The critical five-day meeting between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides in the Swiss Alps did not produce much progress on the crucial chapter of territory, risking the prospects of a breakthrough in the solution negotiations this year.
The two Cypriot leaders, Mustafa Akinci and Nicos Anastasiades took the negotiations to Mont Pelerin, Switzerland this week to discuss all outstanding issues of the Cyprus problem interdependently with a primary focus on territory.
They hoped to agree on territory criteria – which will determine how much and which parts of the land currently in the northern part of Cyprus will be returned to the Greek Cypriots in a federal Cyprus, and set a date for a five-party conference to seal the final deal.
Although some progress was achieved in the governance and power sharing, property, economy and EU affairs chapters in Switzerland, the sides were not able to engage in productive brainstorming about the security and guarantees chapter, which prevented any progress in territory, sources close to the talks said.
“The Turkish Cypriot side cannot risk making big decisions on territory without seeing that there is a chance to find a middle way in guarantees,” a foreign diplomat said.
“The Greek Cypriot side was not ready to engage in a constructive discussion on guarantees and the Turkish Cypriot side was not ready to discuss maps.”
Efforts to bridge the gaps in territory will continue today, but observers agree the prospects for a breakthrough are scarce.
The sides are likely to take the talks on territory criteria back to Nicosia. The Greek Cypriot side is probably concerned that it would be pressured to make more concessions if guarantees and territory are discussed interdependently rather than successively.
Territory and security and guarantees are the most sensitive issues of the Cyprus problem, which will be decisive in the endorsement of the settlement plan by the people in simultaneous referendums.
It is difficult to see how the process, which has so far been guided more by fear than courage, will move forward from here on, as the sides seem to have locked horns, not moving unless they see each others’ cards on territory, security and guarantees.
“If they have the will to solve this problem, they have to take a step,”said Mete Hatay, senior researcher at PRIO Cyprus Centre. “Even if it is a unilateral one.”