Talks to resume on Friday
Despite the fresh momentum that has picked up after Mustafa Akinci won the elections in the north last month, the Greek Cypriot side seems more cautions than ever before, not so much because of Turkey’s ever-present in resolving the Cyprus problem, but because opposition is getting more vocal, especially as 2015 is widely seen as the ‘breakthrough year’.
President Nicos Anastasiades and Akinci agreed on Monday night to resume talks that had been stalled when Turkey sent its survey vessel into Cyprus commercial waters, with both leaders saying they have “a common vision” for a future Cyprus.
But Anastasiades has already had to face the first salvo from the socialist EDEK party that declared on Sunday that it was dead against any bizonal, bicommunal and federal solution, an indication of the opposition that the president will face from DIKO and others, especially as the countdown to parliamentary elections in May 2016 has already started.
The two leaders will meet under the auspices of UN Special Advisor Espen Barth Eide, flanked by their respective chief negotiators, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Ozdil Nami.
Already, the agenda for the first procedural meeting has been set, whereby by the two sides will agree to a timeframe for meetings and progress by their technical teams.
However, the talks may even touch upon low-key confidence building measures (CBMs), such as roaming telephony on both sides.
Friday’s meeting will go through a general exchange of views and to agree on the modalities for the structuring and the frequency of the meetings, Eide explained.
“I think this is a unique opportunity, an opportunity that will be grasped and it is truly rewarding to work with two leaders with such a strong commitment to seeing a sheer challenge that can only be solved through a shared effort to find a shared solution”.
Although the thorny CBM of Famagusta, whereby the fenced ghost town would be opened up to Greek Cypriot refugees under UN rule, in exchange for international status for Famagusta port and the Tymbou-Ercan airport, will probably not feature on the first day, it is expected to come up very soon.
To begin with, the issue of roaming mobile communications has already been discussed between the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KEVE) and the Turkish Cypriot Chamber (KTTO) as well as the technical committee responsible for such issues.
Reports suggested that this issue was on the agenda of meetings for CBMs between Anastasiades and former Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, however Eroglu refused to discuss it.
Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Tuesday that the two leaders agreed to begin discussion about the implementation of CBMs.
They focused, he added, on how the procedure of the Cyprus talks will proceed.
“The first meeting will mainly deal with structural and procedural issues. The joint declaration (of February 2014) and all that is provided in it were confirmed”.
Asked about the frequency of the meetings between the leaders, the Spokesman said that “there is intent and desire by both leaders for more frequent meetings.”
As regards the CBM, he said that the two leaders agreed that the discussion on those measures should begin so that some of them are implemented directly.
He recalled that in June 2014 the Greek Cypriot side had submitted a proposal for 30 CBMs which, if implemented, could affect the daily lives of Cypriots in a positive manner and reinforce the negotiations, such as the opening of more crossing points.
The dialogue will begin on such CBMs, he said.
Foreign diplomats were quick to lend support to the resumption of the talks, chief among them being the German ambassador who said that the EU’s involvement should be “more active”.
“I met the President and I offered Germany’s support for the peace process. We are very encouraged from what is going on”, said Ambassador Nikolai von Schoepff.
He said that “Germany wants to help in very concrete way, especially to bring more business here. We see Cyprus as a great business hub between Europe and the Arab world and also a united Cyprus and Germany can do a lot to i mprove the business situation here. We see here great potential and we are prepared to do more”.
“Germany is in favour of a strong EU here, Cyprus is part of the EU, and the EU should be more active here. We fully support this”.
Similar support came from the British High Commissioner in Nicosia, Damian Roderic Todd, who said that the meeting of the two leaders is a positive development.
He expressed his country’s support to the process of a settlement, not only because the UK is a UN Security Council permanent state, but also because it is a guarantor power and “because Britain and Cyprus have so extraordinary human connections, culturally and in human terms. We want to make everything we can to bring about a settlement of the Cyprus issue”.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has welcomed the resumption of peace talks saying that both sides would benefit considerably from reunification, as no-one is content with the status quo.
The U.S. also welcomed the resumption of the UN-led peace talks reiterating their willingness to assist the process in any way the parties find useful.
“The United States welcomes announcement that Greek Cypriot the and Turkish Cypriot leaders will resume settlement talks on May 15,” National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said in a statement issued.