By George Psyllides and Stefanos Evripidou in Geneva
The maps on territory submitted by the two leaders were within the range agreed by both sides allowing Thursday’s conference on security and guarantees to go ahead as planned, said government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides last night.
“It is the first time in the history of the negotiations this exchange has taken place,” Christodoulides told reporters after the two leaders swapped maps of a federal Cyprus, containing each side’s proposals on territorial adjustments.
“We consider this a particularly important development,” he added.
Shortly afterwards, President Nicos Anastasiades tweeted: “The submission of maps is a milestone in the history of the Cyprus problem. We consistently continue the effort of satisfying the expectations of the Cypriot people.”
Last November, in another snowy location in Switzerland, Mont Pelerin, the two sides had agreed to table maps that would have the volume of territory for the Turkish Cypriot constituent state ranging between 28.2 per cent (on the Greek Cypriot map) and 29.2 per cent (on the Turkish Cypriot map).
The Greek Cypriots made it perfectly clear in the run up to last night’s exchange that if the Turkish Cypriots refused to table a map or submitted one that was not within the agreed range, the international Conference on Cyprus would not take place.
On another eventful day at the UN’s Palais des Nation, not without its fair share of drama, the two sides spent half the day working on further convergences in the governance chapter. By evening, Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci locked themselves in a room with UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide and three cartographers (one from each side and the third representing the UN).
They discussed the various parameters and criteria relating to territory before exchanging their respective maps. The cartographers studied the maps to make sure no one had tried to cheat and go beyond the agreed range. Once the OK was given, the maps were handed over to the UN to be locked in a vault until further notice, while the spokesmen of each side rushed to the noisy, stuffy and overcrowded press room in the UN palace to effectively say, “It is done.”
Speaking to the press, Christodoulides said the Greek Cypriot side had identified certain unsatisfactory provisions and aspects in the Turkish Cypriot map and has put its disagreements in writing. He refused to be drawn into details as to whether the map included Morphou under Greek Cypriot administration, how many Greek Cypriot refugees could return, or the share of coastline between the two proposed constituent states.
In reply to a question, he said, as far as he knew, the Turkish Cypriots did not submit any comments regarding the Greek Cypriot map.
“It’s not the end of the road… It’s the start of negotiations on a very important chapter of the Cyprus problem,” said the spokesman.
According to sources, the Greek Cypriot negotiating team worked on a number of scenarios regarding different kinds of maps the Turkish Cypriot side might table. The one eventually submitted came very close to one of the scenarios prepared, said the source.
Earlier in the day there was nervousness in the Greek Cypriot negotiating camp after certain details – not entirely accurate, according to sources – of the Greek Cypriot map were leaked to the press, hours before the two sides were expected to exchange them.
The argument from the negotiating team was that the leak left it exposed tactically by revealing its cards prematurely. In addition, there was also a risk Akinci would get cold feet and refuse to submit a map, in fear of leaks from the other side. This seemed particularly likely in the morning after news broke that members of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, Serdar Denktash and Huseyin Ozgurgun had written him a letter telling him not to submit a map until he got a rotating presidency in his pocket, among other things.
In a terse statement to the press after the leak, Christodoulides looked uncharacteristically irate with those who leaked the information as well as the media that chose to publish it. Suspicions were clearly directed towards one or more members of the National Council, who were briefed on the proposed map earlier that morning.
By evening, all was well again. And with the exchange of maps, the Cypriot-led negotiations in Geneva were brought to a close.
The spokesman said there was no other scheduled meeting to discuss internal aspects.
“No discussion has taken place as to how the dialogue will proceed,” he said, indicating the two leaders will decide at some point when to continue negotiations on the internal issues that remain unsolved, particularly on governance, property and territory.
As for the international conference, Christodoulides was adamant the only subject on the agenda would be security and guarantees.
Speaking at a press conference earlier in the day, Eide said the maps published in the media were not correct. The actual maps tabled would not be presented publicly because of the strong sensitivities on the issue.
He said the two diverging maps submitted would be the entry point for reaching agreement on a final map. “Hopefully, when the time is right, which I hope is soon, they will be able to reconcile completely so that there is one agreed line.”
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, the two sides worked further on governance issues, reaching agreement on how to proceed with constitutional amendments in a federal Cyprus. They are also very close to adding further federal competences to the list already agreed. The negotiators also spent a considerable amount of time discussing effective participation in decision-making processes, without reaching a final conclusion. Disagreement still remains on the rotating presidency, as well as the Turkish Cypriot demand to give Turkish nationals coming to Cyprus after a solution the same rights as other EU citizens.
By late evening, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias had arrived in Geneva and met briefly with the president ahead of Thursday’s conference, which will see Anastasiades, Akinci, Kotzias, his Turkish and British counterparts, Mevlut Cavusoglu and Boris Johnson sitting at the international conference. They’ll be joined by European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. The conference will be chaired by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and is expected to go on all day. No end-date has been set.