Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration are ready for the United Nations secretary-general's proposal to form a “five-plus-United Nations” format to discuss a solution for the Cyprus issue, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Sunday.
Speaking to Greek daily Kathimerini, Dendias evaluated the latest developments on the Cyprus issue and the Eastern Mediterranean tensions with Turkey.
Although he declared his support for Antonio Guterres’ proposal to bring the two sides on the island and the guarantor countries – Turkey, Greece and the U.K. – together in one platform, Dendias stated that he is not optimistic about a solution for the Cyprus issue.
He said that he found recent remarks by Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaders about the issue “not encouraging.”
Guterres had instructed his special adviser, Jane Holl Lute, to begin consultations with all involved parties to determine whether preconditions exist to convene an informal summit on ending the island's decades-old division.
Last week, the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) called on Guterres to adopt an open-minded approach to the formula of sovereign equality and two-state cooperation on the island.
Ersin Tatar sent a letter in response to a letter by Guterres, the TRNC presidency said in a statement.
Tatar said in his letter that, in light of the new conditions prevailing on the island and in the region, for a fair, realistic and sustainable reconciliation, the TRNC aims to establish a cooperative relationship between the two parties based on two sovereign states with equal international status.
Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration tried to prevent efforts for a solution on the island, he said, stressing that a resolution on specified grounds will help restore regional security and stability and pave the way for an encompassing vision in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Last week, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also met with the U.N.'s special envoy to Cyprus.
Çavuşoğlu said on Twitter that he "Stated to Jane Holl Lute, #UN's Senior Official on #Cyprus, that federation project is no longer sustainable."
He said the Turkish side promotes a two-state settlement based on equal sovereignty in line with the realities on the island. Common ground should be reached for a new negotiation process to be launched, he added.
The island of Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot government in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south since a 1974 military coup aimed at Cyprus' annexation by Greece. Turkey's military intervention stopped the persecution and violence against Turkish Cypriots by ultra-nationalist Greek Cypriots that spanned years.
The TRNC was established in 1983 on the northern tier of the island and is only recognized by Turkey. The country has faced an ongoing embargo on commerce, transportation and culture ever since.
Over the decades, there have been several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all amounting to nothing. The latest attempt, held with the participation of all of the island's guarantor countries, came to an end with no signs of progress in Switzerland in 2017.
Regarding the Eastern Mediterranean disputes, Dendias said that the planned exploratory talks' agenda cannot be changed unilaterally, adding that his side will attend these meetings with a sincere will and constructive intentions.
He also said that 2021's Turkey is different than 2016's Turkey, referring to the year when previous exploratory talks between the two countries were ended.
Exploratory talks refer to bilateral dialogue in which the parties adopt a critical but also constructive approach to each others' opinions. During the talks, the sides provide the necessary information to each other, propose recommendations to solve the problem, discuss these recommendations and then, hopefully, reach an agreement. This format of talks is usually used when there are multiple problems between the parties as the method is regarded as one of the best ways to enhance dialogue in a diplomatic way. In this respect, the problems are treated as a whole package, and when one problem is not solved, the others are considered to be unsolved as well.
The upcoming exploratory talks in Istanbul will be the 61st of their kind, as the two countries started to have exploratory talks on problems in the Eastern Mediterranean on March 12, 2002, with an aim to come up with a fair, sustainable and inclusive solution. These talks continued regularly up until 2016. However, since that date, both due to the political conjecture and the Greek side's reluctance, there have not been any new rounds. However, Germany's efforts to mediate between the two countries renewed the hope of restarting the talks. Progress, however, was interrupted when Greece signed a maritime deal with Egypt on Aug. 6, causing the talks to be put aside once again.
Turkey has demanded that the host of disagreements it has with Greece be handled as a whole. Those include territorial waters in the Eastern Mediterranean, the continental shelf, demilitarization of the islands, the legal status of geographical formations, the width of national air space and search and rescue operations. Turkey also demands that the topics of the continental shelf and exclusive economic zones (EEZ) should be approached with equitable principles, unlike Greece's current expansionist approach. The country also rejects the one-sided steps by Greece in concert with the Greek Cypriot administration in the region, which, Turkey says, overlook the rights of the TRNC.