By Stefanos Evripidou
THE INTERNATIONAL community yesterday welcomed the “smart” initiative by President Nicos Anastasiades to meet with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu before agreement on a joint communiqué, while his predecessor Demetris Christofias slammed the president for his handling of the Cyprus problem.
Government spokesman Christos Stylianides yesterday said Anastasiades invited Eroglu to an informal meeting on Monday afternoon because he wanted to send a message to the Turkish Cypriots, Turkey and the international community that he has the political will to reach a solution.
The spokesman said Anastasiades is saying through this initiative: “Yes, I have the political will to discuss seriously the Cyprus problem, in substance and reach a conclusion, which is why I’m ready to have this informal meeting to prove to the Turkish Cypriot leader that I mean what I say.”
The agreement to meet informally in the buffer zone on Monday and without the UN present was announced by Stylianides on Thursday evening.
He said Anastasiades took the initiative to invite Eroglu to an informal meeting with the aim to conclude on a joint statement that will pave the way for the solution of the Cyprus problem.
UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer yesterday welcomed the announcement, saying that “the UN continues to work closely with both sides and welcomes all efforts that can help to advance the process.”
Russia’s ambassador to Nicosia, Stanislav Osadchiy, said Moscow views the initiative in a positive light, adding that he hopes the meeting will give significant impetus to the peace process to reach a solution that is in the interest of all Cypriots and in accordance with UN resolutions.
The United States, which has taken an increased interest in peace efforts lately, also welcomed the forthcoming informal meeting “as a step forward by the leaders to energise the Cyprus settlement process”.
In a written statement, an embassy spokesman said the US encouraged both leaders “to take advantage of the current window of opportunity” to find a comprehensive settlement.
A diplomatic source, speaking to the Cyprus Mail, described Anastasiades’ initiative as “a smart move” which showed “initiative, intent and good faith, as well as creative purpose”.
He warned, however, that a lot more work needed to be done for the talks to progress.
Anastasiades had made agreement on a joint declaration a precondition to meeting with Eroglu to launch the start of official talks, hence the fact that the UN is not invited to Monday’s informal meeting.
The last time they met around seven months ago, Anastasiades went to great pains to stress the “social” nature of the meeting.
The two leaders could now meet in an effort to find more amenable ways to facilitate compromise, said the source.
Meanwhile, the two negotiators, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Osman Ertug, will be meeting over the weekend to continue work on reaching agreement on a joint statement which, if agreed, could open the door to substantive progress.
In recent weeks, the two sides have been taking incremental steps backwards and forwards in efforts to reach agreement on a joint declaration.
Anastasiades argues the joint communiqué must clarify the desired result of the talks while setting out the procedure to be followed.
The “pre-talks” have hit a snag, however, over fundamental issues like the single sovereignty and citizenship of a federal Cyprus.
The ongoing process appeared to be leading to a cliff, with observers pondering who should be considered at fault if the talks were to fizzle before they even properly began.
Stylianides yesterday argued that the joint communiqué was a key issue affecting the substance of the peace effort.
“A joint communiqué which confirms the framework of a solution emanating from UN resolutions on the Cyprus problem will be the main starting point, to kick-off a dialogue of substance, instead of wasting time on procedural discussions or return to issues that have already been dealt with in UN resolutions,” he said.
The spokesman said he could not predict what exactly will happen on Monday but played down any notion that it will be “the be-all and end-all of meetings”.
Whatever happens, consultations will continue for a joint declaration, he added.
Speaking last night at a memorial for Ozger Ozgun in the north, Christofias slammed Anastasiades’ failure to confirm the convergences achieved since 2008 between the two sides and invite new discussions on the basis of the talks.
“This development constitutes a setback, loss of time and is detrimental to efforts to solve the problem and reunify the country,” he said.
On the other hand, recent statements from the Turkish leadership appeared to encourage cautious optimism that a deadlock could still be avoided.
In statements to the Russian Rosiskayia Gazeta newspaper, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the two sides needed to sit down, with the help of the guarantor powers and not stop until they reach a solution which would unify the island.
He also described as a “positive step” the provisional agreement to unify football on the island signed in Zurich earlier this month between the Cyprus Football Association and the Turkish Cypriot football federation.
He said he wanted to see this step influence the political process on the island.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul was quoted by Hurriyet Daily News voicing Turkey’s eagerness to transport natural gas reserves discovered by Cyprus and Israel to Europe, arguing this would be the most reasonable and feasible route for the gas.
According to Gul, Turkey’s involvement in such a project would contribute to the resolution of regional issues, including the Cyprus problem.