Leaders from Cyprus will resume talks on the future of the divided island on Tuesday, but there’s little hope of a lasting solution 47 years after the Turkish-Cypriot north broke away from the Greek-Cypriot south.
The informal UN-hosted three-day meeting in Geneva, also attended by Greek, Turkish and British officials, comes four years after the last round of peace talks collapsed and seeks to find what semblance of common ground remains. If anything, each side appears more entrenched than ever.
The UN has long supported the bi-zonal, federal solution also backed by Greece, the Greek-Cypriot south and the UK.
This is in stark contrast to the breakaway administration in the north of Cyprus and its ally Turkey – the only country to recognise the area as an independent state – which wants a two-state solution.
Greek-Cypriots say they will never accept this because it would forever legitimise the country’s partition. They are also angered by the remaining presence of 35,000 Turkish troops on the island, in place since a 1974 invasion of northern Cyprus after a Greece-backed coup.
“The purpose of the meeting will be to determine whether common ground exists for the parties to negotiate a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem within a foreseeable horizon,” said Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, who came to power last year, is a staunch proponent of a two-state future, and was in Ankara on Monday for talks with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mr Tatar rejected a request by the European Union to attend as an observer, and said it would not be objective due to the Greek-Cypriots’ membership of the bloc.
He urged the international community to “acknowledge the existence” of two states in Cyprus.
“We are going to Geneva with a new vision for Cyprus, one based on the realities on the island,” he said.
“There are two peoples with distinct national identities, running their own affairs separately.”
Mr Tatar called on the UK to use its political freedom after Brexit and support a two-state future.
But, underlining the fault lines, Nikos Christodoulides, the Foreign Minister from the internationally recognised government in the south, said he went to Geneva “steadfastly committed to resuming negotiations for reunifying Cyprus in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation”.
Further complicating the situation are the maritime border disputes and energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean between Cyprus and Greece on one hand, and Turkey on the other.
Cyprus gained independence in 1960 from the UK, which earlier this year reiterated its support for a federal future.