UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said progress in the talks to reunify the divided island of Cyprus was insufficient to call an international conference. The statement appears to put an end to hopes that Cyprus' upcoming EU presidency could be a catalyst for the resolution of the Cyprus problem.
The announcement was made by Ban's spokesperson on Cyprus on 21 April after Ban met with Alexander Downer, the UN special advisor on Cyprus (see background).
Turkish and the Greek Cypriot media reported that Ban held telephone calls earlier that same day with the Republic of Cyprus President Demitres Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervi? Ero?lu.
UN mediators had previously said they wanted a deal ending four decades of separation between ethnic Greeks and Turks on the Mediterranean island before Greek Cypriots, who represent the island internationally, take over the EU presidency in July.
Ban has been pressing the two leaders to reach a settlement, and Downer said last month he had planned to call an international conference by early May, bringing together Britain, Greece and Turkey with the aim of putting the finishing touches on an accord, the Turkish daily Zaman reported.
But Downer said the two sides have not yet converged closely enough on key issues. He said talks are stalled on how executive power would be shared under an envisioned federation and on how to deal with private property losses resulting from the 1974 partition of the island.
The Turkish Cypriot leader accused the Greek side of failure in the reunification talks. Ero?lu has said that there would be no point in carrying on with talks after June, but Christofias insists that negotiations ought to continue even during the country's EU presidency.
Turkish Cypriots believe negotiations during that period would be "meaningless" since Christofias would be preoccupied with EU affairs.
Ero?lu also denied speculation that Turkish Cyprus is considering changing its name – the Northern Cyprus Turkish Republic – saying that he is not disturbed by a name that only Turkey recognises.
Turkish media, citing unnamed official sources, reported last week that if a solution is not found by the time Cyprus takes over the EU presidency on 1 July, Ankara and the Turkish side would initiate a "Plan B". This would entail exerting pressure for the international recognition of the “Turkish Cypriot State.”
Cypriot Defense Minister Demetris Eliades called the purported plan a "provocation". He accused Turkey of "multiplying" settlers in the territory under its control, continuing to usurp Greek Cypriot property, destroying cultural heritage, and of military occupation of the island's northern third.