UN chief presses on with bid to re-start Cyprus talks

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UNITED NATIONS, United States, April 17, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Tuesday that he is pressing on with a bid to re-start negotiations on reuniting Cyprus, nearly two years after talks collapsed.

In a report sent to the council, Guterres said he had asked his envoy, American diplomat Jane Holl Lute, to continue holding talks with Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders on the basis for re-starting negotiations.

“It is my hope that the ongoing consultations will lead to a return to negotiations, to which I could devote the full weight of my good offices, with the aim of reaching a lasting resolution of the Cyprus issue,” Guterres said in the report obtained by AFP.

“The way ahead must be well prepared, with a sense of urgency and focus,” he added.

Talks on reunifying Cyprus broke down in July 2017 when Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders failed to agree on compromises concerning power-sharing and security arrangements for the island.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern third of the island in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup.

Thousands of Turkish troops remain stationed in the north and Nicosia remains the world’s last divided capital.

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci have met in October and in February for face-to-face exchanges.

A number of confidence-building measures have been agreed on mine clearance, on exchanging works of art between the two sides, on electricity transfers and on allowing mobile phone providers to operate on both sides.

Still, “the skepticism on both sides regarding the prospects for a resumption of talks continued to prevail” following the leaders’ private meetings, Guterres said.

Lute has traveled to Cyprus four times since October for talks on re-starting negotiations and has met with representatives from Greece, Turkey, Britain and with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The Security Council in January asked Guterres to report on his efforts to re-start talks after renewing the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission for six months.

The United States has warned that without progress towards a political solution, UN peacekeepers will not remain indefinitely on the divided island.

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