Greece welcomes María Angela Holguín Cuéllar's position as new Personal Envoy of UN Secretary-General for Cyprus

María Angela Holguín Cuéllar

The Greek foreign ministry welcomed the move by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday to name a former Colombian foreign minister as his personal envoy to revive talks to reunify Cyprus, an issue that has defied international diplomacy since Turkey issued the northern portion of the island in 1974.

Greece welcomed on Sunday the appointment of María Angela Holguín Cuéllar as the new Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Cyprus and to join efforts to reunify the divided island following Turkey's 1974 invasion of the northern portion of the island.

"The Greek government welcomes the announcement by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the appointment of María Angela Holguín Cuéllar as the new Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Cyprus," the Greek foreign ministry said in a statement.

"This is an important step in the ongoing efforts, under the guidance of the Secretary General of the United Nations, to restart negotiations, with the aim of achieving a mutually acceptable, fair and sustainable solution to the Cyprus issue, on the agreed basis of the Security Council Resolutions of the United Nations, as well as the principles and values of the European Union," the ministry noted.

"We hope that the new UN Envoy will successfully coordinate the efforts to find common ground for the resumption of negotiations in this framework. On its part, Greece will continue to fully support the efforts of the Secretary General of the United Nations in this direction, in close cooperation and coordination with the Republic of Cyprus and its President Nikos Christodoulides," the statement added.

María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar served as Colombia’s top diplomat during 2010-2018 and as the country’s representative to the UN during 2004-2006.

She is expected to travel to Cyprus soon to sound out Greek Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides and the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots, Ersin Tatar.

Cuéllar will work on Guterres’ behalf to “search for common ground on the way forward” and to serve as the UN chief’s advisor on Cyprus, UN associate spokesperson Stephanie Tremblay said on Friday.

Cyprus was divided into ethnic Greek and Turkish sides in 1974, when Turkey invaded just days after a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognises the illegal Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and keeps some 40,000 troops in the Mediterranean island nation’s breakaway north in violation of UN resolutions.

Guterres’ appointment of an envoy to inform him whether it would be worth trying to jumpstart the long-stalled peace talks reflects a more cautious approach as a result of numerous failed attempts to produce an accord. If anything, the two sides have grown further apart since the last major push for progress in the summer of 2017.

Turkey and separatist Turkish Cypriots say they have ditched an agreed-upon framework that called for reunifying Cyprus as a federated state with Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot zones. Instead, they are advocating for what effectively amounts to a two-state deal.

The Republic of Cyprus strongly opposes a deal that would formalise the island’s ethnic cleave and reject a Turkish Cypriot demand for veto powers on all government decisions at a federal level. They also reject Turkey’s stipulations, arguing a permanent Turkish troop presence and a right to military intervention would undercut the country’s sovereignty.

In his New Year’s message, Christodoulides called the envoy’s appointment a “first important step” to reviving peace talks. He said he was “absolutely ready” to move things forward but acknowledged that the “road will be long and the difficulties a given.”

Tatar told a Turkish Cypriot newspaper last week that he had “no expectations” of any peace talks in the new year. He said Cuéllar's assignment to identify areas of agreement would not lead anywhere if Turkish Cypriot “sovereignty and equality” are not accepted.

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