Talks aimed at reunifying Cyprus are at risk of collapsing due to a possible “international crisis” centered on the eastern Mediterranean island, according to a United Nations envoy facilitating the negotiations.
“We may be looking forward to rather dramatic times,” Espen Barth Eide said after talks with Greek
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on May 11, urging everyone involved in peace talks to work to reduce tensions.
Eide said they discussed how best to proceed, noting that he would discuss the same issue later on May 11 with the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akıncı.
“There has been hard and good work done by the negotiators over the last weeks; there is no secret that there is a difficult environment surrounding the talks, both domestically and internationally, and I call on all parties to do their utmost to reduce any kind of tension that could make the talks more problematic,” said the envoy. “That goes for people here but also people in the neighborhood.”
Tremendous progress has been achieved in the talks between Anastasiades and Akıncı, even if there are outstanding issues, Eide said. “And to see that go to waste because of an international crisis would be very sad for all of us.”
Earlier this week, the Greek
Cypriot government’s spokesman said Turkey’s “threats” to prevent oil and gas exploration off Cyprus could be designed to scuttle peace talks.
On May 11, Anastasiades said nothing would alter the government’s energy plans “which exercises sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone and won’t be affected by any threats.”
“What Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots must understand is that anything done during the exploration is for the benefit of everyone entitled to natural wealth,” he said.
Eide said many of the complications at the Cyprus talks were expected, and “it is the nervousness of the last mile.”
“It is a big step to make the final decision that this is good enough to present,” added the envoy.
“I don’t think that either leader is there right now. I don’t think … either Anastasiades or Akıncı would suggest holding a referendum on something that they don’t themselves agree with,” Eide said.
U.N.-brokered Cyprus peace talks resumed on May 11 after a hiatus of nearly two months.
They had been derailed after Greek
Cyprus passed legislation to permit schools to commemorate a 1950 referendum calling for “enosis” (union) with Greece, infuriating Turkish Cypriots.
The Mediterranean island has been divided since Turkey intervened in the northern third of the island in 1974 following a coup by supporters of enosis with Greece. Due to the security concerns of Turkish Cypriots, Turkey keeps more than 30,000 troops in the northern portion of the island.