to revive long-stalled peace negotiations.

“I committed to explore with the Turkish Cypriot leader and the Greek Cypriot leader and with the Guarantor powers the possibility to convene an informal five-plus-UN meeting at an appropriate stage,” said Guterres in a statement.

The Guarantor powers are Britain, Turkey and Greece.

“It is acknowledged that this time must be different,” added the UN secretary general.

In August, the leaders held an informal meeting in the buffer zone dividing the capital Nicosia, but failed to make any breakthrough in reviving talks.

Since a summit in Switzerland collapsed in July 2017, there has been no movement in UN-sponsored negotiations for the divided Mediterranean island.

Turkey has had troops stationed in the country since 1974 when it invaded and occupied its northern third after a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece.

The Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus controls the southern two-thirds of the island, which joined the European Union in 2004.

Only Ankara recognises the breakaway self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Turkey still maintains between 30,000 and 40,000 troops in the north.

In 2003, crossing points opened along the UN-patrolled “Green Line” which had until then hermetically divided the island in two.

Several rounds of UN-brokered talks on reunification have taken place down the years between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders, but they have always collapsed.

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