GENEVA (Reuters) -United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Turkish and Greek Cypriot parties to “be creative” on Tuesday as informal talks started on the island’s future after a four-year stalemate in peace negotiations.
Guterres has invited officials of the two communities in Cyprus as well as the foreign ministers of Turkey, Greece and Britain to attend the Geneva-based talks this week in an effort to revive formal peace negotiations that collapsed in mid-2017.
The Mediterranean island was split in 1974 between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north.
The Greek Cypriot administration is internationally recognised as the Cyprus government, while the breakaway Turkish Cypriot enclave set up after a Turkish military invasion in 1974 that was triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup is recognised only by Ankara.
The conflict has stoked wider tensions between NATO members Turkey and Greece, including over hydrocarbon resources.
“The parties are welcome to be creative and the Secretary-General will be encouraging them to use diplomatic language in a sincere and frank manner,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a briefing. “The reason he is inviting them is to see if there is a common vision for the future.”
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar has said he hopes his proposal for a two-state solution to the conflict will bring a “new vision” to the talks, despite its prior rejection by Greek Cypriots.
Huseyin Isiksal, a member of the Turkish Cypriot negotiating team, said he was “optimistic”, stressing that the two-state solution offered benefits for Greek Cypriots such as access to Turkish air space and ports.
“We see our Greek neighbours as our partners, we don’t see them as our enemies,” he told Reuters. “All we want is a solution for the island that benefits both communities.”
Thousands of Cypriots on both sides of the island’s divide demonstrated peacefully on Saturday in favour of a federal solution, as defined in past United Nations resolutions.
Cyprus government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios declined to comment on Tuesday on his expectations. Talks are expected to run until April 29.
Nicosia-based Fiona Mullen, director of Sapienta consultancy, said she did not expect any formal decision to start negotiations.
The two-state proposal was “obviously not going to be accepted by Greek Cypriots”, she said.
(Additional reporting by Michele Kambas and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Gareth Jones)