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EU pressed on Varosha return as confidence building measure

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule (r) with President Anastasiades last night (Christos Theodorides)

By Jean Christou

A MORE active role for the EU in the Cyprus negotiations, plus the return of the fenced-off area of Famagusta as a confidence-building measure (CBM) were at the centre of talks between President Nicos Anastasiades and EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule yesterday.

Fule, who is on a two-day visit to the island and will inaugurate the new bi-communal wastewater treatment plant at Mia Milia in Nicosia today, met Anastasiades for an hour yesterday evening. He made no statements after the meeting.

A written statement from government spokesman Christos Stylianides said Anastasiades’ efforts at the start of his presidency to see greater involvement from the EU in the talks appeared to having practical results. He said the meeting with Fule was “very productive”.

The two discussed the role of Pieter Van Nuffel, who was appointed by EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in 2012 as his personal representative to the UN Good Offices Mission in Cyprus, and how it could be codified to be of practical significance on a daily basis.

“The second – and also an important issue – was CBMs and here… it became obvious the EU fully recognises the value and importance of confidence-building measures, especially Famagusta,” Stylianides said.

“It is an important new dimension towards changing the climate and creating a new dynamic in terms of the negotiations.” The EU, the US and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also supported the idea, Stylianides said.

Anastasiades has been pushing to have Varosha, the fenced-off area of Famagusta, on the table as a CBM in every contact he has lately with the international community.

Today he meets Eric Rubin, the US State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. The US is believed to be pushing behind the scenes for a grand gesture to push the talks along but there was no firm confirmation yesterday that Varosha would be on the agenda at today’s meeting. “We’ll see to what extent the issue comes up,” said US sources yesterday.

The Turkish Cypriot side has been sending mixed signals however. While the ‘official line’ is that Varosha’s return should be part of a comprehensive settlement, chief negotiator Kudret Ozersay has been quoted as saying the issue could be put on the table as part of the CBMs.

But Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Ozdil Nami was quoted in Kibris yesterday saying: “We have absolutely no issue regarding Varosha on our agenda. Varosha is part of the comprehensive solution.”

Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu complained that the Greek Cypriot side, when referring to CBMs, talk only of Varosha. He said when he brings up direct trade between the EU and the north as a CBM “the Greek Cypriots say this will happen after a comprehensive settlement, so why can the same not apply to Varosha,” said Eroglu. “These are issues that will be resolved at the negotiating table. The Cyprus problem cannot be solved only with CBMs.”

Former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat was quoted as saying yesterday there was no progress on the talks.

He said the current negotiations were “a disaster”. “There is no such thing as the leaders coming together,” said Talat. It was the two negotiators doing all the work. “With the way it is going, forget about this June. They won’t even be concluded by June ten years from now,” he said.

The two negotiators, Ozersay and Andreas Mavroyiannis are due to meet today after a two-week hiatus.

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