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Talks in deep freeze for summer

The two leaders with international member of CMP, Paul Henri Arni

By Stefanos Evripidou

THE PEACE talks yesterday broke for the summer with the two sides failing to agree on almost anything.

According to sources, the two sides were unable to reach agreement on the convergences achieved so far, on the methodology to be followed in the next phase of the talks and on a single, big or small, confidence-building measure (CBM).

During a “difficult” four-hour meeting at the UN-controlled Nicosia airport, at some point the two leaders agreed on taking a break to clear the air, after which they returned to the negotiating table where the only additional agreement they reached was on was their next meeting, set for September 2.

Sources close to the negotiations told the Cyprus Mail that the only positive taken from yesterday’s meeting was that for the first time, both sides had submitted detailed proposals on all aspects of the Cyprus problem, even if they did not agree on the content.

The Greek Cypriots submitted in total 17 documents, laying out their positions on the various aspects of a future settlement, while the Turkish Cypriots tabled 15 documents on all issues, including on the sensitive issue of guarantees and territory, though no map was submitted.

Speaking first at the meeting, Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu noted that the second phase of the negotiating process was now complete, paving the way for the two sides to enter into a give-and-take process.

President Nicos Anastasiades replied that a common basis for discussion needs to be agreed first before engaging in horse-trading. He reiterated his proposal for the two sides to identify the convergences, near convergences and divergences, so that they have something to work on when engaging in a give-and-take process.

Sources said Eroglu rejected this proposal.

Anastasiades returned with a compromise proposal, suggesting the two sides take the February 11 joint declaration, and all the proposal documents submitted after that to identify what issues the two negotiating teams actually agree on.

This would be another way of specifying what exactly has been agreed so far.

Sources said Eroglu rejected this proposal too, voicing fear that by creating a new document of convergences, this would do away with past convergences already achieved.

At this point, Anastasiades reportedly questioned why Eroglu had not included those past convergences in the 15 Turkish Cypriot documents submitted in the last five months if he was so concerned about them.

According to the same source, the Turkish Cypriot negotiating team made it clear for the first time that it does not accept the Downer documents, compiled by the UN to list the convergences reached between Anastasiades’ predecessor Demetris Christofias and two successive Turkish Cypriot leaders, Mehmet Ali Talat and Eroglu.

Eroglu reportedly clarified that he is willing to adopt the 31 convergence documents compiled during the Christofias period, but not the Downer document.

At this point, the source said the UN clarified that it had compiled the Downer document based on those 31 documents drawn up between 2008 and 2012.

It’s worth noting that when Anastasiades came to office in early 2013, with one eye on coalition partner DIKO, he had refused to accept the Downer document, listing the 2008-2012 convergences, as anything other than a reference point.

Initially, he did not even acknowledge its existence until a Turkish Cypriot politician mentioned that it had been sitting at the Presidential Palace for two weeks.

This was a sticking point for opposition AKEL which consistently called on Anastasiades to accept past convergences, arguing that his stance allowed Eroglu to hide behind convergences he does not even agree with.

Eroglu’s lack of enthusiasm for past convergences appeared to see the light of day yesterday.

Reluctant to let the talks lead to complete deadlock, Anastasiades made a third proposal for the two negotiators to meet again in an effort to reach agreement on something, which the two leaders could endorse in a meeting on July 31.

Eroglu reportedly replied that he could not meet then because it coincided with the end of Bayram, despite the fact Bayram officially ends a day earlier.

Anastasiades counter-proposed a leaders’ meeting for August 1, which the Turkish Cypriot leader politely declined on account of the start of the summer holidays.

On CBMs, the two leaders were unable to reach agreement either. It was expected that some small CBMs like the opening of a checkpoint and/or demining would be announced to keep some semblance of momentum until talks could resume after the summer, more specifically, once Turkish presidential elections conclude in August.

Again, sources said Eroglu proposed opening a checkpoint in Lefka on the foothills of the Troodos mountain range, a long-standing demand of Turkish Cypriot residents in the area. Anastasiades was warm to the idea as long as the two sides could also agree on another checkpoint, that would prove very useful to Greek Cypriots, proposing one at Athienou village in the Larnaca district. Eroglu replied this would be very difficult to achieve.

No CBMs were agreed. No announcements were made after the meeting.

Later in the afternoon, the UN released a statement saying the two leaders will meet again on September 2. The negotiators have been instructed to continue discussions on methodology and CBMs ahead of the leaders’ meeting. It is believed Andreas Mavroyiannis and Kudret Ozersay will meet again on August 26.

Before yesterday’s meeting began, the two leaders paid a first ever joint visit to the anthropological laboratory of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP).

Sources said Anastasiades and the international member of the CMP Paul Henri Arni tried to persuade Eroglu to make a joint statement, referencing the importance of providing information on missing persons, granting access to all military archives containing such information, and allowing the CMP to work in military zones. He was not convinced.

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