European Parliament President Martin Schulz and the UN’s Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide both expressed hope for a solution to end over four decades of division on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus in a joint press conference which took place in Brussels on Wednesday.
Talks between the island’s Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities were revived on May 15 when newly elected Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades were brought together by Eide in the island buffer-zone, during which the two leaders agreed on confidence-building measures.
Negotiations had been stalled for seven months after Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades withdrew from negotiations last October when Turkey sent its Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa seismic vessel to the island’s waters to search for hydrocarbon reserves.
The deployment of the vessel came on the same day joint Italian-South Korean energy consortium Eni-Kogas began drilling for hydrocarbon reserves in the Greek Cypriots’ declared Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Turkey, which does not recognise the Greek Cypriot administration, had warned against drilling before a deal between the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots is achieved. However, the withdrawal of the Eni-Kogas drillship in April - followed by the withdrawal of the Turkish vessel - created room for talks to restart.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, European Parliament head Schulz said, "I was informed about the talks between the two communities. I listened carefully to the analysis of Mr Eide and his estimation of the next steps and possibilities to come towards a constructive solution."
UN Special Adviser Eide, meanwhile, said "Mr Anastasiades and Mr Akinci are really working hard to solve the Cyprus problem and I feel on a daily basis their joint commitment to do so."
“We either use this moment well or there will be a big disappointment again, but I am here with a message of strong opportunity and strong hope that the UN and the EU are able to work so closely together on what is not only a Cyprus issue but a European issue at its very heart,” Eide added.
Cyprus was divided in July 1974 after Turkey exercised its right in accordance with the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee to conduct a military intervention in response to a coup by the Greek junta, which hoped to unite the island with Greece.
Almost a decade after Turkey secured the northern third of the island and a population exchange between Turkish Cypriots in the south and Greek Cypriots in the north, failure to reach an agreement with the Greek Cypriots to restore the constitutional government led to the Turkish Cypriots declaring the independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
A number of attempts have been made to restore the constitution since the 1974 war, with the latest being a referendum on a proposed unification plan in 2004 prior to the Greek Cypriot administration’s accession to the EU.
While 64.9 percent of Turkish Cypriots voted to reunite the island, which would have secured the withdrawal of Turkish troops, 75.8 percent of Greek Cypriots voted against reunification. Despite the result, the Greek Cypriot side were accepted into the EU, while the Turkish Cypriot side remained unrecognised by the international community except Turkey.