Saturday 20 February 2016

Give-and-take time for negotiations (The Cyprus Weekly, 10 January 2016)

By Esra Aygin
Progress achieved in the negotiations to reunify Cyprus under a federal umbrella means the sides are just a stone’s throw away from the final give-and-take stage, according to a senior Turkish Cypriot source.
The final give-and-take will involve painful political compromises across all the topics of the Cyprus problem, but mainly governance, power sharing, property, territory, security and guarantees.
According to a Turkish Cypriot source close to the UN negotiations, the sides have come a long way in the very complicated and sensitive issue of property, which they have been discussing intensively for the last two months.
Only a few details remain and the outstanding differences between the sides’ positions are bridgeable, the source said.
The sides are scheduled to meet again on January 14 and 29 to continue and possibly conclude talks on property.
The overall picture is hopeful and encouraging, with the two sides having reached understanding on most of the substantial issues, the senior source said.
“The process has reached a stage where it is not the political differences, but rather the technical details such as the writing of federal laws and preparation of the Turkish Cypriot side to the EU, that will be taking most of the time and effort,” the source said.
Even the highly controversial issue of guarantees does not seem to be a matter of huge concern, with the sides remaining optimistic that a breakthrough is possible.
In a recent interview, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said he did not expect the issue of guarantees to be difficult to solve.
Echoing this optimism, the Turkish Cypriot source said: “In this era, where Turkey, Greece, Cyprus are all part of the same alliance, it should not be difficult to formulate a security arrangement that makes both sides feel safe. One thing is for certain: This process will definitely not collapse because of the issue of guarantees.”
The year 2016 is widely seen as the last chance for the unification of Cyprus under a federal umbrella -providing benefits not only to the island but also to the broader region by improving security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and opening the way for regional cooperation.
Assuming that the status quo in Cyprus will continue undisturbed amid all the volatility and tensions in the region is irrational and unrealistic.
The fact that energy companies exploring hydrocarbons in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus plan to resume drillings in the second half of 2016 or 2017 at the latest is another source of concern as this will most certainly prompt a harsh reaction from Turkey and spell an end for the negotiations.
All these factors highlight the urgency for a federal solution, and the earlier the better, as these risks will become more and more imminent with the passing of time, the source said.
“2016 will be the year that will determine whether Cyprus becomes a unified, federal EU state or whether it spirals into the unknown.”

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