By Stefanos Evripidou
THE TWO leaders met for almost three hours on Monday night in a friendly, informal meeting in the buffer zone that made zero progress in overcoming the deadlock on a joint declaration needed to kick-start fully-fledged negotiations.
Speaking after the meeting on the steps of Chateau Status in the Nicosia buffer zone, President Nicos Anastasiades told waiting reporters that the road to glory would be long.
“Unfortunately there is still a long way to go until we reach the desired outcome, a goal that will allow the resumption of a substantive dialogue between the leaders of the two communities and that will create well-grounded prospects for a successful conclusion.”
The Cyprus Mail understands the meeting went well in terms of having a jovial atmosphere but on substance – reaching agreement on a joint statement – no progress whatsoever was made, with the two positions remaining apart.
Standing next to the president reading out a statement in Turkish, Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu said he proposed to Anastasiades to skip the joint declaration and start negotiations immediately.
Anastasiades had invited Eroglu last week to an informal meeting in an effort to break the current deadlock over the joint declaration. He did not invite the UN, keeping it a strictly islander affair.
At the meeting, the president was flanked by his negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis, the director of his diplomatic office, Nicos Christodoulides, and the head of Mavroyiannis’ office.
Eroglu came with his negotiator Osman Ertug and two others.
The eight spent over two and a half hours together, leaving a horde of cameramen and reporters waiting outside.
Reporters were initially told that Eroglu would come out first and then the host, Anastasiades.
However, after more than two and a half hours passed, the two came out together to make their separate statements. The anticipation of a breakthrough from seeing them come out all smiles together was short-lived.
Eroglu spoke first, once again expressing his condolences to the Greek Cypriot people on the passing of Glafcos Clerides.
He then said: “With this meeting (last night), we broke new ground with Mr Anastasiades within the process which commenced in 2008.”
He did not proceed to elaborate on how new ground was broken, however, giving instead an overview of the current deadlock.
Eroglu accused Anastasiades of turning the joint statement into a precondition, despite the fact the Turkish Cypriots were ready to resume negotiations from where they left off.
Although the two appointed negotiators have worked on a draft statement since the first week of September, “this exercise has reached a saturation point” because the Greek Cypriot side is trying to include issues of substance that need to be discussed within the framework of fully-fledged negotiations, said Eroglu.
“During (last night’s) meeting, we proposed some new formulas to Mr Anastasiades in order to overcome these difficulties,” he said.
Eroglu said he proposed resuming fully-fledged negotiations with Anastasiades on the Governance and Power-sharing chapter as all issues of substance raised by the Greek Cypriots in the draft joint statement are elements of that chapter. The talks could resume on Anastasiades’ return from abroad – he leaves for Brussels today and then Lithuania, returning on Saturday- “with a view to concluding them”, said Eroglu.
The Turkish Cypriot leader said he also reiterated his proposal of May 30, 2013, for the two leaders to visit the Apostolos Andreas Monastery together.
“I think the realisation of such a visit before Christmas will give a positive message to our respective publics.”
Eroglu concluded: “The message I want to convey to you tonight is clear: The necessary basis exists in the form of convergences which are on the negotiating table. I am ready to sit at the table without any preconditions, upon Mr Anastasiades’ return from abroad.”
For his part, the president refrained from entering into details, other than sticking to his demand for a joint declaration before talks can start in full.
He said he undertook the initiative for an informal meeting with Eroglu to ascertain whether the two could conclude a joint declaration that will pave the way for a solution of the Cyprus problem.
“It was a useful meeting that allowed the two sides to understand clearly both the positions of each other and the reasons that prevent the conclusion of the joint declaration.”
The Greek Cypriot intention is to continue consultations between the two negotiators with the ultimate goal being the conclusion of a joint communiqué to open the way for talks to resume, he added.
Asked whether the two sides were any closer following the meeting, Anastasiades did not wish to comment. He also refrained from comment when asked whether he planned to visit Apostolos Andreas.
The failure to reach an agreement keeps the process up in the air as Eroglu is sticking to his guns on demanding that the federated states are considered “founding states” in a new, reunited Cyprus, giving them sovereignty and “residual powers” to decide on matters like citizenship.
On the other side, the Greek Cypriots are unlikely to agree to enter into talks without an agreed joint declaration addressing their concerns, as any failure of the peace process is seen as opening the door to Eroglu to push for cementing the division of the island by upgrading the breakaway regime.