NICOSIA – Britain’s foreign minister said Thursday that flexibility and compromise are key to making the most of a new U.N. bid to restart talks on resolving Cyprus’ decades-old ethnic division.
Dominic Raab said Britain is ready to lend its support in helping to “break the logjam” that has blocked a peace deal for nearly a half-century, fueled tensions over offshore energy reserves and encumbered Turkey’s relationship with the European Union.
“I think a failure to reach a settlement after so many efforts would benefit no-one," Raab said after talks with Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides.
“So again I urge all sides to come to the talks with a willingness to demonstrate flexibility and compromise and I was very heartened from our conversations about the scope for that and a positive outcome," Raab said.
Britain is Cyprus' former colonial ruler, and still maintains military bases on the island that's strategically placed between Europe and the Middle East.
Raab’s remarks come two days after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said any Cyprus peace deal in line with the long-established, U.N.-backed formula of federation is off the table after decades of fruitless talks, and any accord should be negotiated between two equal sovereign states.
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said after meeting Raab separately in the northern half of divided Nicosia that he's open to negotiations, but that a fair peace deal means an arrangement between “two equal sovereign states” that are both internationally recognized.
That approach could complicate a meeting that U.N. Chief Antonio Guterres is expected to call next month to bring together rival Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well as Cyprus' ‘guarantors' - Greece, Turkey and Britain - to gauge the chances of resuming talks.
Greek Cypriots strongly reject any deal that would legitimize the east Mediterranean island nation’s ethnic partition that came about in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aimed at union with Greece.
Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the island's northern third where it keeps more than 35,000 troops. Although Cyprus is an EU member, only the Greek Cypriot southern part where the internationally recognized government is seated enjoys full membership benefits.
Key impediments to peace include a Greek Cypriot rejection of a call by the minority Turkish Cypriots to be granted veto powers as well of a Turkey's demand for a permanent troop presence and the continuation of military intervention rights.
Christodoulides said any peace deal must be in line with U.N. resolutions and EU law to render a reunified Cyprus a viable EU member state that's not “not tied back by anachronistic systems and structures that have no place in the 21st century.”