Tuesday 6 December 2016

Intensive talks to resume

Esra Aygin
2 December 2016

The two Cypriot leaders agreed last night to the formula to restart UN-brokered negotiations, following a dinner hosted by UN Special Advisor Espen Barth Eide and his Deputy Elizabeth Spehar.

The talks are expected to start immediately in Cyprus, followed by a conference in Geneva, Switzerland on January 9, to be attended solely by the Cypriot camps. Representatives of guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and the UK would thereafter join the conference from January 12.

International actors earlier had been sweating over finding ways to get the Cypriot leaders back to the negotiation table after talks stalled at Mont Pelerin, Switzerland over disagreement on territory criteria.

Some formulae that combine dates and work plans leading up to a multi-party conference, where the final deal would be sealed, had been deliberated upon and conveyed to both sides.

UN Secretary-General Special Advisor in Cyprus Espen Barth Eide had also been engaged in intensive shuttle diplomacy between the sides, and is due in Athens today and in Ankara on Monday to garner support for the continuation of the process.

“We can live with an interim formula that somehow brings the sides back to the table,” said a source close to the talks.

“However, any formula that does not deal with when the territory chapter is to be finalised, but only aims at bringing the sides back to the table, will only postpone but not solve the problem.

“The negotiations can move forward in a results-bearing way only if the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides reach an understanding over the timing of the finalisation of the territory chapter.”

Territory is the biggest bargaining chip that the Turkish Cypriot side holds, and it does not want to lose it before the international conference, where the final give-and-take between the biggest and most sensitive issues, including rotating presidency and security and guarantees, would take place.

It cites the February 11, 2014 joint declaration, which serves as the basis of the current negotiations and states that all unresolved issues “will be discussed inter-dependently”.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is willing to discuss the issue now and achieve certain convergences without finalising it. The Greek Cypriot side, however, strongly opposes leaving the final decision on territory to the conference.

This difference in approach was essentially the reason talks failed in the Swiss Alpine resort of Mont Pelerin between Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades.

“What brought us to a deadlock in Mont Pelerin was an effort [by the Greek Cypriots] to finalise the territory issue with all its elements and a map before accepting rotational presidency or provisions that would enable the effective participation of the Turkish Cypriot community in decision-making – the two basic elements of our political equality – and without reaching an agreement over security arrangements that would make the Turkish Cypriots feel safe.”

Akinci said earlier this week: “The aim in Mont Pelerin was to take up the territory chapter, achieve progress and reach the most possible convergences on criteria that would allow the two sides to prepare their own maps for discussion at the five-party conference. But we went there knowing that we would not be finalising the map. Both sides knew this.”

The multi-party conference, bringing in the guarantor states, will seek to achieve an agreement on a mutually-acceptable security formula.

Parallel to talks on security and guarantees, and at a different table, the Cypriot sides will finalise all the outstanding internal issues, including territory, Akinci said.

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