Saturday 1 April 2017

A new model for Cyprus talks

By Esra Aygin
Aware that the window of opportunity for a solution is closing rapidly, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci wishes to discuss on Sunday how the negotiations process can be redesigned.
The two leaders will have a social meeting over dinner this Sunday after a recess of six weeks. “There are about 10 make-or-break issues that remain to be agreed on,” said a Turkish Cypriot source close to negotiations.
“During the dinner, the leaders should define the way forward and how to achieve progress. Convergence on most of these issues would clear the way for a second meeting in Geneva.”
The Turkish Cypriot side feels that a different methodology should be followed once the negotiations resume, allowing the sides to focus on outstanding issues in a results-oriented manner.
The UN should also have an enhanced facilitation role with the aim of bringing the sides closer, the source said.
Negotiations stalled in February when the Greek Cypriot parliament voted for annual commemorations at state schools for a 1950 Enosis plebiscite in support of union with Greece.
The vote led to collective backlash among the vast majority of Turkish Cypriots, who consider the Enosis aim as the reason behind inter-communal clashes.
A new proposal that is expected to render the Enosis decision void will be taken up by the parliament next week.
The priority for the Turkish Cypriot side once the negotiations begin will be to reach an understanding over political equality-related issues, according to the source.
Akinci has been under immense pressure, both from circles in Cyprus and Turkey, for making too many concessions, especially by presenting a map with proposed territorial adjustments without having secured the political equality of Turkish Cypriots in a future federal Cyprus.
“The months of April and May will be decisive,” Akinci said earlier this week.
“It will be clear whether Greek Cypriots are willing to share governance between two equal constituent states.”
There is a broad understanding that a number of internal and external factors such as hydrocarbon exploration activities off the coasts of Cyprus and commencement of the campaign period of presidential elections in the south will complicate negotiations beyond May.
Concerned that the Enosis vote and the ensuing controversy led to a massive loss of confidence between the two communities, Akinci also wishes to discuss with President Nicos Anastasiades a number of confidence-building measures.
This includes the interoperability of mobile phones, interconnectivity of the electricity system and the work of the bi-communal education committee.
“The leaders should now, more than ever, focus on confidence-building measures,” the source said.
“It would be only natural for the leaders to discuss how to build or restore confidence between the two communities now. Not doing so would be reproachable.”

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