The Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders have entered a critical three-week period of intensive negotiations that will determine whether the current effort to find a comprehensive Cyprus solution will succeed.
The Turkish Cypriot side hopes that the upcoming six meetings between August 29 and September 14, and an expected subsequent tripartite meeting with the United Nations Secretary-General, will lead to a conference with the participation of guarantor powers to seal the settlement deal.
Earlier this week, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci expressed hope that the process over the next three weeks will pave the way for a five-party meeting.
During the meetings between August 29 and September 14, all the six topics of the Cyprus problem, namely, governance and power-sharing, property, economy, European Union, territory, and security and guarantees will be discussed. There is mutual understanding between the sides not to put village names, figures or maps on the table just yet and to limit the discussion on territory to criteria to avoid disinformation and speculation about places to be given to a future Greek Cypriot constituent state.
“The main aim in the six meetings until 14 September is to achieve substantial convergence in, if not to completely round up governance and power sharing, property, economy and European Union,” said a Turkish Cypriot source close to the negotiations. “We also want to prepare the groundwork for an agreement on territory and guarantees and go to New York with only these two as outstanding issues.”
The tripartite meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon will most likely take place on the sidelines of or after, the UN General Assembly in New York in the second half of September.
Although it will largely depend on the progress achieved in the six meetings until September 14, “a tripartite meeting in New York is a realistic target unless things go unexpectedly wrong”, said the Turkish Cypriot source.
“But the actual expectation and wish of the Turkish Cypriot side is to hold a meeting participated in by all the relevant parties to finalise the security and guarantees topic, and seal an agreement. “We believe that the negotiations have reached this maturity.”
The security and guarantees topic is one of the most sensitive issues of the negotiations and can only be solved with the participation of the guarantor powers – Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom.
The Greek Cypriot side, however, has certain reservations about a conference with the participation of the guarantor powers, as it believes failure in such a setting would be irreversible and lead to permanent division, the Turkish Cypriot source said.
International Relations Professor Ahmet Sozen believes that the Greek Cypriot side needs to take the “leap of faith” this time, especially because of the pro-solution conditions that emerged after the failed coup in Turkey, which gave Akinci more room for manoeuvre.
“Akıncı, a few hours into the coup, came out clearly against it,” said Sozen. “He did not wait, like many others, to see whether it would succeed. “This principled position won him moral high ground and enhanced his trustworthiness and respectability in the eyes of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”
The overly-complicated domestic problems in the country also mean that Turkey cannot intervene much in the Cyprus negotiations, according to Sozen. “My main concern right now is not the position of Turkey, but the Greek Cypriot side,” he said. “Turkey’s capacity to intervene is at a minimum and its trust in the Turkish Cypriot leader is at a maximum. “These are invaluable conditions for the Greek Cypriot side.
“The question is, ‘Will it take advantage of these?’”
The talks between Akinci and Nicos Anastasiades, which have been under way since May 2015 under the auspices of the UN, are widely seen as the best and probably the last chance to unite Cyprus under a federal umbrella, before a number of internal and external issues jeopardise the prospects in 2017.