Friday 18 November 2016

Akinci openings shift Cyprus negotiations in high gear

By Esra Aygin

Laudable last minute openings in the thorny territory chapter by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in Switzerland last week shifted Cyprus negotiations in high gear and significantly improved prospects of a solution.

Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides were very close to an agreement on territory criteria – which will determine how much land is to be under the administrative control of each constituent state in a future federal solution – on Friday night, when Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades requested a recess to hold consultations in Cyprus and Greece. Akinci and Anastasiades will return to talks in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland on 20 November.

“The Greek Cypriot leader realised that an agreement on territory criteria was actually possible right then and there,” a source close to the talks said. “He had not expected Mont Pelerin to go so well.”

When they reconvene in Mont Pelerin this Sunday, the sides are expected to apply the territory criteria on the map and decide on the design and date of the final phase of the Cyprus negotiations, which will be a multi-party conference on the security and guarantees chapter. It is important that Sunday’s crucial meeting has the same agenda as last Friday’s meeting, and the two leaders continue to discuss territory exactly from where they left off last week, a foreign diplomat said.

The multi-party conference on security and guarantees with the participation of guarantor states Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, is likely to take place in about three-four weeks.

Discussions on territory in Mont Pelerin were not very promising until late on Friday, as the Turkish Cypriot side hesitated to move on territory without getting a sense of whether a middle way could be found in the security and guarantees chapter, and the Greek Cypriot side refused to engage in productive brainstorming about security and guarantees without progress on territory.

Akinci overcame his hesitations and showed true leadership on the last hours of the meeting, observers said, suggesting that he would be ready to discuss the future Turkish Cypriot constituent state to make up 29% of the total area of Cyprus, the return of some 70,000-90,000 Greek Cypriots refugees, and the creation of federal zones in some areas. No areas were specified and no town or village names were mentioned.

“Akinci showed that his allegiance is with nowhere but Cyprus and that he truly sincerely wants peace on the island,” said the source close to the talks. “Now it is up to Anastasiades to deliver.”

Political analysts on both sides see the creation of federal zones as a very good compromise, as special arrangements in such zones would allow for the return of Greek Cypriots, while at the same time, would enable Turkish Cypriots currently living there to remain in place.

This is the first time in the history of Cyprus negotiations that Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders are directly negotiating territory. All past negotiations involved territory proposals being tabled by third parties like the United Nations.

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