The two Cypriot leaders are set to meet Monday evening in the buffer zone, with the two men being nowhere near a common agenda and the UN hoping at best for more informal meetings to follow.
The dinner, which has no fixed agenda, will be hosted by UN Secretary General Special Representative in Cyprus Elizabeth Spehar at 7pm at her Chief of Mission residence inside the old Nicosia airport.
A UN official told CNA that a local chef will prepare the food, described as Cypriot traditional cuisine, but it was not immediately clear how long the dinner might last.
A government source told Kathimerini “it won’t be the end of the road if something goes wrong” during the Monday dinner
President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who haven't met since last year after the latest collapse of peace talks, are expected to sound each other out during the informal dinner.
While members of the UN staff are prepared to stay as long as the two leaders continue to meet, the dinner is not expected to last very long since Anastasiades is set to depart early morning Tuesday for London.
Media reports suggest Anastasiades and the Greek Cypriot side will emphasise the importance of carrying on with the talks from the point they were left off at the failed Crans-Montana conference last July, when UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said there would be no move on the part of the UN unless both leaders asked for it.
The United Nations is hoping that dinner diplomacy can break the current stalemate and open the way for a resumption of reunification talks that crashed at a Swiss summit in July 2017.
Other reports also suggest that Akinci will focus on a timetable for reaching a solution, something Greek Cypriots have always been reluctant to accept.
Open agenda, up to the leaders
Spehar, who met with the two leaders separately ahead of the scheduled dinner, said it was “up to the two leaders what they will discuss, there is an open agenda.”
“We will leave it up to them,” she said, adding she was looking forward to welcome the two leaders at her Chief of Mission residence at the old Nicosia airport.
Observers and political pundits say the Monday meeting does not signal a formal resumption of peace talks, but diplomats are hoping the Cypriot leaders can find “common ground” on reviving the peace process.
A government source also told online daily Kathimerini that “it won’t be the end of the road if something goes wrong” during the Monday dinner.
Cyprus has been divided for half a century. Ethnic violence in the 1960’s caused a constitutional crisis and a short-lived coup engineered by Athens in July 1974 promoted Turkey to invade militarily.
The island has been divided ever since, between the Greek Cypriot south in the internationally-recognised Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot north recognised by no country except Turkey.