By Stefanos Evripidou
THE TWO negotiators yesterday agreed to embark on visits to guarantor powers Turkey and Greece by the end of the month to hold senior-level meetings on the Cyprus talks.
Andreas Mavroyiannis and Kudret Ozersay held their first meeting yesterday following the joint declaration announced by President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu on Tuesday.
The negotiators met under the auspices of UN Special Representative Lisa Buttenheim at the old Nicosia airport, following the decision by UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer to step down from his position.
After the meeting, UN spokesman Michel Bonnardeaux said the two agreed to visit Greece and Turkey respectively in the last week of February. The exact date of the simultaneous visits has yet to be announced.
The negotiators also agreed to meet again next Wednesday.
Mavroyiannis will go to Ankara and Ozersay to Athens, reflecting the provision in the joint declaration empowering the negotiators to have parallel access to all stakeholders and interested parties in the peace process as needed.
The meetings will take place at a senior level with reports suggesting the Turkish foreign ministry’s undersecretary, Feridun Sinirlioglu, will host Mavroyiannis, while Ozersay is set to meet the Greek foreign ministry’s secretary-general Anastasis Mitsialis.
Anastasiades made talking face-to-face with Turkey a pre-election pledge. He was able to secure Turkey’s support for his proposal last autumn on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Turkey’s precondition was to allow for mutual visits, so the Turkish Cypriot negotiator could also visit Athens.
This caused a few ripples within Greece and Cyprus, with some politicians questioning what Greece and the Turkish Cypriots had to discuss about the continuing occupation of Cyprus’ northern third.
Anastasiades saw it as a small price to pay for opening a direct channel of communication with Turkey, formally for the first time in decades.
Ozersay, who replaced Osman Ertug last week as negotiator, was quoted by the Turkish Cypriot press saying that he too had a lot of issues to discuss in Athens.
Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday reassured Greek party representatives that “in no case would Greece or the Cyprus Republic recognise the Turkish Cypriot pseudostate”.
“The Cypriot people hold their fate in their hands,” he said, noting that any reunification proposal will be decided by the people in a referendum.
The Greek Cypriot negotiating team hopes to be able to discuss specific aspects of the peace talks with Turkey, but a lot of hope is also being invested in discussing implementation of confidence-building measures with Ankara in parallel with the bicommunal talks aimed at achieving a comprehensive settlement.
One of Anastasiades’ priorities is to push forward his Varosha package proposal which would see the fenced off city open up, allowing the return of its lawful residents.
Ozersay argued however that the Greek Cypriots need to convince the Turkish Cypriots that Varosha should be a confidence-building measure instead of part of a final settlement.
Regarding the talks process, he said the two negotiators yesterday agreed to meet at least twice a week. Ozersay and Mavroyiannis have now to set the agenda for the resumption of talks, setting out what they are going to discuss and how.
Yesterday’s meeting, lasting almost two hours, focused on the modalities of the talks.
According to sources, Ozersay had a few negative things to say about Anastasiades’ public assessment of the joint declaration last Wednesday, though overall the climate between the two sides was “good”.
Anastasiades’ rundown of the positive aspects of the declaration mid-week ruffled a few feathers north of the dividing line. Considering it took five months of topsy turvy negotiations to reach agreement on a joint declaration, selling the achievements of the Greek Cypriot negotiating team in a spirit of win-win was never going to be easy.
Speaking to Bayrak on Thursday, Ozersay said he did not agree with Anastasiades’ appraisal of the joint text, adding: “If an agreement has been achieved on the text, the statement of the one side does not bind the other. As the Turkish Cypriot side we said that we accepted the text and we have to look forward.”
Meanwhile, Eroglu addressed the Turkish Cypriot community yesterday evening on the joint declaration, saying he too disagreed with Anastasiades’ review, while listing the positive aspects of the declaration as he saw them.
Earlier in the morning, the two negotiators engaged in an exchange of views on how to proceed with the talks, showing a willingness to discuss substance- as opposed to going round in circles- that was not always the case in previous meetings, said the source.
The two sides will reflect on the various possibilities discussed and will meet again on Wednesday to see if they can agree on the way forward. At the least, they hope to set the agenda for the coming meetings preceding the visits to Ankara and Athens.
Opposition AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou yesterday called on the president and parties to cooperate so as to reach a positive conclusion on the Cyprus problem.
“Things are critical. This effort will be very crucial for the future of the Cyprus Republic. Let’s try then to operate collectively, with understanding.”
He rejected talk of an AKEL-DISY collaboration to impose a solution, noting that the two parties were miles apart on many issues.
However, as a patriotic and responsible party, AKEL has an obligation to try and cooperate with all within the National Council, including the president and DISY, it said.
“If some will not cooperate with us it is because they have moved away from long-standing positions of the Cyprus Republic, not because of a shift (in positions) by AKEL,” said Kyprianou.