Saturday 24 December 2016

The beginning of the end-game

By Esra Aygin

A Conference on Cyprus expected to seal the deal on the thorniest security and guarantees issue will most probably be the beginning - not the end – of a negotiation process on the issue. 

Less than 20 days from the conference seen as ‘critical’ for the fate of the unification negotiations, there still is no formal discussion or concrete preparation between neither the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides nor the guarantors on a security formula for a future federal Cyprus.

“The expectation and hope was that the sides would seal the deal on the security and guarantees issue in Geneva,” said a Turkish Cypriot source. “However, there is no serious preparation or dialogue on the part of the sides. So 12 January will mark the beginning of discussion and negotiation.”

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades, who have been negotiating to find a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem for the last 19 months, are scheduled to meet in Geneva on January 9 to resolve outstanding issues of governance and power sharing, property, economy, EU and territory. On January 12, guarantor states Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom will join the sides in an effort to find a mutually acceptable compromise on the contentious chapter of security and guarantees.

The Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides as well as Turkey and Greece were expected to prepare in the run up to the conference to lay the groundwork for an agreement on the issue. However, this has not been the case so far.

High-level preparatory meetings between Turkey and Greece on the security and guarantees issue and the planned meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras have still not been scheduled.

“It is quite possible for the parties go back to their respective countries and continue dialogue on security and guarantees, and then meet in Geneva again at some point in the future,” a diplomatic source close to the negotiations said. “So this is not a one-time meeting but rather a process.”

The ideal scenario would have been for the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders to hold discussions on security and guarantees ahead of Geneva and go to the conference with a common position on behalf of Cyprus. The concern is that security and guarantees in Cyprus could become only a small part of much broader negotiations between Turkey and Greece on all Conference on Cyprus could become the scene for negotiations between Turkey and Greece on all other disagreements they have like the Aegean islands or the continental shelf.

“It would be a good strategy if now Cypriots are able to think as Cypriots – one Cyprus – and don’t be hostage to other countries’ interests that are separate from Cyprus,” UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide had told the Cyprus Weekly in an interview earlier this month.

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