After a marathon Thursday night negotiation between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders, with the UN facilitating the process, talks to reunify the divided island collapsed amid anger and recriminations in the early hours of Friday.
This marks an end to what many Cypriots saw as the most promising opportunity in generations to heal decades of conflict between the divided communities.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a news conference, after the last session…
“I’m very sorry to tell you that despite the very strong commitment and engagement of all the delegations and different parties…the conference on Cyprus was closed without an agreement being reached.”
“Unfortunately…an agreement was not possible, and the conference was closed without the possibility to bring a solution to this dramatic and long-lasting problem.”
“That doesn’t mean that other initiatives cannot be developed in order to address the Cyprus problem.”
Guterres declined to elaborate on what exactly had caused the collapse in the talks, but the UNSG noted that there was still a wide gap between the two delegations on a number of questions, most notably Turkey’s refusal to withdraw it’s illegal occupying forces from the island.
The collapse marked a dramatic culmination to more than two years of a process that had been widely thought of as the best chance at reunification since the island was split between its Greek and Turkish Cypriot populations in 1974.
Guterres had flown in on Thursday to press Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to seal a deal reuniting the east Mediterranean island, while U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had phoned to urge them to “seize this historic opportunity”.
Diplomatic efforts to reunite Cyprus have failed since the island was riven in a 1974 Turkish army invasion triggered by a coup by Greek Cypriots seeking union with Greece.
The week of talks in the Swiss Alps, which the United Nations said was the “the best chance” for a deal, ground to a halt as the two sides failed to overcome final obstacles.
Diplomats said Turkey had appeared to be offering little to Greek Cypriots wanting a full withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island, although the Greek Cypriots had indicated readiness to make concessions on Turkish Cypriot demands for a rotating presidency, the other key issue.
Guterres finally called a halt at 2 a.m. after a session marred by yelling and drama, a source close to the negotiations said.
Reuters notes that without a fallback option, it was unclear what, if any, peace process could continue. Reunification attempts have always been under the umbrella of the United Nations, which has one of its longest-serving peacekeeping forces on the island.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who with his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias had been attending the peace talks at the Swiss Alpine resort of Crans-Montana for a week, spoke of different options.
“This outcome shows the impossibility of reaching a settlement within the parameters of the Good Offices Mission,” Cavusoglu wrote on his twitter feed, using a term referring to the UN.
“No use in insisting on them.”
Greek Cypriots, due to launch gas drilling off the island in coming weeks that Turkey opposes, pointed the finger of blame at the Turkish side.
Nicos Christodoulides, spokesman for the Greek Cypriot government, said Turkey had refused to relinquish its intervention rights on Cyprus or the presence of troops on the island.
“Tonight’s development is in no way positive, but it is not the end of the road either,” he said, without elaborating.
Guterres, who began his role in January by announcing a “surge of diplomacy for peace”, is known for his energy and drive.
But he appeared tired and downcast as he announced the collapse of the talks to a handful of journalists at an impromptu news conference that lasted only three and a half minutes.
Success in reunifying Cyprus talks would have given the UN and Guterres a high profile win before the G20 talks in Hamburg, where U.S. President Donald Trump will be in attendance, and who has promised to cut the U.S. share of U.N. funding.
Turkey’s insistence on maintaining guarantees, troops and intervention rights led to the collapse of the talksin Crans-Montana, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said early Friday.
After a marathon session which failed to reach a comprise, 10 days into intense negotiations under the auspices of the UN, Christodoulides said although this was in no way a positive outcome, it was not the end of the road.
Turkey’s stance on the chapter of security and guarantees and their position on the remaining chapters “not only steers away from the UN secretary-general’s framework but could in no way could be accepted,” he said.
Nevertheless, President Nicos Anastasiades would continue efforts to create conditions that would allow people to hope for an end to occupation and re-unification of the island, Christodoulides said.
“The current status quo cannot be the future of Cyprus,” he added.
The spokesman said Anastasiades had submitted written proposals that addressed concerns of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots while Greece had submitted a proposal on the chapter of security and guarantees.
“This was presented with a constructive mood and attitude so there could be a positive result.”
Although a result was not reached, Anastasiades thanked the excellent cooperation with Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Kotzias who had also been in Crans-Montana and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras with whom he had regularly kept in touch.
The president also extended his thanks to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres whose “presence and approach on outstanding matters prove he recognises the principles that need to underlie a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem for a state which will continue to be after a possible solution, a member state of the EU.”
According to the Cyprus Mail, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the failure of the Crans-Montans talks showed the impossibility of reaching a settlement within the parameters of the UN’s Good Offices Mission and there was “No use in insisting on them”.
In a series of tweets after the marathon working dinner ended in the early hours, Cavusoglu said it was important to maintain and increase stability on island and in region.
“We will continue efforts for a settlement within different parameters,” he said. Crans-Montana, he added had “unfortunately not produced any results”. “Turkey was very constructive but no agreement could be reached.”
Asked about the strategy to be followed from now on, the Turkish minister said the situation would be evaluated both by the Turkish president and prime minister.
Asked about the attitude of the Greek Cypriot side, he said unfortunately on the issue of guarantees and the troops, the ‘zero guarantees zero army’, he did not see any change coming from the Greek side. “Therefore, the full withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island and the elimination of Turkish guarantees was not an approach that could be accepted by either the Turkish Cypriot side nor by us,” he said.
Cavusoglu said that from the start, Turkey had said this was the last conference and it had been the UN secretary-general who had called a halt because he could see no light at the end of the tunnel.
“What will happen from now and what steps we will take, as I said earlier, we as Turkey will make our assessments and consult with the TRNC and will make the decision together,” he added.
The Cyprus News Agency said that according to reliable sources, there was no result because of Turkey`s insistence on retaining the guarantees and on maintaining Turkish troops on the island.
On the guarantees and the right to intervention, Ankara wanted a review of the presence of troops in 15 years and not withdrawal, CNA said
On the territorial level, the Turkish side would only accept the return of part of Morphou to the Greek Cypriot constituent state, in an agreed federal solution.
Furthermore, Turkey wanted any agreement reached to become primary law of the EU while it insisted on equal treatment of Turks in Cyprus with Greeks residing on the island after a political settlement.