UN special envoy searching for way forward on Cyprus talks

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A UN special envoy will meet rival Cypriot leaders on Tuesday to assess whether conditions are ripe to involve Britain, Greece and Turkey in getting reunification back on the rails.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has instructed his special adviser Jane Holl Lute to begin consultations with all involved parties to determine whether preconditions exist to convene an informal 5+1 summit on ending the island’s decades-old division.

On Tuesday, Lute will hold talks with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, and newly elected Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar before heading to Athens, officials said.

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She will meet Tatar first on Tuesday in the Turkish-held north of the island before crossing the UN-patrolled ceasefire line for talks with Anastasiades at 1700 GMT.

The UN is not expected to make any official comment on the envoy’s contacts on the island.

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Tatar was elected Turkish Cypriot leader in October on a hardline platform of seeking a two-state solution for Cyprus, rather than a bicommunal federation.

Turkish Cypriot politician Ersin Tatar celebrates his election victory in Turkish-controlled northern Nicosia, Cyprus October 18, 2020. (Reuters)
Turkish Cypriot politician Ersin Tatar celebrates his election victory in Turkish-controlled northern Nicosia, Cyprus October 18, 2020. (Reuters)

Lute is also in consultation with the three guarantor powers Britain, Greece and Turkey on convening a five-way meeting on the way forward for formal talks to resume.

There have been no official UN-sponsored negotiations on the island’s future since a conference in Switzerland – also involving Britain, Greece and Turkey – collapsed in July 2017.

Guterres is hoping to get the three governments more involved to build momentum that is currently lacking.

Last month, the rival Cypriot leaders held a “break-the-ice” meeting at which they promised to back a UN-led Cyprus peace push involving the outside powers.

It was their first meeting since the Ankara-backed Tatar was elected leader of the breakaway north.

The two men both acknowledged their positions on the way forward were “far apart.”

Britain, Greece and Turkey act as guarantors of the island’s sovereignty under the treaty that gave Cyprus independence from British rule in 1960.

Rising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over conflicting claims to offshore oil and gas could scupper UN moves to relaunch talks.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey occupied its northern third in response to a coup orchestrated by the military junta then in power in Athens aimed at annexing the island to Greece.

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