Overseen by UN chief Guterres, the meeting of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders and diplomats of Greece, Turkey and Britain will examine "whether a common ground exists for the parties" to negotiate a lasting solution to Cyprus dispute.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is "realistic" about the chances of resuming formal talks over Cyprus, a UN spokesman has said, amid low expectations that a fresh bid to reinvigorate dormant negotiations will lead to a breakthrough.
Stephane Dujarric made the comments to reporters on Tuesday ahead of the start of an informal meeting Guterres is hosting in the Swiss city, which brings together the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities as well as the foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey and Britain – a former colonial ruler in Cyprus.
The aim of the three-day talks is to scope out chances of resuming formal peace negotiations that have been stalled since the last attempt, at another Swiss resort in 2017, ended in failure.
Dujarric appeared to play down expectations of the "informal" meetings and said no press conferences were immediately planned.
"(The) secretary general is realistic. This is an issue that he knows well," Dujarric said. "He has participated in discussions before. So, he is realistic."
47 years of futile talks
The UN spokesman had previously urged Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to bring "creativity" to the informal talks. But the mood is dour because the two sides no longer seem to share the same vision of how a final peace deal should take shape.
Over 47 years of talks, the ultimate goal endorsed by the UN Security Council had been to reunify a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognised Greek Cypriot south as a federation — two zones running their own affairs with a federal government overseeing the core elements of national governance such as foreign policy and defence.
The island was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when a deadly coup aimed at union with Greece triggered a Turkish intervention.
Turkey, and the new Turkish Cypriot leadership espouse tighter bonds and dismissing further talks about a federation-based accord as a "waste of time" because nearly five decades of negotiations on that model have gone nowhere.
They've proposed instead a two-state model.
Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades said as he departed for Geneva on Monday that federation is the only way toward peace.
Speaking after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar repeated that any peace deal must be agreed upon between two separate states and that the UN should embrace this.
"Turkey, as a guarantor country, the motherland and the largest and most powerful nation in the region, is only 40 miles from Cyprus. With its rights that stem from history ... Turkey stands by the side of the Turkish Cypriots," Tatar said.