U.S. senator calls two-state deal for divided Cyprus 'wrong'

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, left, receives Cyprus' highest honor - the Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III - from President Nicos Anastasiades during a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in the capital Nicosia, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. Menendez, the Democratic senator from New Jersey said that the "retrograde vision" of Turkey's president to cement Cyprus' ethnic divide by striving for a two-state deal "is wrong" for all Cypriots. (AP Photo/Philippos Christou)
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, left, receives Cyprus' highest honor - the Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III - from President Nicos Anastasiades during a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in the capital Nicosia, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. Menendez, the Democratic senator from New Jersey said that the "retrograde vision" of Turkey's president to cement Cyprus' ethnic divide by striving for a two-state deal "is wrong" for all Cypriots. (AP Photo/Philippos Christou) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NICOSIA – The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on Monday that the “retrograde vision” of Turkey’s president to cement Cyprus’ ethnic divide by striving for a two-state deal “is wrong” for all Cypriots.

Robert Menendez, a Democratic senator from New Jersey, said a peace accord for Cyprus based on two separate states “flies in the face” of U.N. Security Council resolutions as well a decades-old arrangement between Greek and Turkish Cypriot negotiators to reunify Cyprus as a federation.

Speaking after receiving Cyprus’ highest honor — the Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III — from President Nicos Anastasiades at a ceremony, Menendez said Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots could strike a reunification deal if left to negotiate on their own.

Cyprus has been divided into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south where the island’s internationally recognized government is seated since 1974, when Turkey invaded following a coup aiming at union with Greece.

Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and maintains more than 35,000 troops in the north.

Nearly half a century of U.N.-backed peace talks have failed to produce a mutually acceptable deal. Turkey contends that talks for a federation-based deal have run their course and that an agreement based on two states is now the only way forward.

Menendez has been a vocal proponent of negotiations and a strident critic of what Greek Cypriots say are Turkey’s attempts to steer the talks toward achieving its ambition for regional control by keeping a permanent troop presence on the island and the right to militarily intervene.

“My goal is to see the last Turkish soldier leave the island,” Menendez said.