The Cyprus reunification deal is “difficult but possible”, UN’s Cyprus envoy said on Monday on the first day of talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriots in Geneva.
The international conference on Cyprus on Thursday “will only be effective, if we are successful between the 9-11 January,” UN’s Cyprus envoy, Espen Barth Eide said in a press conference.
Three days of high-level talks regarding the divided island’s future will be followed by an international conference on Thursday. The Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders will be joined by the three other states involved in the process — guarantor countries Turkey, Greece, and the U.K.
Eide said the U.N. would be present in the conference as a special observer.
Noting that the last 19 months had seen significant progress on all five chapters of the Cyprus issue, Eide said “We are now at the final moment. We are at the moment of truth.”
A peace deal “is going to be difficult but it is possible,” UN’s Cyprus envoy said.
Eide said the international conference on Cyprus on Jan. 12 “will happen. That is not the question. But, the quality of 12 very much depends on the 9-11 discussions.”
If it succeeds, this would be “historic” for the Cypriots, and it would send a very strong signal to a region affected by many conflicts, he added.
Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders gathered at the UN at Geneva on Monday morning in an attempt to resolve outstanding final issues that could see the island reunified after four decades of division.
Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades met for several days of closed-door meetings in Switzerland under Eide’s auspices.
The first day of negotiations will concentrate on issues including governance, property and security according to a Turkish Cypriot official.
In remarks made before his departure for Geneva, Akinci told reporters that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus would continue on its own way if a solution was not reached.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the Geneva talks with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday. They agreed the upcoming negotiations could be an important opportunity in reaching a final settlement.
Reunification talks resumed in May 2015; both sides have repeatedly expressed optimism that a solution could be found.
Once a final agreement is reached, it would be put to both Cypriot communities in a referendum.
Akinci has said a reunification vote could be held in mid-2017 pending agreement in Geneva.
The issue of territory is one of the most intractable on the agenda.
Although both sides were believed to be close to agreement on the amount of territory to be run by the Turkish Cypriot government, there are still disputes over which administration will run certain towns and villages.
Any agreement will mean redrawing existing boundaries and potentially moving thousands of residents from their homes, 42 years after many were displaced when the island was first divided.
The Turkish Cypriot side wants to keep 29.2 percent of the island’s territory.