US Vice President Joe Biden urged Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to resume peace negotiations during separate phone calls on Wednesday, the White House said.
Anastasiades canceled scheduled peace talks and cut short a visit to Turkey on Tuesday after learning that Akinci was also invited to an official dinner at a UN-backed humanitarian summit in Istanbul.
Biden encouraged Anastasiades to “seize the moment to negotiate a settlement that would reunify Cyprus as a bizonal, bicommunal federation,” a White House statement said.
“Subsequently, the Vice President spoke to Turkish Cypriot Leader Mustafa Akinci to convey the same message,” urging both leaders to resume meetings as soon as possible.
Biden “pledged continued US support to both sides” over the Mediterranean island’s reunification, the statement added.
Akinci’s last-minute invitation to the dinner hosted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was seen as an attempt to bolster the status of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus which only Ankara recognizes.
While in Turkey, Akinci also met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of the summit.
Asked by reporters late Wednesday whether the United Nations had “set a trap” for Cyprus, Anastasiades said: “I don’t think it is a matter of a trap. It is a matter of mishandlings which, however, will not be tolerated. I don’t accept for the Republic of Cyprus to be downgraded in any way.”
Addressing prospects for a peace deal in a speech to a workers’ conference afterwards, Anastasiades said that “never, but never before, do I think there was another such good opportunity, as long as we all make use of it with mutual respect,” according to an official transcript.
Cyprus has been divided since August 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
Long-stalled UN-brokered peace talks — seen as the best chance to reunify Cyprus -– began in May 2015, with the leaders meeting regularly since then.