Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades told a UN envoy Monday he is ready to attend an informal conference involving Britain, Greece and Turkey to end a deadlock in peace talks, officials said.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey occupied its northern third in response to a coup orchestrated by the military junta then in power in Athens aimed at annexing the island to Greece.
There have been no official UN-sponsored negotiations on the island’s future since a conference in Switzerland –- also involving Britain, Greece, and Turkey –- collapsed in July 2017.
UN envoy Jane Holl Lute, on her second visit to Cyprus since December, held talks on Monday with Anastasiades before crossing the UN-patrolled ceasefire line to meet Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.
“During the meeting, the President of the Republic expressed his readiness to participate in the informal five-party meeting,” Cyprus government spokesperson Kyriacos Koushios said.
“He also expressed his expectation that the… meeting will lead to a substantial resumption of talks, with the aim of reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem,” he told reporters.
Lute had told Anastasiades that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres intended to convene a five-party conference in February.
Guterres is hoping to get the three governments more involved to build momentum.
In a report to the UN Security Council this month, Guterres said the parties had expressed a willingness to attend an informal conference under his auspices.
“I intend to invite the sides and the guarantor powers to this informal meeting as soon as practicable in 2021,” Guterres said.
Guterres also acknowledged “scepticism” on the prospects of peace talks resuming has risen on both sides of the divided island.
In November, rival Cypriot leaders held a “break-the-ice” meeting at which they promised to back a UN-led peace push involving the outside powers.
It was their first and only meeting since the Ankara-backed Tatar was elected leader of the breakaway north in October.
Tatar was elected on a hardline platform of seeking a two-state solution for Cyprus, rather than a bi-communal federation.
The two men have acknowledged their positions on the way forward are “far apart”.
Britain, Greece and Turkey act as guarantors of the island’s sovereignty under the treaty that gave Cyprus independence from British rule in 1960.