Saturday 29 August 2015

Turkish Support for Peace (The Cyprus Weekly, 22 August 2015)

Esra Aygin

Appeasing fears prevalent in some circles that Turkey might not be sincere in its apparent support for a solution to the Cyprus problem, Ankara once again gave assurances of unfaltering determination to back the current negotiation process and the prospect of a referendum in the first half of 2016.

Senior Turkish officials in Ankara reiterated full support for the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides’ pursuit of a federal settlement during a visit earlier this month by Turkish Cypriot chief negotiator Özdil Nami. A diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, described Nami’s visit as ‘extremely positive’ and underlined that Ankara is very pleased with the speedy progress achieved at the negotiation table in such a short period of time. Ankara feels that it has regained the moral high ground in the negotiations, which it had lost due to the intransigent stance of the former Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, the source said. 

During the Ankara visit, Nami and the Turkish Cypriot negotiation team accompanying him, held meetings with Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu, Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other high-ranking officials.

During a half-day meeting with Undersecretary Sinirlioglu and ministry officials responsible for Cyprus, all the convergence papers prepared by the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides were reviewed, while discussions were held on outstanding issues including property, territory, security and guarantees, which are all currently on the negotiation table, according to the source. Nami and his team were later received by Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, who reiterated support for a federal solution in Cyprus.

According to the same source, Turkey’s biggest concern in a prospective settlement is to ensure the security and political equality of Turkish Cypriots. “It is very clear that Turkey wants the Cyprus problem to be solved,” the source said. “But it wants to be sure that the current climate of peace and calm on the island will not be spoiled and that the Turkish Cypriots will really be a politically equal partner of the federation.”

While Ankara agrees that the convergences reached by the sides on the topic of governance and power sharing are very positive, it supports Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci’s argument that rotating presidency – which the Greek Cypriot side has not yet accepted - is an essential ingredient of political equality, the source said.

Ankara is particularly pleased with the agreement recently reached by the two leaders in Cyprus on property, according to the source. After a meeting on 27 July between Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advisor in Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, told journalists that, “Regarding property, the leaders agreed that the individual’s right to property is respected. There shall be different alternatives for the regulation of the exercise of this right. Dispossessed owners and current users shall have various choices regarding their claims to affected properties. These different choices shall include compensation, exchange and reinstatement. The exercise of any such choice shall be subject to agreed criteria. There shall be a list of categories of affected properties. There shall be an independent Property Commission mandated to resolve property claims based on mutually agreed criteria. The Property Commission shall comprise of equal number of Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot members.”

Turkish officials believe it is of particular importance that the right to property of users has been recognized by the Greek Cypriot side, as well as the right to property of the original owners, and that the resolution of property claims will be handled by a Property Commission, according to the source.  

Another important issue discussed in Ankara was the ways of financing a solution, and in particular, ways of raising funding for the payment of compensations as part of the solution of the property problem, the source said. During the meetings with Nami and his team, it was decided that Turkey would take up the issue and study ways of raising funds, including international funding, taking advantage of possible EU resources, and possibility of developing the Turkish Cypriot properties in the south.

“Turkey wants the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides to finalize the current stage of negotiations as soon as possible and to move on to the next stage, where the thorny issues of securities and guarantees will be taken up in an international conference with the participation of Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom,” the source said.

Turkey has not given any indications on what its stance will be regarding the security and guarantee agreements that are currently in place. Turkish officials have, on a number of occasions, stated that the issue would be discussed when the right time comes and all other outstanding issues have been solved or are close to being solved.

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