Antonio Guterres is hosting discussions in Geneva this week on the future of the divided island after a four-year hiatus.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “realistic” about the prospect of progress on major Cyprus reunification talks and urged the Greek and Turkish Cypriot parties to be “creative” in their approach.
The meeting in Geneva on the future of the divided Mediterranean island will begin later on Tuesday.
Guterres invited officials from the two communities in Cyprus, as well as the foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom – a former colonial ruler in Cyprus – to participate in the resumption of the peace negotiations that collapsed in mid-2017.
The discussions are expected to last three days and could lead to formal negotiations.
Guterres will initially hold bilateral meetings between the two island communities, followed by talks with all parties on Wednesday.
“The purpose of this informal meeting will be to determine whether the parties have a common ground to negotiate a permanent solution to the Cyprus problem within a foreseeable horizon,” Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters hours before the talks began.
“The parties are welcome to be creative and the Secretary General will encourage them to use diplomatic language frankly and openly. The reason he invites them is to see if there is a shared vision for the future. “
Separated in 1974
Cyprus was divided between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974.
Earlier talks about reunification under a federal umbrella, as called for in UN resolutions, have failed.
Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership, led by Ersin Tatar and allied with Ankara, have dismissed further discussions on a federation-based agreement as a “waste of time” as nearly five decades of negotiations on this model have gone nowhere.
Instead, they have proposed what is essentially a two-state model that, in turn, the Greek Cypriots would not accept because it would legitimize the division of the country.
The breakaway Turkish Cypriot enclave, established after a Turkish military invasion, is recognized only by Ankara, while the Greek Cypriot government is internationally recognized as the government of Cyprus.
This invasion came after a coup attempt to bring the island to Greece.
The conflict has created greater tension between NATO members Turkey and Greece, including over hydrocarbon resources.
Tatar to propose “new vision”
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Tatar said he hoped his proposal for a two-state solution would give a “new vision” to this week’s discussions, even though the Greek Cypriots had already rejected the idea.
“I go there [Geneva] bring forth my new vision. My new vision is that two sovereign states live side by side in a good, neighborly relationship, work together in some way and promote the well-being of all Cypriots, “Tatar told Reuters on Monday in a Skype interview.
“When I say two states, of course I mean the recognition of the Turkish Cypriots,” he added. “We are as sovereign as the Greek Cypriots.”
If the Greek Cypriot side rejects the two-state formula, Tatar said he would continue to work with Ankara for the sovereignty of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Tatar held talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday before traveling to Geneva. Erdogan later said Turkey would “fully support” the Tatars’ two-state proposal.
Cypriot government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios declined to comment on his expectations for the upcoming talks on Tuesday when he was asked for comment by Reuters.