By Emma Farge
GENEVA (Reuters) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Turkish and Greek Cypriot parties to “be creative” on Tuesday, hours before informal talks were set to begin on the island’s future after a four-year hiatus.
Guterres has invited officials of the two communities in Cyprus as well as the foreign ministers of Turkey, Greece and Britain to attend the Geneva-based talks this week in an effort to resume peace negotiations that collapsed in mid-2017.
The Mediterranean island was split between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974.
The Greek Cypriot administration is internationally recognised as the Cyprus government, while the breakaway Turkish Cypriot enclave set up after a Turkish military invasion is recognised only by Ankara.
The conflict has stoked wider tensions between NATO members Turkey and Greece, including over hydrocarbon resources.
“The parties are welcome to be creative and the Secretary-General will be encouraging them to use diplomatic language in a sincere and frank manner,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a briefing. “The reason he is inviting them is to see if there is a common vision for the future.”
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar has said he hopes his proposal for a two-state solution to the conflict will bring a “new vision” to the talks, despite its prior rejection by Greek Cypriots.
Huseyin Isiksal, a member of the Turkish Cypriot negotiating team, said he was “optimistic”, stressing that the two-state solution offered benefits for Greek Cypriots such as access to Turkish air space and ports.
“We see our Greek neighbours as our partners, we don’t see them as our enemies,” he told Reuters. “All we want is a solution for the island that benefits both communities.”
Cyprus government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios declined to comment on Tuesday on his expectations.
The talks begin late on Tuesday with bilateral meetings between the two island communities and Guterres followed by a meeting with all parties on Wednesday.
Tatar is due to meet Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday, Isiksal said.
Nicosia-based Fiona Mullen, director of Sapienta consultancy, said she did not expect any formal decision to start negotiations.
The two-state proposal was “obviously not going to be accepted by Greek Cypriots,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Michele Kambas and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Angus MacSwan)