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Cyprus leaders back five-party UN initiative to resolve divisions

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) Elizabeth Spehar (C) poses with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (R) and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar (L) in the buffer zone of Nicosia airport, in Cyprus, on November 3, 2020. (Photo via Reuters)

Cyprus’ president and the leader of the self-proclaimed Turkish Cypriot administration have met and voiced support for a five-party meeting under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) aimed at resolving the island’s decades-long dispute.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the newly-elected Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar held an informal meeting hosted by the head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Elizabeth Spehar, at a UN compound in the capital, Nicosia, on Tuesday.

They “expressed their determination to positively respond to the UN secretary-general’s commitment to explore [sic] the possibility to convene an informal five-plus-United Nations meeting, in a conducive climate, at an appropriate stage,” said a spokesperson for the UNFICYP.

Spehar said Tatar and Anastasiades had the opportunity to get to know each other and exchange views informally for the first time and in a sincere atmosphere at the meeting.

“At this stage for the Turkish people of Cyprus, an understanding on a federal basis that has been maintained since 1977 does not give much hope; and therefore, it is time to sit at the table with new ideas,” said Tatar, who was elected head of the administration in northern Cyprus in October.

He said that “all these issues could be evaluated and the process could be managed in this way.”

Tatar, who is backed by Turkey, said that the idea of a “five-plus” conference had come from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“This [Cyprus case] is a joint case. For us, it is very important to act in harmony with Turkey on the main issues,” he added.

A “five-plus” format would include the representatives of Greek Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Britain, and the UN.

The island country of Cyprus has been divided since a brief war in 1974, which saw Turkey intervene militarily in response to a military coup backed by Athens. Greek Cypriots run the island’s internationally-recognized government, while Turkish Cypriots have a breakaway state in the north and say offshore resources belong to them too.

The UN made an attempt to reunite Cyprus in mid-2017, but the negotiations collapsed in disarray after several days of meetings attended by all parties.

The latest move comes as NATO allies Turkey and Greece are embroiled in a separate dispute over maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

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