By Elias Hazou
THE UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus said yesterday he remained optimistic the two sides would resume peace talks, suspended for weeks due to a dispute over the island’s offshore hydrocarbons.
“The problem right now is that we’re not talking… but if we can get back to the table and negotiate, we can solve these issues,” Espen Barth Eide said during a live news show on state broadcaster CyBC.
“If we speed up negotiations we will solve every issue. And remember that, for instance, on territory or property there is no agreement, we have to negotiate. [But] on hydrocarbons, there is agreement. The two sides do agree. It takes two minutes to discuss it because they already did. It [hydrocarbons] shall be a federal capacity, it belongs to all Cypriots through the state, they all agree.
“So paradoxically, it would be the easiest question at the negotiating table if it was there,” Eide noted.
The UN official stressed that sooner or later the two sides will have to address the hydrocarbons issue: “It is not up to me to decide whether it shall be there or not, but it must be discussed at some stage… somewhere, sometime… in order to create a working federal republic.”
Asked to clarify the bridging proposal he floated to the two sides to get the talks going again, Eide said he never proposed co-management of the island’s hydrocarbons today, but rather in the future.
“My original idea was not about management [of hydrocarbons] today, it was about the future situation when the political process has already led to a solution.”
The UN official confirmed that his proposal – setting up a panel of experts from the two sides to discuss such issues as management of hydrocarbons and pollution, following a settlement – was rejected by both communities.
“Hydrocarbons can either be a blessing or a curse. If unresolved, it can cause trouble and scare off investors,” he said.
Despite the ongoing standoff on the hydrocarbons issue, Eide sought to strike an upbeat note, saying that there was a political will on both sides to resume talks.
Later in the day the UN official held separate meetings with the leaders of the European Party and the Citizens Alliance.
Commenting on Eide’s remarks, EDEK said that Cyprus hydrocarbons are not within the remit of the United Nations.
For their part, the Greens noted that the UN official appeared to be unaware of the history and intricacies of the Cyprus problem.
During his current visit to the island, Eide met with the leaders of both communities in a bid to get the talks process back on track.
President Nicos Anastasiades walked out of UN-backed negotiations last month, reacting to Turkey’s move to dispatch a seismic survey vessel to conduct exploration within the Republic’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots.
Nicosia says the explorations inside its EEZ are illegal. Ankara does not recognise the Republic or its jurisdiction over the EEZ, and has warned that both communities must share in the island’s hydrocarbons wealth.