Saturday 12 August 2017

Going through the gears

July 17, 2016

By Esra Aygin
The Turkish Cypriot side wants to take the negotiations process to a decisive final level as of September.
And proposes that the remaining issues, which also happen to be the most politically sensitive, are discussed outside Cyprus with the aim of bringing them to a successful conclusion.
This was the main topic of discussion between Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and United States Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who was on the island earlier this week.
Earlier, Nuland also met with Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who asked the US to exercise its influence over Ankara to secure annulment of guarantees and withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island’s north.
The sides, in a new round of negotiations which began in May 2015 after Akinci was elected Turkish Cypriot leader, have made significant progress in little more than a year, during which they tackled four of the six main chapters of the Cyprus problem: governance and power sharing, property, economy and European Union.
Despite this progress, described by both sides as unprecedented in the 50-year history of Cyprus negotiations, important difficulties remain, especially in the very complicated issue of property.
And the two leaders are yet to tackle the two most sensitive chapters of the Cyprus question: territory and security-guarantees.
“These are the core issues of the Cyprus problem,” said a Turkish Cypriot source close to negotiations.
“They can be solved if both sides show political will.
“The leaders need to show true leadership, put aside concerns about the next elections or their political careers, and move forward with courage.”
The Turkish Cypriot side aims to achieve the maximum possible progress in governance and power-sharing, property, economy and EU until September, and take all the remaining issues abroad, where the two sides will continue to meet under the auspices of the United Nations.
The participation of guarantor powers, Turkey, Greece and Britain will only come into question at the end of the process when the chapter of security and guarantees will be discussed, the source said.
“We need a different, an extraordinary effort to bring it all to a successful conclusion,” the source added. “The sides’ attitude towards the decisive couple of months as of September will also demonstrate their will.”
The rationale behind taking the most sensitive issues abroad is to enable the leaders and the teams to completely and effectively focus on negotiations and also prevent leaks to the media, which often lead to distortion of facts and hurt public sentiment.
According to the source, Nuland recognises the need to adopt a new approach to make sure that this latest process does not become another missed opportunity in the history of Cyprus.
Akinci and Anastasiades, in a statement on the first anniversary of the talks back in May, had put forward their joint aim of reaching a comprehensive settlement agreement within 2016.
The leaders are currently engaged in intensified negotiations and will meet a total of six times in July.
There will be no meetings at the leaders’ level until the end of August, although the negotiators’ meetings will continue.
The Turkish Cypriot side is worried that many factors would increasingly complicate reunification efforts early into 2017.
This includes the change in the US administration, a new UN Secretary-General and especially the expected developments in the energy sector.
Energy companies Total and ENI are due to start drilling as early as the beginning of 2017 in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus, which Turkey openly objects to.
Back in October 2014, Turkey had sent its seismic vessel and warship to Cyprus in response to exploratory deep-sea drilling by ENI. Anastasiades, in turn, had suspended reunification talks.

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