Cyprus leaders fail to agree territory deal
By Eric Maurice
Talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders ended without an agreement on Monday evening (21 November), casting doubt over the island's reunification process.
Cyprus president Nicos Anastasiades and the leader of the Turkish occupied part of the island Mustafa Akinci were trying to agree on the map of a future federal Cyprus.
But after a two-day meeting in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland, backed by UN Cyprus envoy Espen Barth Eide, the two leaders failed to agree on criteria to draw the map.
“Despite their best efforts, they have not been able to achieve the necessary further convergences on criteria for territorial adjustment that would have paved the way for the last phase of the talks,” the UN said in a statement.
“The two sides have decided to return to Cyprus and reflect on the way forward,” it added, suggesting that the peace process may have reached a dead end.
Anastasiades and Akinci started talks earlier this year with the aim of reaching a settlement before the end of the year.
They have met several times a month since the end of summer, including during a five-day session in early November, to escape the local pressure, and have so far managed to keep a momentum despite difficulties.
But talks have now reached crucial issues like how much territory will be under the authority of the Creek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, how many Greeks will be allowed to go back to the Turkish part, and how much coastline each entity will have.
The Turkish Cypriot side has proposed to keep 29.2 percent of the island's territory, while the Greek Cypriots have proposed 28 percent, with discussions blocking over some towns and villages along the future limit.
The northern part of the island, occupied by Turkey since 1974, currently represents some 36 percent of the territory.
In a Turkish-language tweet reported by Cypriot media, Akinci’s office accused the Greek Cypriot side of "maximalist" positions.
An agreement on the map of the future federal Cyprus would have paved the way for an international conference to close a settlement deal with Cyprus's guarantors - the UK, Greece and Turkey.
The three countries are the guarantors of the island's sovereignty since it became independent in 1960.
Cyprus, supported by Greece, wants to scrap that status while the Turkish Cypriot side insists to keep Turkey as a protecting power. Turkey used its guarantor status to invade the island and keep 40,000 troops in the northern part.
Turkey's position towards the peace process has so far been a big unknown, especially since last July's failed coup has hardened president Erdogan's power and led to a massive purge in the Turkish army.
Cypriot media also reported that Greek, Turkish and Cypriot authorities had many phone calls during the talks in Switzerland. And on Monday, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras proposed to meet Recep Tayyip Erdogan to talk about the guarantee system and unblock the blocking points in the negotiations.
No new meeting is set at the moment. UN envoy Eide said he would “bring these developments to the attention" of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.