UN diplomacy aimed at reunifying Cyprus has been drifting since talks broke down in 2017. The Secretary-General should appoint an envoy to draft a roadmap with sufficient incentives to bring both Greek and Turkish Cypriots back to the table.
Tensions continued to diminish following agreement on disputed road constructed by de facto Turkish Cypriot authorities and intensified diplomatic efforts to appoint UN envoy.
UN brokered deal between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. UN Mission in Cyprus 9 Oct announced “understanding” between sides on road construction by Turkish Cypriots to connect Pile/Pyla village (located in UN buffer zone) to “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”), which had contributed to upsurge in tensions in Aug that led to violent skirmishes in buffer zone; deal granted Turkish Cypriots permission to continue building road, while both sides confirmed inviolability of Green Line demarcating boundary between sides. Republic of Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides 17 Oct said agreement was “important” in restoring status quo in buffer zone, while “TRNC” de facto foreign ministry 18 Oct accused Republic of Cyprus of trying to portray agreement as “own victory” and as step to expand UN Security Council “authority and dominance”; Türkiye 9 Oct welcomed agreement, saying it exemplified “TRNC’s” “constructive attitude”. De facto Turkish Cypriot authorities 23 Oct resumed construction of road as per agreement.
Signs emerged of possible progress toward appointment of UN envoy. After “TRNC” last month refused further talks on UN envoy’s appointment, saying it would not compromise its sovereignty, Republic of Cyprus 16 Oct said it had not reached final decision on appointment, amid reports circulating about potential candidates for role; position has been vacant since 2017 and filling it could symbolise step toward return to formal talks. After meeting with UN Sec Gen António Guterres during Cairo Peace Summit, Republic of Cyprus President Christodoulides 22 Oct said he was more optimistic about prospects of resuming formal talks on Cyprus question; govt next day said appointment of UN Envoy to Cyprus as soon as possible would be important development for resumption of negotiations with Turkish Cypriots. Christodoulides 26 Oct said govt had given its consent for UN envoy appointment; Ankara and “TRNC” had not yet announced their consent.
Greek and Turkish Cypriots have moved farther apart since a failed summit in 2017, hampering cooperation in several important matters and increasing tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. Hopes for reunifying Cyprus are faint at present, but the parties can still work toward more modest goals.
In mid-2020, Turkey and Greece put their Mediterranean fleets on high alert, dramatically raising tensions in their long-running dispute over air, water, rock and now seabed gas deposits as well. Talks have been frustrating but remain the best way to contain the risk of conflict.
Greece and Turkey have stepped back from the brink of military confrontation over gas exploration in disputed waters in the Mediterranean Sea. But trouble still looms. European leaders should welcome signs of conciliation from Athens and Ankara and nudge them toward talks.
To avoid another failed effort at federal reunification in the new round of Cyprus negotiations, all sides should break old taboos and discuss all possible options, including independence for Turkish Cypriots within the European Union.
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