A five-day meeting between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides in the Swiss Alps next week will be decisive in whether or not it will be possible to find a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem before the end of this year.
In a step that may lead the process to the end game, the two Cypriot leaders, Mustafa Akinci and Nicos Anastasiades, are taking the negotiations to Mont Pelerin, Switzerland between November 7 and 11. They will be discussing all outstanding issues of the Cyprus problem interdependently with a primary focus on the sensitive chapter of territory.
“Mont Pelerin will indeed be critical,” said a foreign diplomat following the talks closely. “Unless there is considerable progress on all issues as of 11 November, the 2016 target will have most probably been lost.”
With territory in focus, the two leaders are expected to take up the outstanding issues in governance and power sharing, property, economy and EU affairs, as well as brainstorm about security and guarantees in Switzerland.
The discussions on territory 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.
There is a big gap on the positions of the two sides at the moment, with the Greek Cypriot side demanding territorial adjustments that would allow for the return of some 100,000 refugees, and the Turkish Cypriot side saying that the new arrangements should give rise to as little new cases of displacement as possible. Mont Pelerin will show whether the big gap between the positions of the two sides may be bridged.
The two sides are expected to begin the discussion on territory with the criteria.
If an agreement is reached on criteria, then maps and figures will be put onto the table “on the condition that the date of the five party conference is determined,” Akinci’s spokesperson Baris Burcu stated recently.
“Both leaders should be prepared for important discussions and decisions in Mont Pelerin,” said the foreign diplomat. “The Greek Cypriot side should be ready to engage in discussions to pave the way for a multi-party conference and the Turkish Cypriot side should be ready to discuss maps. The two sides have to help each other to make concessions.”
A multi-party conference will be held at the final phase of negotiations to seal a deal on the security and guarantees chapter with the participation of guarantor states Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom.
Some observers are worried that rushing the multi-party conference without due preparation could result in a failure of the process while others see Mont Pelerin as a point of no return adding that a conference is imminent.