Peaceful resolution of Cyprus dispute ‘truly remains possible’: UN chief Antonio Guterres

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Writes Betul Yuruk

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said a peaceful and shared future on the divided island of Cyprus ”truly remains possible” through meaningful and results-oriented negotiations in his latest report obtained by Anadolu Agency.

Guterres commended the governments of Greece and Türkiye for the positive shift in relations and urged the two leaders in Cyprus to re-engage in talks to resolve the decades-long dispute.

Guterres said the underlying positions of the two sides on the peace process remained far apart, but the first face-to-face meeting with Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Christodoulides and Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar was a ”positive step” in establishing a connection.

He urged them to be proactive in seeking mutually acceptable modalities for dialogue. ”I believe this remains crucial for finding a mutually agreeable way forward,” he said.

”The continued absence of substantive dialogue on issues related to the peace process between the two sides continues to deepen the differences of views on the way forward,” said Guterres. ”At the same time, the division between the communities also continues to grow wider.”

He encouraged both sides to take opportunities to build trust and good ties with meaningful initiatives. ”Such initiatives are crucial to creating a momentum towards dialogue that could ultimately chart a path back to settlement talks,” he said.

Guterres suggested that an important step forward would be an agreement on an appointment of a UN envoy, who could explore ways to reach common ground toward resuming talks for a lasting settlement in Cyprus.

He also urged the leaders to actively promote people-to-people contact, cooperation, and trade, including by improving existing crossing points and opening new ones.

He reiterated his call to refrain from taking unilateral actions in and adjacent to the buffer zone that could raise tensions. Guterres also urged the parties to put sincere efforts toward exploring options for sustainable energy cooperation in and around the island.

”Natural resources in and around Cyprus should benefit both communities and constitute a strong incentive for the parties to pursue mutually acceptable and durable solutions to disagreements related to natural resources,” he said.

Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.

The report covers Dec. 13, 2022, to 12 June 2023. Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.

In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation led to Türkiye’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded in 1983.

It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Türkiye, Greece, and the UK.

The Greek Cypriot administration entered the EU in 2004, the same year Greek Cypriots thwarted a plan by former UN chief Kofi Annan to end the longstanding dispute.