Greek Cypriot leader cancels peace talks meeting

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades says he will not attend planned peace talks with Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci on Friday after a protocol dispute at a UN summit in Istanbul.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades meets with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (not pictured) at the Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece May 25, 2016.

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades has said he will not attend peace talks that were scheduled to take place on Friday with his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci.

Anastasiades cut short his visit to Turkey for the first United Nations humanitarian summit on Tuesday in protest of Akinci being treated like a head of state.

The Greek Cypriot administration does not recognise Turkish Cypriot authority in the north of Cyprus, where the establishment of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was announced in November 1983.

Although the two leaders frequently meet for negotiations in the UN-controlled buffer zone dividing the Eastern Mediterranean island, Anastasiades objected to Akinci attending a banquet for heads of state which was hosted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci at Dolmabahce Palace during a dinner for participants of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, May 23, 2016.

Although it is not clear who invited Akinci to the banquet, he was pictured alongside the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN’s special envoy to Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide.

Greek Cypriot administration spokesman Nikos Christodoulides implied that the UN was to blame for the controversy, saying the actions of those including Eide “oppositely undermine the ongoing process."

The statement also said that there was “no fertile ground” to attend the talks on Friday.

However, the spokesman added that the Greek Cypriot leader was still committed to the peace process.

Akinci, meanwhile, claimed on his official Twitter page that the Greek Cypriot reaction to his invitation has been exaggerated. He also pointed out that he had previously attended meetings with Anastasiades and UN officials in Davos and New York.

"I find the extreme reaction to this meeting meaningless," said Akinci. "We will continue our efforts for a solution without giving up," he added, mentioning that he sees no reason for the talks on Friday to be cancelled.

Cyprus has been divided since July 1974, following a coup on the government by the Greek military junta in a bid to cede the island to Greece.

The coup prompted Turkey, a legal guarantor of peace on the island, to intervene. Over four decades on, negotiations have failed to end the dispute.

Talks to finally end the dispute resumed a little over 12 months ago, raising hopes of a possible peace deal by late 2016.

UN envoy Espen Barth Eide in January said a reunification deal in Cyprus is "more than possible" though some complex questions still need to be addressed.

However, any agreement must be approved by the two communities in separate referendums.

The last major effort to break the deadlock and settle the Cyprus dispute was the Annan Plan, the UN proposal for the federation and consequent accession of a united Cyprus to the EU in 2004, initiated by then-Secretary General Kofi Annan.

While the Turkish Cypriots approved the plan, the Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected it.

Today, the Greek Cypriot south represents the whole island under the internationally recognised banner of the Republic of Cyprus.

The TRNC, on the other hand, remains unrecognised by all except Turkey and is subject to international isolation.

TRTWorld and agencies