Greek and Cypriot flags flutter on poles on the left, as Turkish and Turkish Cypriot breakaway flags fly between minarets on the right

As Cyprus' leaders convene for peace talks in Geneva, some Cypriots say 'expectations are low'

Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders, along with other stakeholders, are discussing potential solutions to what’s widely known as the “Cyprus issue.” 

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Greek and Cypriot flags (L) flutter on poles in the southern area, as Turkish and Turkish Cypriot breakaway flags (R) fly between minarets in the northern Turkish-occupied area, within Cyprus's divided capital Nicosia, April 26, 2021.

Credit:

Petros Karadjias/AP

Rival Cypriot leaders are meeting in Geneva beginning Tuesday in an attempt to find common ground on issues that have divided the eastern Mediterranean island nation for decades.

Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders, along with other stakeholders, are discussing potential solutions to what’s widely known as the “Cyprus issue.”

The island nation has been divided along ethnic lines for decades — with Turkish Cypriots in the north, and Greek Cypriots in the south. Each side has its own government, but only one, on the Greek Cypriot side, is internationally recognized.

Related: Turkey’s Erdoğan calls Biden’s acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide ‘unfounded, unjust, unrealistic’

Turkey is the only country that recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and its government, as legitimate.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied the northern third of the island to prevent a Greek coup. Several past attempts to reunify the island have failed.

This week’s informal talks, convened by the United Nations Secretary-General, will be the first since negotiations between the sides collapsed in 2017.

“I don't think anyone following the process can claim to be optimistic. The expectations of the people are low. They are simply fed up with the process.”

Andromachi Sophocleous, Greek Cypriot political analyst 

“I don't think anyone following the process can claim to be optimistic,” said Andromachi Sophocleous, a Greek Cypriot political analyst and activist with the organization Unite Cyprus Now. “The expectations of the people are low. They are simply fed up with the process.”

Related: Afghans who fled to Turkey are worried — and hopeful — about the prospect of peace at home

Ahead of the informal talks, Greek Cypriots rallied for reunification in Nicosia, Cyprus’ divided capital. But hopes that the two sides can reunify are fading.

“Right now, the two sides .... have completely different positions,” said Ipek Borman, a political analyst who was on the Turkish Cypriot negotiating team during previous rounds of talks that ended in 2017, when the two sides failed to agree on what should happen to the nearly 30,000 Turkish troops on the island.

While Greek Cypriot leaders have advocated for reunification, Turkish Cypriot government officials have called for a two-state solution.

“It’s not going to be easy for them to find common ground,” Borman said.  

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