Peace talks aimed at unifying the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus have taken a detour following a diplomatic gaff. When the island's Turkish leader was treated as a head of state, the Greek president stormed out.
The Greek Cypriot president canceled peace negotiations set for Friday with the Turkish Cypriot leader over a perceived breach of protocol during a UN summit in Turkey, where his rival was treated as a head of state.
President Nicos Anastasiades "regretfully" called off the meeting with Mustafa Akinci in light of Monday's "unacceptable actions," the Cypriot government's spokesman Nicos Christodoulides, said in a statement on Tuesday.
At the UN's first ever Humanitarian Conference, President Anastasiades took umbrage with Akinci being treated as a head of state, and left the conference early.
Anastasiades refused to attend a banquet for heads of state on Monday evening after discovering Akinci, who represents the Turkish-run north Cyprus, was also invited.
Cyprus was an undivided Mediterranean island inhabited by Greeks and Turks until 1974. It was led by a moderate Greek archbishop until he was ousted in a Greek-inspired coup that sought to unify the island with Greece. But Turkey quickly invaded the island, and eventually it was divided.
Ethnic Greeks inhabit the larger southern "half" of the island while ethnic Turks are confined to the north. Despite this division the entire island joined the European Union in 2004, as the EU does not recognize Turkish control of the northern part of the island.
Progress towards peace
Despite the latest flare-up, the two sides have been in engaged in peace talks over the past year with Anastasiades and Akinci making progress but with obstacles remaining. Still, the two sides are aiming for an agreement that would reunify the island into two federal zones by the end of the year.
"The President of the Republic reiterates his decisiveness to continue the dialogue as long as the principle of mutual respect and the will for an acceptable solution are maintained," Christodoulides said in a statement, "Without unilateral moves which seek to upgrade the pseudo-state."
Anastasiades added that the "rules of mutual respect" must be obeyed and that both sides must stick to the "jointly expressed will to reach a mutually acceptable solution" without "unilateral actions" aiming at the north's diplomatic upgrade.
The statement was also a warning to officials involved in the talks - including United Nations envoy Espen Barth Eide who is facilitating negotiations - not to do anything that could destroy the talks.
"Similar actions by anyone involved, the United Nations Secretary General's Special Representative not excluded, not only do not help, but oppositely undermine the ongoing process," the Greek statement continued.
Northern Cyprus is a de facto statelet, with troops and financial support from Turkey, but is otherwise unrecognized by the international community.
bik/jm (Reuters, AP)