Talks in Switzerland to reunite Cyprus broke down yesterday as the divided island’s political leaders failed to
resolve deep divisions over possible exchange of territory in any deal to settle the conflict since the
island was split up in 1974. Two days of talks at the Swiss resort of Mont Pelerin came to nothing and the
UN announced in a statement that the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities were
going home to reflect on the talks, that “Despite their best efforts, they have not been able to achieve the
necessary convergences on criteria for territorial adjustment that would have paved the way for the last
phase of the talks.” Diplomats saw these talks as the most promising opportunity to reunite the island, but
the latest impasse raises serious questions over the prospects for a deal.
The current plan involves the establishment of two constituent states within a federal framework on the
island. The two states would run most of the island’s affairs. The talks were supposed to produce a map
of the internal boundaries of a future federation and pave the way for broader talks aimed at reaching a
deal by early next year. Mr.Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot President, and Mr.Mustafa Akıncı, the
Turkish Cypriot leader, are said to have established a close personal rapport since the beginning of the
talks under the chairmanship of UN envoy Espen Barth Eide, a former foreign minister of Norway.
Despite making significant progress since last year on political power-sharing, negotiators left sensitive
questions surrounding property and territory exchanges and Turkey’s military presence on Cyprus until
the end of the process. The withdrawal of 35,000 Turkish troops stationed on the island is a Greek Cypriot
precondition for any settlement. There was concern that the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
might withhold his support for a deal following the failed coup attempt in Turkey. However, Ankara
indicated that it would continue to support the talks despite a worsening relationship with the EU
following the coup. Erdoğan had indeed backed a failed UN plan in 2004 to unify the island. The deal was
made and was put to a referendum. The plan was supported by a majority of Turkish Cypriots but
rejected by the Greek Cypriots.
On the breakdown of the talks in Switzerland yesterday, both Ankara and Athens have stated their
desire for talks to continue. The Turkish Foreign Ministry called for an immediate five-party conference,
with the participation of Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom as guarantee powers, along with the
island’s two communities. Athens has also expressed its willingness for bilateral talks with Turkey.
Both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides blamed each other for the breakdown in the talks.
The area of disagreement was when and how the dispute over territories would be handled in the
process of negotiations.