By George Psyllides
On the occasion of the resumption of reunification talks, President Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday announced a series of confidence building measures, which include maps for minefields and granting administration of religious sites to Turkish Cypriots.
Anastasiades said he was announcing the CBMs “on the occasion of the resumption of talks and my strong conviction about the need to create a climate of trust that would boost the negotiating procedure.”
In his first meeting with newly elect Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, Anastasiades said he would provide the ground maps for 28 minefields laid down by Greek Cypriot forces in the Pendadaktylos area, in the north, before the 1974 invasion.
In a written statement, the president also said he was handing over the management of certain Muslim religious sites in the government-controlled areas to Evkaf, the foundation that oversees Islamic land holdings.
The sites in question belong to the Turkish Cypriot community and are not under the protection of foreign embassies, the statement said.
It was also decided to hire Turkish-speaking workers at citizen service centres in Nicosia to make it easier for Turkish Cypriots to carry out their business.
The president also welcomed the ongoing effort to unify the island’s football, which he hopes would come to a successful conclusion soon.
Earlier on Tuesday, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said Anastasiades and Akinci would meet on Saturday.
But reports from the north, quoting a statement from Akinci’s office, said the two leaders had agreed to meet but the date, place, and time had not been discussed.
The meeting will be the first between the two leaders since Akinci’s election last Sunday in a landslide victory over Dervis Eroglu.
Christodoulides said they are expected to discuss the resumption of negotiations but could also touch upon the substance of the Cyprus problem.
Talks were cut short in October last year after President Nicos Anastasiades pulled out in response to Turkey’s decision to send a research vessel to carry out seismic surveys inside the island’s exclusive economic zone.
A maritime advisory for seismic research Turkey issued over the area expired on April 6, and companies licenced by Cyprus have ceased drilling for gas after coming up empty.
Turkey claims it is acting on behalf of Turkish Cypriots who should have a say in the island’s natural resources.
The UN has said it expected a resumption of reunification talks after the Turkish Cypriot elections.
Main opposition AKEL welcomed the measures.
“Such actions move to the right direction since they strengthen the trust between the two communities,” spokesman Giorgos Loukaides said. “AKEL agrees with the content of the CBMs and hopes there will be a positive reaction from the Turkish Cypriot community.”
The president’s statement on the unification of football was welcomed by the chairman of the Turkish Cypriot football association.
According to Kibris Postasi, Hasan Sertoglu expressed hope that the process would be successfully completed.
“We have been saying this for months, especially to our politicians here. We should have been the ones who proposed this, so I am sad that we didn’t but I am also happy about this development.,” he said.