ATHENS — Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar’s insistence on two separate states on the divided island has made Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias doubt the resolution of a decades-old dilemma.
There has been a litany of diplomatic failures in the attempt to reunite Cyprus, divided by a Turkish invasion in 1974, with the northern third of the island still occupied and holding 35,000 Turkish troops.
Dendias – Greece is, along with Turkey and former colonial ruler the UK, a guarantor of the island’s security – told Greek financial newspaper Naftemporiki that he sees no answer at the moment.
“Unfortunately, I am not optimistic about the prospect of solving the Cyprus problem,” he said, responding to a question about Turkey’s insistence on a two-state solution.
Tatar wants the United Nations and the world to accept the occupied territory, which is a self-declared republic, but this demand has so far ended any hope of negotiations for reunification.
“Last April, I spent three difficult days in a basement in Geneva, during the informal meeting convened by the UN Secretary General with the participation of the Republic of Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriots and the three powers guarantors,” Dendias said.
“What I heard from the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot sides unfortunately made me completely pessimistic. The Turkish side and therefore the Turkish Cypriot side insisted on rhetoric that has nothing to do with reality,” he said, and he reiterated Greece’s position for a rejected bizonal and bicommunal federation. by the Tatars.
Dendias referred to an unofficial five-party meeting convened in late April by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to see if there was enough consensus to resume peace talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
The meeting ended in yet another failure, as did talks in July 2017 in the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkish Cypriots and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish military would never be withdrawn and that they demanded the right to invade again when they wanted.
It has also hurt Greece’s relations with Turkey, already strained by Erdogan’s plans to send energy research vessels, backed by warships, to seek energy around the Greek islands.
Dendias said Greece does not want an escalation of tensions, but “will not accept an attempt to usurp (Greek) sovereignty” in the Aegean Sea although Germany and Spain – arms suppliers to Turkey – have blocked Greece’s call for EU sanctions.
Dendias said that the only difference with Turkey is the delimitation of the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean Cyprus and the Greek islands on the basis of international law and in particular the right of the sea Turkey does not recognize.
“But we have no illusions. Regrettably, Turkey continues not to accept basic rules of international behavior and at the same time cultivates aggressive rhetoric that goes far beyond what would be considered diplomatically acceptable. We are always vigilant and let us build alliances with friends and partners and strengthen our deterrent force,” he said.
Cyprus has become known as the ‘graveyard of diplomats’ and emissaries, a long line of them – including Guterres, who was in the Swiss debacle – made no progress after nearly half a century of dismal failure.