Divergences in outstanding issues in the Cyprus peace talks are small but important, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Wednesday, a day after meetings between President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci resumed after a two-month hiatus.
Speaking on state radio, Kasoulides said Tuesday’s meeting was largely procedural and there had been “nothing, politically, that would allow one to draw conclusions”.
“As things stand, the situation in the talks has brought all the chapters to a short distance from the end, but this short distance from the end is the most important part of the entire negotiation from the beginning,” he said.
“At this point, if each side does not feel that it is going to be satisfied on the issues it sees as important, it cannot move forward.”
For the Greek Cypriot side, Kasoulides said, the key to a proposed solution that can be presented to the electorate with any degree of confidence that it might be approved is security.
“Our side is ready to share the running of a reunited, federal, bicommunal, bizonal Cyprus with the Turkish Cypriots, with political equality and effective participation in decision-making – where effective participation is warranted,” he said.
“But effective participation, for example, cannot be demanded on issues relating to garbage-collection. For us, a solution can have meaning if the Turkish army leaves and Turkey’s unilateral right of intervention is abolished, to the extent that we can feel confident that our children and grandchildren will not run the risk of living through things we lived through.”
Therefore, the foreign minister said, we must be informed of Turkey’s stance on security.
“This will be done either at a conference, or Mr Akinci, who is undoubtedly in direct contact with Ankara, can discuss all issues with the President, which can then be ratified at an international conference,” Kasoulides said.
Dismissing any talk of arbitration, or even the submission of written proposals, by the United Nations, the foreign minister said Turkey is “not ready right now because it has a constitutional referendum”.
“No one knows what Mr Erdogan is thinking, but whatever it is, it is likely to shift depending on the outcome of the plebiscite,” he said.
“We have no say on what the outcome will be, but it’s going to be close.”
With regard to speculation by Akinci of tension if the Republic of Cyprus were to go ahead with exploratory natural gas drilling this summer with the Cyprus problem unresolved, Kasoulides said concerns over tension are “always there”.
“However, there are things that can’t be avoided,” he added.
“There are contracts with energy companies, and they decide when to drill. They decided they’re going to drill in July. Also, whether there will be tension or not is also up to Mr Akinci. He is fully aware that the sooner additional quantities of hydrocarbons are found, the sooner we can get to monetisation. He is fully aware that all Cypriots stand to gain, particularly after a solution to the Cyprus problem.”