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Cypriots urged by UK to 'seize opportunity' at UN summit

Cyprus has been split since 1974. [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 February, 2021

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The UK and Cyprus have discussed efforts to revive talks that seek to reunify the Mediterranean island.

Britain's top diplomat Dominic Raab urged rival Cyprus leaders to "seize the opportunity" to revive frozen peace talks at an upcoming UN summit as he visited the divided island Thursday.

Raab underlined the United Kingdom's determination for a breakthrough to be achieved in moribund Cyprus reunification talks.

Cyprus has been split since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third in response to a Greek-engineered coup aiming to annex the eastern Mediterranean island.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is planning to host Cypriot leaders and government officials from three guarantor powers -- the UK, Greece and Turkey -- for talks in March.

"We want to see an end to the divisions on Cyprus," Raab said after meeting his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides in Nicosia.  

"All parties should seize the opportunity presented by the UN secretary-general's 5+1 talks," said the British foreign secretary.

"It is an opportunity to push for a settlement which will benefit both communities and enhance regional stability."

After meeting Christodoulides and President Nicos Anastasiades, Raab is to cross the island's UN-patrolled buffer zone for talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.

There have been no official UN-sponsored negotiations on the Cyprus problem since a conference in Switzerland -- also involving the UK, Greece and Turkey -- collapsed in July 2017.

Guterres is hoping to get the three governments more involved to build momentum that is currently lacking.

Obstacles to the process include rising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over conflicting claims to offshore oil and gas involving Cyprus, Greece and Turkey.

Read more: How EU sanctions on Turkey reveal a divided Europe

The European Union has deplored Turkey's drilling for hydrocarbons in disputed waters and warned it against further "provocations", while multiple countries have staged military drills in the region.

Tatar is an advocate of a two-state solution or recognition for the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognised only by Ankara.

Tatar was elected in October on a hardline platform of seeking a two-state solution for Cyprus, rather than a bicommunal federation, a stance supported by Turkey.

It diverts from the UN mandate of delivering a federal solution for a reunited Cyprus.

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