Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Kotzias said on Monday that his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu seemed to be following him around as both are due to visit the south and north of the island respectively on Tuesday.
Kotzias will be travelling to Cyprus with his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kassoulides to meet President Nicos Anastasiades and attend a National Council meeting set to discuss the next steps surrounding negotiations after the collapse of talks in Crans-Montana, Switzerland.
His visit is timely with Cavusoglu’s arrival in the north on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Kotzias said of Cavusoglu: “He found out I’m visiting Cyprus and he decided to do the same thing.
“He continues to follow me…that’s not a bad thing as long as he has the same goals.”
Key to his visit in Cyprus will be discussing the next steps after the collapse on the Conference on Cyprus and the best approach to use in the future.
Apart from furthering bilateral relations, also on the agenda are security matters as well as Turkey’s accession to the European Union and the customs union deal surrounding it.
In an interview to media platform Euractiv on Sunday, Kotzias said the EU must take a clearer stance over Turkey’s occupation of part of a member state’s territory, as well as its demand for intervention rights in this member state.
Kotzias, who headed the Greek delegation in Crans Montana earlier this month, said he would not describe the conference as “failed”.
“I would say it did not have the results we all expected,” he said.
“From our point of view, some important steps were taken. Most importantly, the issue of security and guarantees has finally been put on the agenda of the negotiations.”
Exalting UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres’ gravitas and grasp of the key issues of the Cyprus problem – “a serious, intelligent and experienced man” – while yet again disparaging “others who represent the UN at different levels” – a barb at Guterres’ special representative for Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide – Kotzias said his view of more than two years ago that discussion of security and guarantees is the key to unlocking the Cyprus problem and thus should precede negotiation in other chapters was not heeded.
“The next time we go to discussions, we should start with guarantees and security,” he said.
“This is the difficult problem. The other issues follow.”
On what could have been done better in the intercommunal negotiations thus far, Greece’s top diplomat said the Republic of Cyprus should “more intensively include the Turkish Cypriots to those who suffered – just like the Greek Cypriot refugees – from the presence of the Turkish army”.
“Since I took over the Greek Foreign Ministry, I said that first of all, we must extend a maximum of rights to the Turkish Cypriots, as well as to the other three minor minorities – the Latins, the Maronites, and the Armenians,” he said.
“On the one hand, the maximum of rights for Turkish Cypriots [and] minorities […] and on the other hand the maximum sense of security for Greek Cypriots.”
On his trip to Cyprus to attend a National Council session on Tuesday, Kotzias said the agenda is to discuss with the Cypriot government “how we can help prepare a better round of negotiations on the Cyprus issue, because I sincerely believe that the preparation was not adequate”.
“No substantive discussions on the matter took place beforehand,” he said.
“The Turks had promised us – Erdogan himself – that the two ministers of foreign affairs, me and Cavusoglu, would hold some preparation rounds in order to be better prepared to negotiate. Unfortunately, Turkey did not want to hold these preparatory meetings.”
On how the Brexit negotiations might affect the Cyprus issue, the Greek FM said “some people” – a clear reference to the UK, also involved in the Cyprus talks as a guarantor power, along with Greece and Turkey – might be “testing, in the demands of the Turks, the success or failure of their own demands”.
“Turkey has raised demands that are not directly related to the Cyprus problem but are rather linked to the special relationship it wants to have with the EU,” he explained.
“For example, when it raised the issue of ‘equal treatment’ of Turkish citizens in Cyprus, which is a member state of the EU, in relation to Greek citizens, who are citizens of an EU member state.”