UN Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide 26 May announced he was halting UN mediation efforts amid impasse on convening new Geneva conference, citing lack of prospect for common ground, but insisted reunification talks have not collapsed; 31 May said there is “dead end” in process, more diplomatic work needed, currently no new meetings expected between the two sides. Greek Cypriot President Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Akıncı 17 May failed to reach agreement on procedure at last of four meetings which began in April to restart UN-backed negotiations, amid tensions over oil and gas exploration off Cyprus coast. Greek Cypriot govt 8 May said Turkish “threats” to prevent hydrocarbon extraction in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone scheduled for summer could be designed to scuttle negotiations, 11 May said it would not alter its plans. Eide 11 May warned resulting tensions could lead to “international crisis” and collapse of talks, but said “nervousness of last mile” was expected. Greek Cypriot President Anastasiades 7 May alleged Sept 2017 elections in Norway prompted haste and bias in Eide’s mediation.
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.
Though newly discovered gas reserves off Cyprus are currently driving the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities further apart, they could offer both newfound wealth if, together with Turkey, they would start a new dialogue.
To capitalise on twelve years of normalisation, and at a time when both could benefit from a foreign policy success, Greece and Turkey should settle their expensive, outdated and stressful stand-off over Aegean Sea maritime zones and related issues.
With stalemate looming in the UN-sponsored Cyprus reunification negotiations, parties to the dispute need to take dramatic, unilateral steps to break the decades-long distrust that is suffocating them.
Stability in the Eastern Mediterranean will remain hostage to full settlement of the Cyprus dispute, but the property issue – one of its most intractable knots – can be solved now if Greek and Turkish Cypriots compromise on new proposals currently before them.
Three decades of efforts to reunify Cyprus are about to end, leaving a stark choice ahead between a hostile, de facto partition of the island and a collaborative federation between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities living in two constituent states.
Originally published in Transatlantic Academy
Originally published in The Majalla
Originally published in IP Journal