Crucial talks on territory between President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci came to an end without agreement early Tuesday in Mont Pelerin in Switzerland after two days of discussions that resulted in deadlock.
A statement from the UN just after 1.30am said the leaders had been engaged in serious and sustained negotiations over the last two days in Mont Pelerin.
“Despite their best efforts, they have not been able to achieve the necessary further convergences on criteria for territorial adjustment that would have paved the way for the last phase of the talks,” the statement said.
“The two sides have decided to return to Cyprus and reflect on the way forward.”
The statement added that the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General, Espen Barth Eide, would “bring these developments to the attention of the Secretary-General”.
The news that the talks had failed came at around 1am when the Turkish Anadolou news agency tweeted’ “Cyprus reunification talks in Switzerland end without solution; fail to outline steps to resolve dispute”. This came minutes after a Turkish-language tweet from Akinci’s offices warning that the Greek Cypriot side’s ‘maximalist’ positions could spell the end of the Swiss talks.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides tweeted at around 1.20 am: “Unfortunately the issue of criteria for territory was not resolved.”
A report from a Sigmalive correspondent around the same time said the negotiations were at a very critical point and that by 1am the two sides had not reached convergence on the number of refugees to return, and by extension the percentage of territory for each constituent state, and also that the issue of coastlines had not been discussed substantially.
Greek Cypriot sources told Sigmalive it was too early to talk about the “collapse of the talks”.
The negotiations began on Sunday at the Swiss resort where the leaders had also been holed up between November 7-11 without having achieved agreement, and took a break at the request of the Greek Cypriot side during which time Anastasiades held consultations with the Greek leadership in Athens.
Following a working dinner that ended around 11pm Cyprus time on Monday the leaders were to head back into the talks but a number of reports said they both had asked for separate meetings with UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide. These were completed by 11.30pm Cyprus time and the leaders went back to their negotiations.
The effort was to agree on criteria on territory – the percentage for each constituent state – to have it reflected on a map, and to fix a date for a multi-party conference on security and guarantees with Greece, Turkey and Britain.
The talks had been dogged for most of the day on Monday by what appeared to have been a dispute that arose from Turkish Cypriot press reports that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would not agree to a date for the multi-party conference unless Turkey abandoned the notion of a Cyprus guarantee.
Reports from Turkey and Greece said Tsipras wanted a one-on-one with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan before any conference took place, and that the phone lines between Athens, Ankara and Mont Pelerin had been burning up during most of the proceedings.
Greek government sources reportedly said the differences were so great between the two sides that Athens felt a personal meeting was needed to try and find a joint solution, otherwise the multilateral meeting would fail.
The so-called ‘mini-crisis’ as it was dubbed by the Turkish Cypriot press was defused by the UN, according to various reports – though the Greek Cypriot side did not confirm there had been any such thing – and the leaders got down to business on the substance of the territorial criteria.
“There was a general discussion on many aspects of the Cyprus problem and it was not focused on debating the issue of Greece,” Greek Cypriot sources told CNA.
The criteria includes, in addition to the percentage of territory, the number of refugees that would return, and the length of coastline for each constituent state. Reports last night said agreement had been reached on none of them.
According to some reports, while the Greek Cypriot side wants 80,000 to 90,000 refugees to have the chance of return, the Turkish side was trying to reduce this to 70,000 to 75,000.
Akinci has been the one insisting on having a multi-party conference on guarantees by the end of the year and tying up loose ends early next year. Reports said Turkey had been eyeing December 28 for the multilateral talks.
The Greek Cypriot side, which feels guarantees are unnecessary in an EU member state, insisted throughout the Swiss talks that it would not agree to a date for the conference unless a map reflecting the territorial criteria was produced in Mont Pelerin. Both sides had drawn a red line when it came to the return of Morphou.
The Greek Cypriot side also wanted other loose ends tied up before going to a multilateral conference. The outstanding issue of rotating presidency is also still on the table.
According to earlier Cybc reports on Monday, circles in the Greek government were saying Ankara was engaging in delaying tactics because the Turkish side did not want to help resolve what is essentially an international problem of invasion and occupation.
They said Turkey and Akinci were making unreasonable demands and this proved they wanted the security and guarantees to remain untouched.