Rival leaders back UN bid to relaunch Cyprus peace talks

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The rival leaders of ethnically divided Cyprus have signaled their willingness to support a request from United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to explore the possibility of reviving dormant reunification talks, the UN said on Tuesday.

The two leaders agreed to “positively respond” to the UN chief’s call for an informal five-plus-meeting that would, “in a conducive climate” and “at an appropriate stage,” test the waters for a possible return to talks after a 3.5 year hiatus, UN spokesman, Aleem Siddique, said in a written statement.

Elizabeth Spehar, U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNFICYP Mission, welcomes Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in the buffer zone of Nicosia airport, Cyprus, November 3, 2020. Photo: Katia Christodoulou/Pool via REUTERS.

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

The statement came after a two-hour meeting between the island nation’s Greek Cypriot president, Nicos Anastasiades, and Ersin Tatar, the newly elected leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots.

It was the two men’s first face-to-face meeting since Tatar’s election that afforded them the opportunity to put out feelers on where the other stands on the key issues that have prevented a breakthrough deal in nearly five decades of UN facilitated negotiations.

Elizabeth Spehar, U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNFICYP Mission welcomes Turkish Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar, in the buffer zone of Nicosia airport, Cyprus, November 3, 2020. Photo: Katia Christodoulou/Pool via REUTERS.

The meeting, hosted by the head of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar, at her formal residence inside the island’s UN-controlled buffer zone, provided the leaders “an opportunity to get to know each other and to have their first informal exchange of views in a cordial atmosphere,” according to the UN statement.

Speaking after the meeting, Anastasiades said he’d prefer not to make remarks at this stage that might “pollute” the climate.

But he indicated that he and Tatar remain far apart on core issues including an envisioned federation which the two sides agreed decades ago would form the basis of any peace deal.

“Without doubt, there is a divergence of positions,” Anastasiades told reporters.

Source: Ekathimerini.

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