By Evie Andreou
TALKS are expected to resume at a faster pace than before after the landslide victory of moderate Mustafa Akinci as the new Turkish Cypriot leader, who has pledged to work hard toward the solution of the Cyprus problem and the reunification of the island.
President Nicos Anastasiades, who said on Monday that Akinci’s election gives hope that at long last Cyprus will be reunited, is expected to make some gestures this week, possibly by announcing unilateral confidence building measures (CBMs) ahead of the resumption of negotiations.
He is to also meet with Akinci as soon as possible, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said, possibly as early as this week.
Toward that end, UN Special Advisor Espen Barth Eide is expected to arrive on the island next week to prepare the ground for the restart of talks, which were suspended last October when the Greek Cypriot side walked out in protest when Turkey issued a navigational telex (NAVTEX) reserving a large part of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for exploratory activities. That advisory expired on December 31, and Eide had announced that talks would resume right after the election in the north.
After the stalemate in the negotiations, the note of optimism carried by Akinci’s victory may be hampered as his willingness to discuss the opening of the ghost town of Varosha in exchange for Famagusta port and Ercan-Tymbou airport opening to international markets, has been indirectly denied.
Government spokesman Christodoulides said on Monday that the only proposal on the table concerning Famagusta so far is that of the Greek Cypriot side and that when a proposal is submitted by the Turkish Cypriot side there will be official statements.
“Confidence building measures that challenge or downgrade the sovereignty of the Republic, or that give international recognition or sovereignty to the breakaway regime in the north cannot be promoted,” Christodoulides said.
He added that no specific proposals have been submitted so far and that the government is to announce its own proposals soon.
“There are several thoughts which on the one hand show the clear intentions of the Republic of Cyprus and on the other hand, they aim at helping the negotiation process,” he said.
Following his election, Akinci received a congratulatory letter from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan which among others said that Turkey would not accept a solution of the Cyprus problem at any cost and that it is expected of Akinci as a leader of the Turkish Cypriot community to continue efforts for a just and viable solution.
The moderate politician’s victory was met with reserved optimism in the south by political parties, who expressed the concern that Akinci may not be able to stand against Turkey in the long run.
“At the negotiation table, there will be two Cypriot leaders, if they proceed as planned toward a federal solution, it is unlikely to be any interference from Turkey,” Niyazi Kizilyurek, dean of Humanities at the University of Cyprus, told the Cyprus Mail.
He added that it is important how the two sides will negotiate rather than whether Turkey will have the upper hand or not.
The elections, Kizilyurek said, were conducted within an ideological framework: on the one hand was nationalism with Dervis Eroglu and on the was Cypro-centrism with Akinci.
“It was the victory of a specific perception and the winner was Akinci, who bears the message of reunification and peaceful coexistence,” he said.
He added that there was no doubt that Akinci will bring a different dimension to the table that will boost negotiations.