Cyprus talks back on track after two-month break

LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

UN-brokered Cyprus peace talks resumed on Tuesday following a nearly two-month break after the island’s Greek Cypriot administration moved to reverse a controversial commemoration law.

Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci will meet his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nikos Anastasiades in the island’s buffer zone to resume negotiations, following UN consultations with both sides.

Akinci and Anastasiades have been involved in reunification talks to create a federal state since May 2015.

The leaders met several times in the Swiss city of Geneva last year. However, their last meeting ended on a sour note in February due to a Greek Cypriot assembly decision to introduce a school commemoration of the 1950 Enosis referendum on unification with Greece.

Akinci said Anastasiades had walked out, “slammed the door and left” when UN envoy Espen Barth Eide and the Turkish Cypriot president expressed concern about the Enosis move.

Anastasiades later insisted he had left the room during a break.

Following mediation, the UN announced earlier this month the Cyprus talks would resume on April 11.

After the UN announcement, the Greek Cypriot assembly voted on Friday to shelve yearly public school Enosis commemorations.

The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974, when a Greek coup was followed by violence against the island’s Turkish population and Ankara’s intervention to protect them.

-New phase, old issues

Before the two-month hiatus, the two sides had agreed on most of the issues in the reunification deal, but the sticking points, including a security and guarantees system, remain unsolved.

Turkey insists 30,000 of its troops must remain on the island as part of Ankara’s role as a guarantor power.

Last week Akinci said new talks would be a fresh beginning for both sides, but also warned no one expected Turkey to take unilateral steps in the negotiation process.

“The result can be obtained if this path is walked together,” Akinci said.

Once a final agreement is reached, it would be put to both communities in a referendum. A peace deal was approved by Turkish Cypriots in 2004 but rejected by Greek Cypriot voters.