Nicosia, Cyprus – EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell conveyed the bloc’s readiness to help kickstart peace talks, Borrell says the EU believes a peace deal must be within the framework outlined by the United Nations, “as well as the founding principles and EU law.”
This suggests EU backing for the Greek Cypriots’ insistence on a federal solution, as opposed to a drive by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots to scrap the decades-old formula and move forward with a deal based on two separate states.
A planned informal meeting in Switzerland, hosted by UN Chief Antonio Guterres, that will bring together both sides on Cyprus, as well as the east Mediterranean island nation’s “guarantors” — Greece, Turkey and former colonial ruler Britain.
The aim will be to gauge whether there’s enough common ground to resume a process that was shelved in 2017 when high-level negotiations collapsed amid acrimony.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey intervened following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the island’s northern third. Although Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, only the southern, recognized part enjoys full benefits.
Cyprus’ continued division has ratcheted up tensions with Turkey over claims to potential offshore oil and gas deposits in the east Mediterranean, and remains a key stumbling block to Turkey’s troubled bid for EU membership.
Greek Cypriots see a more engaged EU in peace talks as a possible bulwark against the shift in the position of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots — from the long-held aim of a federated Cyprus made up of Greek and Turkish-speaking zones — to an agreement struck between two equal, internationally recognized states.
An overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots strongly oppose any deal that would legitimize Cyprus’ ethnic partition.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU participation in peace talks is essential to ensure that “whatever is agreed is compatible” with EU law.
The Cypriot government also cites numerous UN Security Council resolutions stating that any peace deal should be based on a federal model.
Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots see it differently, insisting that decades of negotiations on cobbling together a federation have gone nowhere and that a two-state solution should be considered a feasible alternative.
In a written statement, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar repeated that the federal model for Cyprus has “collapsed.” He said a peace deal based on “cooperation between two states living side-by-side on the bases of sovereign equality” is something that has the backing of Turkey “which is the biggest and most powerful state in the region.”