UN makes fresh attempt to end division of Cyprus

The United Nations (UN) wants to sound out whether new talks can be initiated to reunite the island of Cyprus, which has been partitioned since 1974.

The UN secretary general’s special envoy, Jane Holl Lute, has travelled to Cyprus and will be exploring the possibilities in talks with the political leaders of the Turkish and Greek Cypriots, Ersin Tatar and Nikos Anastasiades, the Cypriot state broadcaster (RIK) reported on Monday.

The mediation efforts are overshadowed by Turkish exploration for natural gas in regions of the seabed around Cyprus, which Nicosia sees as its own exclusive economic zone.

The Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis, which was mainly looking for natural gas off the Greek islands of Rhodes and Kastellorizo, has now returned to Turkey.

The Turkish research ship Barbaros is still on the way to an area to the south-west of Cyprus.

In addition, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is only recognised by Turkey, has taken its first steps in the last few weeks to settle the Varosha district  known in Turkish as Maras  in the former tourist town of Famagusta.

Varosha, with its kilometre-long sandy beach, was abandoned by its Greek Cypriot residents in 1974 when Turkish troops were approaching.

Since then, the UN has been calling for the district to be returned to its former residents.

The UN is planning a conference in which, in addition to the two ethnic groups on the island, the guarantee powers of the Republic of Cyprus Turkey, Greece and former colonial power Britain are to take part, according to government sources in Nicosia.

In 2017, the UN’s efforts to overcome the conflict failed mainly over the possibility of withdrawing around 35,000 Turkish soldiers from the north of the island.

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