As the arrival of United Nations’ Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to Crans-Montana for day 9 of the peace talks was announced late on Wednesday, President Nicos Anastasiades submitted what he described as a package of compromise proposals to break the deadlock.
According to sources cited by state broadcaster CyBC, these included concessions on key Turkish Cypriot demands, including the rotating presidency and effective participation in government, as well as a compromise on security. On this issue, the Greek Cypriot side would accept up to one-fifth of the transition-period international police force to remain in Cyprus post-solution to comprise of policemen from each of the three guarantors.
Caveats to these proposals would include a joint ticket in rotating presidency, effective deadlock-breaking mechanisms for decision-making bodies where at least one Turkish Cypriot vote would be required for approval, regardless of absolute majorities, and Turkey agreeing to a sunset-clause for troops withdrawal and waiving unilateral intervention rights.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had described the “sunset clause” – a euphemism for an end-date to the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus – as a “non-starter” for the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot sides. They insist instead on a “review clause”, or a date to reassess the need for a military presence.
In exchange for his compromise on governance and troops, Anastasiades demanded that Morphou and other territories be returned under Greek Cypriot administration, so that the number of refugees returning under Greek Cypriot administration increased to 100,000.
Anastasiades presented the package-proposal to the full-format conference on security and guarantees verbally, with the written version to be delivered to Guterres on Thursday morning.
Talking to reporters after the session, Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Kotzias said a lot of time has been wasted, but hopes for talks to enter a substantive phase rest with Guterres.
Akinci told reporters that Thursday “must be an important day”, and said that in his opinion Anastasiades’ proposal was made only for the sake of appearances, as evidenced by the fact that it was leaked to the press.
Cavusoglu, who exited next, was equally critical.
“Leaking to the press before sharing is not serious,” he told the crowd of reporters.
“It is a populistic thing to do. We need to be more serious. On the substance, the proposal tries to give the image of something new, but when you read it there is nothing new.”
Anastasiades, who left the conference hall last and visibly disheartened, implied his proposal had been rejected.
“Our proposal is completely serious and aims at breaking the deadlock,” he said.
“If some don’t want to address the reasonable concerns of the Greek Cypriots, then that is their problem to solve. From what you have heard, you can deduce whether the proposal was accepted.”
Earlier, on arrival at the conference hall for the evening session where he was to unveil the proposals, Anastasiades spoke to reporters.
“In light of the deadlock of the last eight days, and as a show of our desire to reach a settlement, I have decided to submit proposals aimed at overcoming the deadlock. I expect the other side to show the required political will so that we can move forward,” he said.
“I would like to call on the people of Cyprus to ignore those who spread rumours of unacceptable concessions by our side, as well as the others, who purposely cultivate a climate of excessive optimism. We must work seriously if we are to see a glimmer of light.”
The remarks were followed by leaks from the Turkish side, which suggested that the most important sticking point that remained was the sunset-clause versus review-clause debate.
A deal on this, they added, could be hammered out by the prime ministers of the three guarantors, if and when they arrived in Crans-Montana.
The same sources claimed it was likely that a “framework agreement” could be reached by Thursday, even if certain points – like the contentious sunset-clause provision – remained blank.
Coinciding with Wednesday night’s dramatic turn of events, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini arrived at Crans-Montana just in time for the evening session, at which Anastasiades presented his proposals.
Sources told the Cyprus Mail that the prime ministers of the three guarantor powers were to arrive at Crans-Montana on Thursday, where they would finalise a ‘framework agreement’.
The agreement would then be made official at a signing ceremony at UN’s Geneva headquarters on Monday, where, the sources added, a conference hall had already been booked for the event.
But Downing Street downplayed reports that the UK Prime Minister Theresa May was planning an imminent trip to Switzerland, telling the Cyprus News Agency that there was no further update.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May spoke with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday morning, a Downing Street spokesman said.
“The Prime Minister [May] praised the constructive role that both parties have played to reach this point and reiterated that there is a major opportunity to be seized,” he said.
“She added that any agreement requires all sides to show leadership and flexibility and that the UK will do it all it can to support a settlement.”
The return of Britain’s Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan to Switzerland on Tuesday night was being interpreted by diplomatic sources as enhanced efforts by Britain to close the gap that exists between the sides, Cybc reported.
Numerous meetings took place throughout Wednesday ahead of the evening conference, including a National Council meeting, meetings of all sides with Sir Alan, and even the first tete-a-tete during this conference between Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Greek counterpart Nicos Kotzias. UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide was also meeting with all sides.
On Tuesday, the sides had spent much of the day accusing each other of operating outside the framework for discussion laid down by Guterres on June 20 at the Swiss venue. Cavusoglu kept insisting that while Ankara was willing to discuss the guarantee system, there would be a permanent presence of troops in Cyprus post-solution.
The Greek Cypriot side was still insisting that its position of zero guarantees and zero troops was also within the framework.
However, the framework paper was leaked overnight and it shows that Guterres indicated that the troops issue could fall back to the Treaty of Alliance, which provides for a level of troops from Greece and Turkey that would be acceptable – at 950 and 650 soldiers, respectively. The Guterres paper shows that Cavusoglu was correct when he said there would be a permanent troop presence but he had stayed mum on the basis for his remarks.
Solidarity leader Eleni Theocharous, who unlike the other party leaders had declined Anastasiades’ invitation to join him at Crans-Montana, leaked to Greek Cypriot media on Wednesday afternoon that she was en route by car to the Swiss resort from Brussels.
The reason, it was reported, for her sudden change of heart, was her alarm at the rumoured imminent developments in the peace talks ahead of Guterres’ arrival on Thursday.