Tuesday 26 May 2015

Getting down to business (The Cyprus Weekly, 16 May 2015)

Esra Aygin

In a new opportunity seen widely as the best in a decade and probably the last, Turkish Cypriot Leader Mustafa Akıncı and Greek Cypriot Leader Nicos Anastasiades are scheduled to meet today to resume negotiations for the comprehensive solution of the Cyprus 

The new pro-solution Turkish Cypriot leader Akıncı, together with his team headed by the experienced and knowledgeable negotiator Özdil Nami, is planning a very well-structured and intense process. According to sources, The Turkish Cypriot side aims to achieve substantial results by the third week of September, when the UN General Assembly will be held. The rationale behind this is to create the opportunity for the thorniest or most difficult issues to be taken up during the UN General Assembly in New York. To this end, Akıncı, who has stated that he prefers to deal with issues personally in direct, face-to-face meetings with Anastasiades, is expected propose that the leaders meet at least once every two weeks, while the leaders’ negotiators engage in a more frequent meeting schedule.

It is widely acknowledged that a failure in this round of negotiations between Akıncı – who won the Turkish Cypriot community’s overwhelming support for his vision for a federal solution on the island, and Anastasiades – who, taking a big political risk against all odds advocated a ‘yes’ vote for the Annan Plan in 2004 - would spell an end for hopes of any kind of federal solution. And there are clear indications that the international community, including the United Nations, would not be as willing to - let alone investing so much energy, time and money – get involved in any kind of dialogue between the sides beyond that point. Therefore, Akıncı and Anastasiades have on their shoulders a historic responsibility, which will determine the future of the island.

The sides - in an effort to create a common ground and vision for negotiations - are expected to spend the first couple of weeks into the process to review the progress made so far in negotiations carried out under the auspices of the UN Good Offices Mission. The guiding document will be 11 February 2014 Joint Communiqué, which sets out the framework for a federal solution on the island. Considering the fact that both the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot side have submitted proposals that were not in line with the 11 February document over the last year, this exercise would help the sides to adopt positions compatible with the spirit of the Joint Communiqué.

Efforts on confidence building measures (CBMs) – especially ones that would contribute to and improve the daily lives of Cypriots on both sides of the island – are also expected to start immediately. The Turkish Cypriot side wants to first take up and solve, in a matter of a couple of weeks, the problem of interconnectivity, therefore enabling mobile phones to be used throughout the island through a roaming agreement. Other CBMs to be agreed upon by the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leader – such as introducing new crossing points or starting preparatory work for the opening of closed-off Varosha under UN supervision and the use of Famagusta Port and Ercan Airport for direct trade and flights - will most probably be taken up by technical teams in a parallel process to negotiations.

Nevertheless, Akıncı has been very specific in underlining in a couple of occasions that he will be careful not to focus on CBMs at the expense of comprehensive solution negotiations saying “All confidence building measures should be viewed as a catalyzing factor for the comprehensive solution.”

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