By Stefanos Evripidou
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday stressed the importance of reaching a lasting settlement in Cyprus at a time of great turmoil in the region.
He also said that the solution of the Cyprus problem was a strategic priority for the UN.
In a written statement issued after a meeting with his newly appointed Special Adviser for Cyprus Espen Barth Eide, Ban said that at a time of great turmoil in the region, it was “more important than ever” to reach a lasting settlement in Cyprus for the benefit of all Cypriots. Eide is due in Cyprus on Friday.
“The long-overdue solution to the Cyprus problem constitutes a strategic priority for the United Nations and the international community,” he said.
Ban said he hoped that the important gains achieved to date would be preserved “as the sides move decisively towards structured and results-oriented negotiations, as called for in the [Joint] Declaration”.
According to the statement, “Eide’s appointment illustrated the United Nations determination to continue supporting the parties to arrive at concrete results in the coming phase”.
Ban noted that Eide was assuming his functions at a promising moment in the Cyprus peace process, and expressed his expectation that, as the leaders prepare to enter the next phase, they will show renewed dedication and courage to build on the principles outlined in the Joint Declaration.
Eide, a former Norwegian foreign minister arrives in Cyprus today for his first meetings with the two leaders, four months after his predecessor Alexander Downer bowed out, and at a time when the gap between the sides remains as wide as ever.
This afternoon he meets with President Nicos Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace, joined by deputy UN Special Adviser Lisa Buttenheim. Later in the evening, he will then cross the dividing line to meet Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.
Eide currently works as the managing director of the World Economic Forum in Geneva, where he will continue to work. While he will not become a resident of Cyprus, Switzerland is somewhat closer than Australia where Downer used to be based.
The Norwegian will meet the two negotiators, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Kudret Ozersay, separately tomorrow, and again on Monday, accompanied by their negotiating teams.
On Sunday, Eide will take a tour of the buffer zone given by new UNFICYP Force Commander Major General Kristin Lund, also from Norway.
Sources yesterday confirmed a report in Kibris saying that the Turkish Cypriot side has requested the two leaders meet under Eide’s chairmanship before they head off to New York later this month.
Anastasiades leaves on September 19 to attend the UN General Assembly, where he will hold a number of meetings with foreign dignitaries on the sidelines of the Assembly. Eroglu will also be heading to New York. Both leaders plan to hold separate meetings with the UN chief during their stay.
Politis reported yesterday that September 16 has been suggested as a potential date for the leaders’ first meeting since the summer recess.
A source close to the negotiations told the Cyprus Mail that the Turkish Cypriots are keen to hold a leaders’ meeting before both head off to meet Ban, but that the Greek Cypriots have yet to confirm the date.
The Greek Cypriots appear less enthusiastic about meeting, seeing nothing to suggest the current impasse over how to proceed with the talks can be overcome.
The two sides remain stuck on how to proceed to a give-and-take phase after having recorded their positions on all main aspects of the Cyprus problem.
Anastasiades wants the two sides to record and clarify where they agree, disagree and nearly agree so they can focus their efforts in a more efficient manner.
Eroglu wants to get straight to the chase, despite differing interpretations of the convergences and divergences recorded to date, with some hard bargaining followed by an international conference and dual referenda.
The same source said it was the Greek Cypriots who asked to postpone the first leaders’ meeting after the summer, originally scheduled for September 2, a day after new Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was due on the island. Two possible explanations were given for this. Either Anastasiades feared Erdogan would poison the climate and embolden Eroglu to continue rejecting Greek Cypriot proposals on ways to get out of the deadlock, or he saw no point to meeting at this stage since neither side had budged from their positions as recorded in their last meeting in July.
Erdogan did visit the occupied areas and, according to some, did rock the boat. The Greek Cypriot press focused on his reference to a solution based on two founding states, while the Greek leadership took umbrage at his call for Greece to take on its responsibility and get more involved in the peace talks.
According to the Turkish Cypriot press, during his meeting with Turkish Cypriot party leaders, Erdogan asked that they refrain from putting obstacles before efforts to increase the population in the occupied areas by granting “TRNC citizenship” to Turkish settlers.
Head of the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) Kutlay Erk was quoted by Kibris yesterday saying that previous Turkish leaders have made similar requests, but ultimately it is the decision of the Turkish Cypriot authorities.
“Giving citizenship to every person who wants it is wrong,” he said.