Presidents of Cyprus, Turkey-backed de facto North Cyprus to resolve decades-old rift

A Turkish-Cypriot woman prepares to vote at a polling station in the northern part of Nicosia, the capital of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), during the presidential election on October 11, 2020. (File photo: AFP)

The leaders of Cyprus’s estranged Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities on Tuesday agreed to support the possibility of a five-party meeting under the auspices of the United Nations to resolve the island’s decades-old division.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who is the Greek Cypriot leader, met with newly-elected Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar late Tuesday at a United Nations compound in the capital Nicosia.

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Tatar, ex-prime minister of the breakaway state of North Cyprus, won a presidential election runoff on Sunday with almost 52% of votes. In his victory speech, Tatar thanked Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, with whom he has strong relations. “They will never tear the ties between us and Turkey,” he said. Ex-president Mustafa Akinci, 72, whose relations with Ankara had been strained, had been a supporter of reunification.

Speaking at a news conference with Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar in Ankara as part of his first visit since being elected on October 18, Turkish President Erdogan said peace efforts seeking a federal solution to divided Cyprus had been tried before and would be a "waste of time." It was their first encounter since Tatar was elected head of breakaway northern Cyprus in October.

Tatar and Anastasiades “expressed their determination to positively respond to the UN Secretary-General’s commitment to explore the possibility to convene an informal five-plus-United Nations meeting, in a conducive climate, at an appropriate stage,” a spokesperson of the United Nations mission on the island said in a statement.

A ‘five-plus’ format would include representatives of Cyprus’s two communities, along with Greece, Turkey and Britain as the island’s guarantor powers, and also the United Nations.

The United Nations has been grappling inconclusively for years to reunite Cyprus, split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup. The last attempt collapsed in disarray after several days of negotiations attended by all parties in mid-2017.

Cyprus’s division is a key source of friction between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, which are themselves now embroiled in a separate row over maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Cyprus was split after a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. The European Union admitted the island into the bloc in 2004, represented by the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government in the south.

Its north is a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state only recognized by Ankara.

Earlier this month, Northern Cyprus partially reopened the beach town of Varosha, a fenced-off resort area abandoned in no-man’s land since 1974, a move criticised by the United States, Greece and Greek Cypriots.

Erdogan, who said he would visit Northern Cyprus on Nov. 15, said he wanted to have a picnic in Varosha.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 04 November 2020 KSA 23:52 - GMT 20:52
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