The negotiations on the long-running Cyprus conflict are the best chance, but maybe not the last one, for Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots to get an agreement, the UN envoy to the island says.

Overview at the start of the peace talks on divided Cyprus, under the supervision of the United Nations in the Alpine resort of Crans-Montana, Switzerland, June 28, 2017.
Overview at the start of the peace talks on divided Cyprus, under the supervision of the United Nations in the Alpine resort of Crans-Montana, Switzerland, June 28, 2017. (TRT World and Agencies)

Rival Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders began talks on Wednesday aimed at reuniting the divided island after more than 40 years, needing to overcome prickly issues in what some fear could be the last chance for a settlement.

The United Nations is seeking a peace deal uniting Cyprus under a federal umbrella and which could also define the future of Europe's relations with Turkey, a key player in the conflict.

Each side put forward its position on security and the future role of guarantor countries.

TRT World spoke with journalist Alison Langley for the latest on the talks.

The talks involve the guarantors – Greece, Turkey and Britain – but British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Foreign Minister Alan Duncan left by helicopter before the talks had officially opened, to head home for a parliamentary session.

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met in the Swiss Alpine resort of Crans-Montana, joined by UN envoy Espen Barth Eide, senior European Union officials and the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey.

Guarantors on the table

Eide said on Tuesday that he had expected the foreign ministers to stay this week, but Johnson and Duncan left on Wednesday morning after taking part in preliminary meetings and a working dinner on Tuesday night.

"UK support for a settlement of the Cyprus issue remains steadfast and the UK will continue to be represented during the Conference on Cyprus in Switzerland," a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Turkey's Mevlut Cavusoglu stayed on.

43 years of division

Cyprus was split in a Turkish military intervention in 1974, triggered by a brief Greek-orchestrated coup aimed at annexing the island to Greece.

Turkey supports the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which Turkish Cypriots established in 1983 after years of failed negotiations to restore peace.

Two issues are vexing: Turkish Cypriot demands for a rotating presidency, and Greek Cypriot demands that Turkey pulls all its 30,000 troops off the island.

The Greek Cypriots are also demanding that Turkey renounces its position as guarantor. As outlined by the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, Turkey, Britain and Greece have the right to intervene militarily on the island to preserve peace.

Cypriots join hands

In a statement, the group Unite Cyprus Now, which organises unity demonstrations in the UN-controlled buffer zone that splits Cyprus, welcomed the summit.

The activist group said it fears the talks "could be the last chance to reunite" the island and called on Anastasiades and Akinci "to find a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, to show the necessary leadership and courage to end the longstanding division."

The leaders should find "mutually acceptable solutions to the security and guarantees question," it said.

Source: TRT World