Turkish Cypriots to UN: two-state basis best for Cyprus deal

Cyprus’ rival leaders are remaining polar opposites on what is needed for a peace deal on reunifying the ethnically divided island nation as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres continues trying to get dormant negotiations restarted

GENEVA -- Cyprus’ rival leaders remained polar opposites on what is needed for a peace deal on reunifying the ethnically divided island nation as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres continued Wednesday trying to get dormant negotiations restarted.

Guterres held successive contacts during the second of a three-day informal gathering he is hosting in Geneva with Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar and Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, but no breakthrough appeared to emerge.

The gathering is also being attended by the foreign ministers of Cyprus’ three "guarantors" — Greece, Turkey and Britain. It’s the latest attempt by the U.N. to revitalize the peace process since another round of negotiations collapsed in 2017.

Five decades of Cyprus talks have led nowhere. The conflict has fueled tensions between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, impeded Ankara’s bid to join the European Union and triggered friction in the eastern Mediterranean over potential undersea hydrocarbon reserves.

The focal point of Wednesday’s talks was Tatar’s submission to Guterres of a two-page document outlining the Turkish Cypriot vision for a peace accord based on a two-state model rather than a federation composed of Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking zones.

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aiming at uniting the island with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.

Tatar's document, released to media, called on the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution recognizing Cyprus’ breakaway Turkish Cypriot north as a sovereign state, equal in status to the internationally recognized government in the Greek Cypriot south.

The document said a peace deal would then be worked out between “two independent states” under U.N. auspices.

Tatar’s adviser, Ergun Olgun, said the Turkish Cypriot side heeded Guterres’ encouragement to the two sides to be “creative” and “offered ideas that went beyond the status quo and failed federal talks. “

Greek Cypriots reject a two-state deal because it would legitimize the island’s permanent partition.

Anastasiades told reporters that he was “greatly disappointed” at the Turkish Cypriot proposal and that he would offer a detailed rebuttal to Guterres in writing.

“I’ve told the secretary-general that our effort is to create a positive climate without provocations and without references to all the unacceptable things that we have heard,” said Anastasiades.

Guterres was expected to continue his contacts with the sides Thursday.