Sat, 02 Dec 2023

STRASBOURG, France: The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, has voiced the legislative body's support for appointing a United Nations (U.N.) envoy to assess the prospects of restarting stalled peace talks aimed at reunifying ethnically divided Cyprus.

Metsola conveyed the European Union's (EU) legislature's stance during a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York in September. She emphasized that Europe "would never be complete as long as Cyprus remains divided," underscoring the issue's significance for the entire continent.

President Metsola's comments came after discussions with Cyprus' President Nikos Christodoulides, during which she highlighted the need for a UN envoy to facilitate the peace process. Christodoulides has prioritized resuming reunification talks with the breakaway Turkish Cypriots during his tenure as the leader of the Greek Cypriot administration.

These talks have been at a standstill since the summer of 2017, with previous U.N.-facilitated negotiations ending unsuccessfully.

The division of Cyprus, which began after a 1974 Turkish invasion prompted by a coup seeking union with Greece, continues to be a source of tension in the eastern Mediterranean. A buffer zone is maintained by U.N. peacekeepers between the Turkish Cypriot northern region and the Greek Cypriot south. Turkey is the sole nation recognizing the Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and maintains over 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus.

Cyprus became an EU member in 2004, but the benefits of full membership apply only to the internationally recognized government in the southern part of the island. The division has fueled tensions, particularly regarding Turkey's territorial claims in Cyprus' offshore economic zone, where substantial gas reserves have been found.

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar contends that no genuine peace agreement is possible without recognizing statehood for Turkish Cypriots, departing from the longstanding agreement that Cyprus would reunify as a federation comprising Turkish and Greek-speaking regions.

Tatar emphasized that any U.N. envoy cannot assist negotiations based on the now-invalid federation premise, insisting that one can only reach a settlement through talks between two equal states.

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