Cypriot leaders seem to have managed to put off – for now – a crisis over the context of the upcoming talks in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland.
But they will not be able to avoid the moment of truth for much longer as they are about to enter the end game in the negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem.
The four-day meeting in Switzerland was on thin ice earlier this week, with the Turkish Cypriots insisting that all six chapters including security and guarantees should be on the table, and the Greek Cypriots rejecting this by saying guarantees should be discussed after all other chapters have been resolved.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, reportedly, was insisting on high ranking officials of “Motherlands” Greece and Turkey to be present at the Swiss resort, just in case the security and guarantees aspect of the problem was discussed.
Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades couldn’t accept the proposal at this stage and the matter closed when the Greek government rejected the proposal.
Late on Wednesday, the sides made a wishy-washy statement about the Switzerland meeting, scheduled for 7-11 November, saying they would “concentrate on the chapter of territory as well as all other outstanding issues interdependently.”
UN chief Ban Ki-moon is expected to make an appearance in Switzerland on November 8.
“All aspects on the table”
“Of course the Security and Guarantee issue will be finalised with the participation of the guarantors at a five-party conference to be held after the Switzerland meeting,” said Akinci after meeting Anastasiades on Wednesday.
“But we want to discuss this issue in a brainstorming format in Switzerland to pave the way for the five-party conference. All chapters are related. If we are serious about solving the problem this year, then it is time to discuss everything.”
Anastasiades appeared to accept the idea of a brainstorming on guarantees by stating that “all outstanding issues will be discussed” in Mont Pelerin.
Because it requires changes to an international treaty with guarantor states Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, the security and guarantees chapter can only be solved with the participation of the guarantors.
The Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides have made significant progress in the four chapters of the Cyprus problem, which are governance and power sharing, property, economy and EU affairs.
Observers agree that the sides have exhausted the ways of reaching further agreements in the current format of negotiations.
The remaining few divergences under the Governance and Power-Sharing and Property chapters – such as a rotating presidency and who will have the right to return to his/her property – as well as the most sensitive chapters of Territory, Security and Guarantees will most likely be dealt with in the final big give-and-take.
“Just like the Greek Cypriot side can keep certain important issues – such as rotating presidency – in its pocket until it sees our position on another important topic, the Turkish Cypriot side may want to see the position on security and guarantees, or governance and power sharing so that it can decide on Territory,” Akinci told Radio Havadis.
“It is natural for the sides to see what the case is with other issues and act accordingly.”
Political analysts say that the reluctance of the Greek Cypriot side to take up Security and Guarantees in Switzerland together with Territory may be due to the concern that it would be pressured to make more concessions if the two issues are discussed interdependently rather than successively.
However, the Turkish Cypriot side is likely to limit the discussion on territory to criteria, without putting village names, figures or maps on the table in Switzerland rendering the meeting futile, unless security and guarantees are discussed simultaneously.
Government spokesperson, Nicos Christodoulides, appeared to warm to the idea.
In a radio interview yesterday Christodoulides said that discussing guarantees on a one-to-one basis with the Turkish Cypriots was a Greek Cypriot position since the beginning of the current process.
He added that reaching an understanding between Cypriots on the thorny issue would be most beneficial when the matter comes to a multi-party conference.
It is to be seen whether the leaders are up for the imminent bold decisions on the toughest and most sensitive issues of the Cyprus problem, which they repeatedly assert can be solved in 2016.