It’s unlikely ethnically divided Cyprus will ever be reunified if ongoing peace talks aimed at creating a federation collapse, a United Nations envoy said Wednesday.
Alexander Downer said the latest round of negotiations between internationally recognized Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots that began more than three years ago amid high hopes of a peace deal haven’t broken down. But he warned that their failure would mean the end of trying to reunify Cyprus as a federation.
“If we reach a point where it’s just … a complete deadlock, and it’s obvious they’re not going to make an agreement, and obvious they can’t shift from the deadlock, well then that’s probably the end of efforts to form a bizonal, bicommunal federation,” Downer told state-run CyBC TV.
Cyprus was split into an internationally recognized Greek speaking south and a Turkish speaking north in 1974 when Turkey intervened after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state in 1983, but only Turkey recognizes it and keeps 35,000 troops there. Greek Cyprus joined the European Union in 2003 and only the south enjoys membership benefits.
The two sides have been trying to strike a federation-based accord for decades, but numerous rounds of UN mediated talks have led nowhere.
It’s Downer’s clearest warning yet about the consequences of failure in ending a dispute that is hampering Turkey’s own troubled EU membership bid. Downer said Wednesday there is no functional alternative to a federation deal.
“If people think, for example, it’s possible to put together a united Cyprus without a bizonal bicommunal federation, they must have some optimism that I don’t think is shared in the United Nations,” he said. “I don’t think that frankly there is another model that can be made to work here.”
Some progress has been made in the troubled talks, but important differences remain between Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu on core issues including power-sharing, what to do with private property lost during the war and military intervention rights to Turkey.
A key sticking point according to Greek Cypriots remains Turkish Cypriot insistence on a more diluted sovereignty for the envisioned federation. Christofias has accused Eroğlu of backtracking on this point – a point he and Eroğlu’s predecessor Mehmet Ali Talat had previously agreed on.
Eroğlu said Greek Cypriots still need to muster the will for a deal, adding that talks can’t continue forever and that Turkish Cypriots would forge ahead on their own in case of failure.
30 November 2011, Wednesday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH WIRES,