Negotiations for the settlement of the Cyprus problem have been conducted since 1975 under the auspices of the UN, on the basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions as well as two High-Level Agreements. The first Agreement which was signed in 1977 by President Archbishop Makarios and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktas laid the basis for subsequent negotiations. The aim was to establish an independent, bizonal, bicommunal federation with a central government, which would have such reinforced powers so as to ensure the unity of the country. The second High-Level Agreement concluded in 1979 between President Spyros Kyprianou and Rauf Denktas, additionally provided for respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, demilitarization as well as satisfactory guarantees of the independence and territorial integrity of the Republic. It also provided for priority to be given to the issue of the return of Ammochostos to its legal inhabitants.
In 1994, the President of the Republic of Cyprus Glafkos Clerides and Rauf Denktas met in New York for talks, but to no avail due to Turkish intransigence. This is reflected in particular in the report of the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council on 30.5.1994 where he states that: "For the present, the Security Council finds itself faced with an already familiar scenario: the absence of agreement due essentially to a lack of political will on the Turkish-Cypriot side." (para. 53, doc. S/1994/629 of 30 May 1994)
From December 1999 to November 2000, five rounds of talks took place, but once again no progress was made due to the Turkish-Cypriot leader's insistence on recognizing the illegitimate entity in the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus as a separate, sovereign state.
On January 16, 2002, direct talks began between the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Glafkos Clerides, and the Turkish-Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktas, but as previously no real progress was made. To kick start the process, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented both sides with a detailed Plan for a comprehensive settlement on 16 November 2002. The draft was submitted in a revised version in December 2002 and February 2003.
On March 10, 2003, the UN Secretary-General invited the new President of the Republic of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, and the Turkish-Cypriot leader to talks in the Hague, during which they were also asked to consider holding separate referendums on the Plan. Tassos Papadopoulos agreed on the condition that the Plan would provide a legal framework that would ensure a functional and lasting solution and that security issues would be resolved between Greece and Turkey.
The Turkish Cypriot leader, with the support of Turkey, rejected the plan and refused to put it to a referendum. As a result, the talks collapsed.
On April 23, 2003, the Turkish side, in an attempt to improve the negative climate against it after widespread criticism from the international community and the frustration of the Turkish-Cypriots, announced the partial lifting of illegal restrictions imposed since 1974by the Turkish army on the movement of Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots from and to the occupied territories.
In 2004, it was agreed in New York to resume substantial talks based on the Secretary-General's second revised Plan, to agree on a final text. In the event of a continuing stalemate, even after the involvement of Greece and Turkey in the process, Kofi Annan, exercising his discretion, would finalize the text. The two communities would then decide on separate, simultaneous referendums.
The prospect of the Secretary-General exercising an arbitration role proved ineffective. No substantive negotiations took place either in Cyprus or in Burgenstock, Switzerland, as the Turkish side wasted time submitting requests contrary to the basic principles of the Plan and what had been agreed so far (agreed tradeoffs). The UN Secretary-General submitted the final text (Annan V) to both sides on 31 March 2004. On 24 April 2004, separate referendums were held in both communities. With a percentage of 64.9%, the Turkish-Cypriots approved the plan whereas with a clear majority of 75.8% the Greek-Cypriots rejected it.
The "no" of the Greek-Cypriots was not a rejection of the reunification of the island which remains our primary goal. It was the expression of real concern for a Plan with serious drawbacks. Concerns were mainly raised by the fact that the Plan did not provide for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Cyprus nor abolished the right of foreign forces to unilateral intervention, it did not provide sufficient guarantees for the implementation of the commitments of each side and did not provide for the withdrawal of Turkish settlers (instead, it legitimized this international crime as well as the permanent influx of settlers from Turkey), the Plan did not ensure the viable functioning of the state without deadlocks or restrictions on voting based on nationality, did not guarantee the right of all Cypriots to acquire property and live in the place of their choice without demographic restrictions, and the property recovery system did not recognize the rights and interests of the displaced Greek-Cypriots who were forced to flee their homes in 1974, while the compensation system provided for the Greek-Cypriots themselves to finance their rehabilitation.
The solution to the Cyprus problem must be democratic, fair, functional, and viable. It must also be compatible with the laws and principles of the European Union, the UN Convention on Human Rights, and UN resolutions. Cyprus must remain an independent, united State with sovereignty and territorial integrity. Also, the solution should not recognize invasive rights to any country. Cyprus should not be held hostage by Turkey or other foreign interests.
In 2005, various investigative contacts and meetings were held with United Nations officials. The culmination of these efforts was President Papadopoulos' meeting in Lefkosia with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat on July 8, 2006, in the presence of UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari. During the meeting, a set of principles was agreed upon based on which the ground would be prepared for new talks. The two leaders pledged, among other things, to work for the reunification of Cyprus based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation and political equality as described in the relevant UN resolutions. They also agreed to immediately start a debate on issues affecting the daily life of the people.
However, the continuous efforts of the Turkish side for a political upgrade of their puppet state the so-called "TRNC", the persistence in the myth of the isolation of the Turkish-Cypriots, as well as the uncompromising statements of Turkish officials, did not contribute to the implementation of the 8 July Agreement nor to the search for a mutually acceptable, fair and viable solution.
On 15 November 2006, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, submitted proposals for the implementation of the 8 July Agreement. President Papadopoulos expressed his readiness to contribute constructively to the process. Mr. Gambari's proposals provided for the immediate start of the process with simultaneous intercommunal talks on day-to-day and substance issues as well as, depending on progress achieved the start of comprehensive negotiations. It also provided that all issues raised by each side would be discussed and that the whole process would depend on the two communities. The process did not proceed as despite the efforts of the Cypriot government and the UN it was not possible to overcome the problems that arose during the preparatory period since the Turkish Cypriot side was disputing key elements of the Agreement of 8 July.
In February 2008, the new President of the Republic of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias, immediately after his election, sought a meeting with the Turkish-Cypriot leader. At their meeting on 21 March 2008, it was decided to set up working groups and technical committees and to draw up a list of issues to be considered. It was decided to hold a new meeting in three months to evaluate the progress in order to enable the start of direct negotiations, under the auspices of the Secretary-General of the UN. At the same time, it was decided to open Ledra Street.
On April 3, 2008, the crossing point on Ledras Street was opened, while on April 18, six working groups and seven technical committees launched sessions. In the absence of progress justifying the resumption of negotiations, at the initiative of President Christofias, the two leaders met again on 23 May 2008, in the presence of UN Special Representative for Cyprus Taye-Brook Zerihoun. The meeting reaffirmed the commitment to create a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with sole sovereignty, international personality and nationality, and political equality, as described in the resolutions of the Security Council of the UN. It was also agreed to seek the opening of other crossing points. Furthermore, the two leaders agreed to consider confidence-building measures.
On the 1st of July 2008, the two leaders revised for the first time the work of the working groups and technical committees. They also discussed the issues of sovereignty and citizenship, on which they agreed, as matters of principle. Details on their implementation would be discussed during the direct talks. In a new meeting on July 25, 2008, it was decided to start direct negotiations on September 3, 2008.
The new negotiation process aimed to find a solution "from the Cypriots for the Cypriots" on the basis of an agreement between the two leaders that would receive the approval of the people and which would guarantee all the fundamental and legal rights and interests of Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots. In joint statements, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a bizonal, bicommunal federation, while agreeing on one sole sovereignty, citizenship, and international personality of the Cyprus federation. To emphasize his support for the peace negotiations, the Secretary-General of the United Nations paid a tripartite visit to Cyprus in early 2010. On April 18, 2010, Mehmet Ali Talat was succeeded by Dervis Eroglu as the leader of the Turkish-Cypriot community. President Christofias and the new Turkish Cypriot leader had many unfruitful meetings until July 1, 2012, when Cyprus took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Throughout the presidency, the Turkish side refused to enter into talks despite assurances from the President that there was no impediment.
On February 11, 2014, the first official meeting of the new President of the Republic of Cyprus Mr. Nikos Anastasiades, and the leader of the Turkish-Cypriots Mr. Dervis Eroglu took place under the auspices of the UN, which set the framework for the new negotiation process and reaffirmed the basic principles of the solution.
The launch of a new process of substantive negotiations has renewed international interest, creating new positive momentum for resolving the problem. This was followed by three years of negotiations that led to significant progress. As a result, in June 2017, the UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres convened a Conference on Cyprus in Crans Montana, Switzerland. The Conference was attended by the Republic of Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriot side with its new leader (since 2015) Mr. Mustafa Akinci, the three guarantor powers Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, and the European Union as an observer. The Conference came to a standstill due to Turkey's insistence on the permanent presence of military troops in Cyprus and on maintaining its invasive rights.
Despite this negative development, the Cypriot government remained steadfastly committed to reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem through talks under the auspices of the United Nations. Despite the non-constructive attitude of Turkey, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has appointed Jane Holl Lute as Special Adviser to resume the negotiation process. Successive rounds of contacts led to the meeting of the Secretary-General with the leaders of the two communities on November 25, 2019, in Berlin during which the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to reach a solution based on a bizonal and bicommunal federation with political equality, as defined in the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.