His­toric Cyprus con­fer­ence be­gins in Geneva

Guter­res wants solid so­lu­tion, not ‘quick fix’

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The much-tout­edUnited Na­tions-backed in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence in Geneva aim­ing to re­unify the eth­ni­cally split is­land of Cyprus be­gan yes­ter­day with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of lead­ing diplo­mats from the UN, the Euro­pean Union and guar­an­tor pow­ers Greece, Tur­key and Britain, but no one is ex­pect­ing a quick fix to a dis­pute that has de­fied me­di­a­tion for 43 years.

In com­ments late yes­ter­day, Greek For­eign Min­is­ter Nikos Kotzias said there will be a meet­ing on Jan­uary 23 be­tween all three guar­an­tor pow­ers and re­it­er­ated the need for the with­drawal of Turk­ish troops from the is­land’s north­ern part. This, he said, should start from the first week af­ter a set­tle­ment is reached. “The Cyprus prob­lem is above all an is­sue of for­eign oc­cu­pa­tion,” he said in Geneva.

Both Greece and Tur­key said they would only at­tend the con­fer­ence at the high­est level – Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras and Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Ero­gan – if enough progress was made by ri­val Cypriot lead­ers, Pres­i­dent Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades and Turk­ish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Ak­inci, to reach a so­lu­tion.

“We are fol­low­ing closely and will act ac­cord­ingly,” said gov­ern­ment spokesman Dim­itris Tzanakopou­los.

Athens said it was in close con­tact with Anas­tasi­ades and Kotzias, who at­tended in Tsipras’s stead. Tur­key was rep­re­sented by For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu.

Apart from the fun­da­men­tal is­sues of guar­an­tees and post-set­tle­ment se­cu­rity that are con­sid­ered the most se­ri­ous points of con­tention be­tween both sides, Anas­tasi­ades was re­port­edly trou­bled by the map sub­mit­ted by Turk­ish Cypri­ots on Wed­nes­day, out­lin­ing the pro­posed ter­ri­to­rial bound­aries of the two con­stituent states that will ex­ist un­der a fed­eral ban­ner.

An­other stick­ing point is the de­mand by Turk­ish Cypri­ots, who are the is­land’s mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tion, that the pres­i­dency will ro­tate be­tween Turks and Greeks. De­spite reser­va­tions yes­ter­day over the out­come, due to what the gov­ern­ment de­scribes as Tur­key’s lack of will to play a con­struc­tive role in the bid for a fi­nal set­tle­ment, Greece wel­comed the start of the con­fer­ence as a step in the right di­rec­tion.

Gov­ern­ment aides also noted as a pos­i­tive the fact that the ne­go­ti­a­tions at the con­fer­ence will be open-ended, mean­ing that if a so­lu­tion is not found im­me­di­ately, it can be sought at a later stage with­out hav­ing to start from scratch. Even though he praised the progress made by Anas­tasi­ades and Ak­inci, United Na­tions Sec­re­tary­Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res, who is also in Geneva, cau­tioned against ex­pec­ta­tions of a swift pro­ce­dure. Speak­ing to re­porters, while stand­ing next the two Cypriot lead­ers, Guter­res said the con­fer­ence was a “his­toric op­portu- nity.” “I strongly be­lieve Cyprus can be the sym­bol of hope at the be­gin­ning of 2017,” he said, while UN Spe­cial Ad­viser Espen Barth Eide told the BBC there is “still a lot of work to be done to bridge dif­fer­ences.” Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker, who is lead­ing the EU del­e­ga­tion, said that now was the time to “seize the mo­ment for Cyprus.” “Those who are tak­ing no risks are tak­ing the greater risk,” he said.

UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res (cen­ter) speaks next to Cyprus Pres­i­dent Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades (right) and Turk­ish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Ak­inci. The highly an­tic­i­pated con­fer­ence on Cyprus be­gan yes­ter­day in Geneva.

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