By Stefanos Evripidou
THE US and the UK both believe the key to a peace solution lies in Cyprus, as opposed to the Cypriot government’s argument that Ankara holds the key to progress.
In separate interviews published on either side of the dividing line, the heads of the diplomatic missions of the two permanent members of the UN Security Council both expressed satisfaction with Turkey’s support for the peace process so far.
In an interview with Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris, US Ambassador John Koenig highlighted Turkey’s support to a Cyprus solution, in stark contrast to Nicosia’s argument that Ankara has yet to show in practice what it says in public about wanting a settlement.
Asked to comment on statements by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during his recent visit to the occupied north, Koenig said: “We were very satisfied with the Turkish support offered to the Cyprus problem. We believe that Turkey’s contribution is of vital importance for a compromise in Cyprus.”
The American diplomat said Cyprus is discussed at the highest level during contacts between the US and Turkey, noting that Secretary of State John Kerry recently discussed with Davutoglu their common interests in supporting a Cyprus solution.
Koenig said he hoped to see the benefits of this broad support for the peace process lead towards a solution.
“However, what is essentially important is for the sides in Cyprus to continue having a will for progress and solving the differences. This is the essence of the Cyprus problem,” he was quoted as saying.
According to Kibris, the American diplomat recalled that the solution process is Cypriot-led, arguing that the key lies in the hands of both leaders and their respective communities.
In a separate interview with the Cyprus News Agency, the new British High Commissioner, Damian Roderic Todd, said the key to a solution lies with the Cypriots, who need to reach agreement on what a settlement looks like.
He argued that a political settlement, based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation with single citizenship, sovereignty and international identity, will serve the interests of the people of Cyprus.
“As soon as I arrived I had the opportunity to visit and walk in the buffer zone. And the same thought always comes to mind: what a waste of potential. The continuation of the division in Cyprus is such a waste,” he said.
Todd highlighted the strong ties between the UK and Turkey, pointing to Ankara`s importance in NATO and London’s support to Turkey’s EU aspirations.
“This is in no sense contrary to good relations with others,” he added.
According to Todd, Turkey wants to see a solution in Cyprus and supports UN efforts to that effect.
“We feel the Turkish government does want to see a solution in Cyprus. It supports UN efforts and has made clear the wish to be engaged in this,” he said.
Asked whether recent public statements by the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leadership contradict the agreed basis of a solution, Todd said the joint declaration agreed between the two leaders on February 11 is “a clear statement” on the kind of settlement to be reached.
Asked where he thinks the key to a solution lies, the British diplomat replied: “It lies here among the Cypriots” who need to reach an agreement and feel comfortable with it.
“Ultimately it is for the leaders to meet and talk and agree, then the people will vote in a referendum,” he said.
Todd also hinted at the danger posed to a divided Cyprus, on the edge of a very volatile region.
Regional problems make it all the more important for Cypriots to find a way to solve the problem, he added.
Regarding the recent meetings of Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Ozdil Nami in London with Foreign Office officials, on which the Cypriot government was highly critical, the High Commissioner reiterated that the UK recognises only the Republic of Cyprus and no other entity.
However, Britain attaches great importance to dialogue with the Turkish Cypriots and will continue this dialogue, said Todd.
Meanwhile, regarding a potential visit by Kerry to the island, Koenig told Kibris that the State Secretary would come when the time was right, adding that the US has “positive but cautious expectations” about the process.
“We will wait and see the work of the two leaders and the UN in October during the new stage of the negotiations and I hope that we will work in the direction of planning the visit in case the developments are as we expect them to be,” he said.
Koenig did not rule out the option of the US appointing a special envoy to Cyprus at some point, saying this was always under consideration, though there was nothing to announce at present.
Regarding confidence-building measures (CBMs), the US ambassador hailed improved relations between the island’s religious leaders and businessmen, but expressed the view that there are other CBMs which could tackle the mistrust between the communities.
Asked to elaborate, Koenig replied: “The issue of Famagusta continues to attract attention and needs full support by all sides.”
He stressed that the Famagusta package of CBMs includes more than just an expert’s study of the fenced area. It also entails connecting Turkish Cypriots to the international market through the port and possibly airport, getting Cypriots to work together to realise the benefits of a solution, and protecting the area’s cultural heritage, including within the walled city of Famagusta and ancient Salamis.