Following the “no” vote of Greek Cypriots to the UN Comprehensive Settlement Plan (Annan Plan) at the separate simultaneous referenda held on both sides of the Island on 24 April 2004, the efforts towards finding a settlement to the Cyprus problem came to a standstill for a period of four years.
During this time, the then Turkish Cypriot Leader Mehmet Ali Talat and the then Greek Cypriot Leader Tassos Papadopoulos met in the presence of İbrahim Gambari, the then UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, and agreed on an initiative on 8 July 2006, expressing their commitment to a comprehensive settlement based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality and their decision to establish working groups that would discuss the main issues of the Cyprus problem as well as technical committees that would deal with practical issues to ease the daily lives of the people. Within this context, the Representatives of the two Leaders commenced discussions with a view to resuming full-fledged negotiations. To the dismay of the Turkish Cypriot side, however, this process yielded no result because of the intransigent policies of the Papadopoulos leadership.
With the election of Demetris Christofias as the new Greek Cypriot Leader in February 2008, a new process paving the way towards full-fledged negotiations began.
The two Leaders then came together on 21 March 2008 for the first time and announced the 21 March Agreement. According to the Agreement, the Leaders decided to set up a number of working groups and technical committees, to later review their work and, using the results of their work, to start full-fledged negotiations under the auspices of the UN Secretary General.
On 16 April 2008, the establishment of six working groups on the chapters of Governance and Power Sharing, Economic Matters, European Union Matters, Property, Territorial Adjustment, Security and Guarantees as well as seven technical committees on Environment, Health, Crisis Management, Economic and Commercial Matters, Crime and Criminal Matters, Humanitarian Matters and Cultural Heritage was announced.
Meanwhile, the opening of the Lokmacı/Ledra Street crossing point on 3 April 2008 for reciprocal crossings across the Green Line in Lefkoşa/Nicosia marked significant progress following the initiation of the dialogue between the two Leaders.
On 23 May 2008, the two Leaders met for the second time and announced their common vision as regards the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. Accordingly, they reaffirmed their commitment to a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality and agreed that this partnership would have a Federal Government with a single international personality as well as a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State of equal status.
On 1 July 2008, the two Leaders, who came together for the third time, agreed on single sovereignty and single citizenship in principle and decided to discuss the details of their implementation during the full-fledged negotiations.
On 25 July 2008, having carried out a final review of the work done by the working groups and technical committees in line with the 1 July Agreement, the Leaders decided to launch full-fledged negotiations on 3 September 2008. Furthermore, the Leaders also stated that the aim of the full-fledged negotiations was to find a mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus problem, which would safeguard the fundamental and legitimate rights and interests of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, and that the agreed solution would be put to separate simultaneous referenda.
During the period leading up to the commencement of negotiations, the working groups and the technical committees carried on with their work. The decisions adopted by the technical committees, as confirmed by the Leaders, were announced, and the working groups submitted their reports to the Leaders, setting out the areas of convergence and divergence.
After a four-year stalemate, the full-fledged negotiations resumed on 3 September 2008 with the participation of Alexander Downer, the then UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus. In the first phase, upon the initiative of the Turkish Cypriot side, the two sides engaged in drafting joint papers on issues relating to Governance and Power Sharing, European Union Matters and Economic Matters. As a result, 30 joint papers were produced under these chapters, indicating both the areas of convergence and the remaining issues that needed further discussion. On the chapters of Property, Territorial Adjustment and Security and Guarantees, no joint paper was produced due to the diverging positions of the two sides.
In the second phase of negotiations, which was initiated on 10 September 2009, the Leaders took up some basic issues of divergence, while the Special Representatives discussed in detail the technical aspects of these divergences. During this phase, a joint paper was produced on the Property chapter regarding the types/categories of property. In January 2010, two rounds of intensified negotiations were held.
In February 2010, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the Island. He held separate meetings with the Leaders as well as a joint meeting under his auspices. During this visit, the UN Secretary General underlined the fact that time is not on the side of a settlement and pointed out the need for intensifying the efforts toward a settlement.
On the eve of the TRNC Presidential elections, Talat and Christofias came together for the last time and announced on 30 March 2010 that they had agreed to inform their communities separately on the progress of the comprehensive negotiations. Within this context, on 1 April 2010, the Turkish Cypriot Leader Talat announced the progress made via a press conference with the participation of politicians, academicians and civil society representatives.
Dr. Derviş Eroğlu, who won the Presidential elections held on 18 April 2010, stated in his letter to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that he was ready to continue negotiations from where they were left off and that the Turkish Cypriot side would adhere to the previously agreed convergences.
Eroğlu and Christofias held their first meeting on 26 May 2010. As the process moved forward, the UN Secretary General invited the two Leaders to a series of tripartite meetings in order to overcome certain difficulties faced during the negotiations. Within this context, the first of the five tripartite meetings was held in New York on 18 November 2010, the second and third meetings in Geneva on 26 January 2011 and 7 July 2011 respectively, the fourth in Greentree, New York on 30-31 October 2011 and the fifth again in Greentree, New York on 23-24 January 2012.
The tripartite meeting held in New York on 18 November 2010 focused on the exchange of views on the main chapters of the Cyprus problem. The UN Secretary General announced after the meeting that the Leaders agreed on increasing their contacts in the upcoming days in order to come up with a practical plan for overcoming the difficulties on the areas of divergence.
After the fourth tripartite meeting held in Greentree on 1 November 2011, the UN Secretary General stated that the sides made some encouraging progress and that the Leaders agreed on the importance of spending more effort to finalize the negotiation process.
In his letter to the two Leaders dated 6 January 2012, the UN Secretary General declared that they entered the final stage of the process and the arrangement of a tripartite meeting would be a significant part of the final stage. In addition, he also expressed his concern over the weakening opportunity to finalize the negotiations successfully due to the Greek Cypriot side’s assumption of the rotating Presidency of the EU on 1 July 2012.
In his statement after the meeting held in New York on 25 January 2012, the UN Secretary General, expressing that “limited progress has been achieved”, called on the two Leaders to take decisive steps in order to reach a final agreement. He expressed that in light of the assessment report to be prepared by his Special Adviser on Cyprus by the end of March, he intended to call the sides for a multilateral conference.
Due to the reluctance of the Greek Cypriot side, which assumed the rotating Presidency of the EU on 1 July 2012, the desired progress couldn’t be achieved. The Greek Cypriot leadership continued to oppose such elements as arbitration, mediation, a timetable and a high-level meeting with the participation of the two sides and the Guarantor powers (Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom) which would effectively pave the way for an expeditious finalization of the negotiation process. With the approaching presidential elections in the South, the negotiations entered into yet another period of standstill.
At the elections which took place in February 2013 in the South, DISI Leader Nikos Anastasiades was elected as the Greek Cypriot Leader. Contrary to the stance taken by Dr. Derviş Eroğlu, who upon his election wrote a letter to the UN Secretary General and affirmed his commitment to the resumption of negotiations from where they were previously left off, Anastasiades has avoided making a similar commitment which continues to stand as a major impediment in front of a structured and results-oriented process today.
In April 2013, the convergences, which included the agreements achieved during the full-fledged negotiations between 2008-2012, were compiled by the UN in a 77-page document and distributed it to the two sides. These convergences that were agreed as a result of the aforementioned intensive efforts of the two sides continue to form the basis of the ongoing negotiation process as well as the established UN parameters and the body of work.
Despite many calls by the Turkish Cypriot leadership for the immediate resumption of negotiations from the point left off, it took a year for the Greek Cypriot side to agree to resume the negotiations, putting forward reasons such as the economic crisis in the South, as well as the need to consult with the Greek Cypriot National Council and produce a Joint Declaration outlining the basic principles and parameters of a comprehensive settlement. As a result of diplomatic exercises which lasted about five months and the constructive steps taken by the Turkish Cypriot side, the Joint Declaration was announced on 11 February 2014 and the comprehensive negotiations resumed between the two sides.