By Stefanos Evripidou
THE PRESIDENT will not start peace talks with the Turkish Cypriots from scratch, said Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides yesterday.
Speaking to state broadcaster CyBC, the minister said President Nicos Anastasiades “has no intention of starting the talks from scratch”.
He added, however, that Anastasiades wanted to revise a limited number of issues that were agreed in past negotiations, a view shared by the majority of parties.
Kasoulides said these issues were “not many”, and even if they are raised at the negotiating table, “that does not mean the talks will start from scratch”.
Anastasiades had campaigned in last February’s presidential elections against certain provisions agreed by former president Demetris Christofias, such as the agreement reached with former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat on weighted and cross-voting in a federal government.
In any case, Talat’s successor Dervis Eroglu soon made known on taking power in 2010 that he was not in favour of the provision whereby the two communities would participate in the same elections and be able to vote for the same candidates, albeit using a ‘weighted’ system to count the votes of each community.
Asked about Andreas Mavroyiannis, the new peace negotiator appointed by the national council on Tuesday, Kasoulides said: “The negotiator will be getting his terms of reference from the president and briefing him, while both will brief the national council and consult together.”
Mavroyiannis will be supported by a team of consultants and the working groups of the national council, while a third team of experts will also be available, focusing mainly on geostrategic policy, said the minister.
The talks are due to start this October after Anastasiades requested some breathing space to handle the ongoing economic crisis which almost brought the state to its knees when the Eurogroup refused to agree to an international bailout unless the government imposed a massive haircut on deposits of the island’s two biggest banks.
According to Kasoulides, the national council meet again in early September to discuss in greater substance the launch of yet another round of peace talks to end the island’s ongoing division. It is believed the president and party representatives will work on drafting an outline of a comprehensive settlement.
The two sides could use the intervening period to build bridges of trust, said the foreign minister, referring to the government’s proposal to open the fenced off part of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants in exchange for allowing EU trade at the occupied Famagusta port and ‘unfreezing’ certain chapters in Turkey’s EU accession negotiations.
This proposal would make significant inroads in building trust between the two sides, said Kasoulides, adding: “It is fair and to the benefit of all sides.”
He did not rule out other smaller scale confidence building measures too.
Among other things, the government is “in consultations to improve the movement of goods across the Green Line,” he said, adding: “We will not stop working for better relations between the two communities”.
Eroglu was quoted by Turkish Cypriot press yesterday saying that the next round of talks expected to start in October would be the last chance for a solution.
“What we want now from newly elected leader Anastasiades is for us to solve this problem within one and a half, two years,” he said.
He repeated the view that Turkish Cypriots would never give up on Turkey’s active and effective guarantees on the island, saying: “We are not interested in the guarantees of the EU, because no one except the Turks will send their children to a military expedition for the protection of the Turks of Cyprus and sacrifice their lives.”
Meanwhile, Christofias issued a statement yesterday saying he met briefly with Anastasiades and exchanged views on the latest regarding efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.
He also dropped off the keys to the state car he had been using after he left the Presidential Palace and until yesterday.
“For reasons of dignity, I renounced this right,” he said.
It was reported in the media last week that the former president had decided not to take advantage of his constitutional right to a state-owned luxury car and driver, following the barrage of criticism levelled against him for his handling of the financial crisis and the Mari tragedy.
The vehicle he was using after leaving office was a back-up vehicle for the president’s escort. He was given special dispensation to use the car as he was waiting for his own car to be delivered, but decided in the end not to take advantage of the privilege.