By Esra Aygin
Negotiations aimed at finding a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem by next May have reached a new “promising” level with substantial progress and convergences achieved on some of the most contentious issues.
In a series of intensive negotiations, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades met six times in November, during which they interdependently discussed issues of governance, property, territory, economy and European Union.
The sides have made a lot of progress and have reached important convergences on all of these topics, with governance, economy and EU more-or-less closed, sources close to the negotiations said.
The sides decided not to make any statements about the substance of the negotiations at the end of the series of six meetings on Wednesday, because the stage of serious give-and-take on important issues – mainly property and territory – continues.
There is a good chance that the property issue may be finalised by the end of this year or in early 2016, which makes the goal of finding a settlement before the parliamentary elections in May a very realistic one.
United Nations Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide announced at the end of the meeting on Wednesday, that the two leaders “have discussed a number of issues in most of the chapters interdependently and in great depth and have made further progress”.
“The leaders have achieved a better understanding of each other’s concerns. They now feel more hopeful and confident that the outstanding issues could be resolved in the near future in the course of their negotiations,” Eide added.
The atmosphere in the negotiations has been very positive during the intensive round of negotiations throughout November, and the sides feel that the way talks were structured during the month has been constructive.
But the issues being tackled at this stage are not easy and there still is work that needs to be done. On his return from Wednesday’s meeting with Anastasiades, Akinci seemed confident about reaching a settlement by May.
“The intensive negotiations were productive and we are now at a more advanced stage compared to where we were at the beginning of November.
“Our target is to agree on the parameters of a comprehensive settlement before May. And this is not only our target,but also a shared one… We are talking about 47 years of negotiations. In the last five months, we made the progress that was not made in 47 years.”
The leaders are scheduled to meet three times in December – 4, 15 and 20. The negotiators will meet on a near-daily basis in order to prepare the leaders’ meetings.
Akinci and Anastasiades also agreed on the establishment of a ‘Technical Committee on Education,’ which will review existing research and good practices in education in Cyprus and abroad and undertake new relevant research on how education can contribute to conflict transformation, peace, reconciliation and the countering of prejudice and extremism.
“Cyprus needs a culture of peace and tolerance and cooperation in education will be an important part of cultivating this culture,” said Akinci.
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