By Angelos Anastasiou
After a seven-month hiatus, talks to reach a settlement of the Cyprus problem will resume on Friday, special representative of the United Nations’ Secretary General to Cyprus Espen Barth Eide announced on Monday.
The announcement followed the “social dinner” Barth Eide hosted for the leaders of the two communities, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, at the Ledra Palace hotel on Monday night.
Announcing the resumption of the talks, the UN special envoy said the dinner was held in a “positive climate”, and that the two leaders “shared their vision for the future of Cyprus”.
“This is an opportunity that will be grasped, and it’s truly rewarding to work with leaders with such strong commitment, that share the challenges in a common effort to find a solution,” Barth Eide said.
“And I very much look forward to the continuation of the talks. We will continue to work from the morning of Friday, 15 May.”
Moments after the announcement, the Norwegian mediator tweeted a recap of the evening.
“After an inspiring leaders’ dinner, I just announced that Cyprus talks will resume on 15 May,” he posted.
Anastasiades and Akinci arrived minutes apart at Ledra Palace hotel shortly after 8 pm, with a Scottish regiment saluting each of them on arrival, while a red carpet was laid down at the hotel’s entrance as Barth Eide personally greeted the leaders.
Approximately half an hour after disappearing into the Ledra Palace hotel, Anastasiades and Akinci reappeared before the crowd and cameras outside for a ceremonial handshake.
Outside, dozens of Greek and Turkish Cypriots gathered in support of a settlement, holding up pro-solution signs.
The crowd was undeterred by brief spells of rain.
Before getting to the dinner, Anastasiades posted a couple of tweets.
“First meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci,” the first one read – with the ‘Cyprus’ hashtag attached.
And minutes later he followed this up with:
“I hope that the conditions for a substantive dialogue will be created, which will lead to the reunification of our country,” but the hashtag in this one was ‘United Cyprus’.
Following the initial tete-a-tete between the two leaders and Barth Eide, which lasted a little over half an hour, they were joined by Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis and Turkish Cypriot negotiator Ozdil Nami for dinner.
UN Secretary General`s Special Representative in Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim was also in attendance.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told CyBC radio on Monday that apart from the social nature of the dinner, discussions would focus not only on a possible date for the resumption of talks but also on possibly seeing a more enhanced role of the leaders in the process.
During the previous round the leaders met only as necessary and the bulk of the work was carried out by the two negotiators. Frequency of meetings would also be discussed, the spokesman said.
“There is expected to be a substantial discussion concerning the future of the common objectives for the reunification of our country and it has not been ruled out that Mr Akinci will inform the President on some of his thoughts with regard to Confidence Building Measures (CBMs),” Christodoulides added.
Christodoulides said the talks would begin from where they left off last year. Monday meeting is the first time the two leaders have met since Akinci was elected last month.
Barth Eide has held separate meetings with both leaders and other interlocutors to finalise arrangements for the resumption of full-fledged negotiations.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, Anastasiades is likely to convene a meeting of the National Council, the top advisory body to the President on the Cyprus issue, next week.
Ahead of the dinner, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, in an interview with Turkish Millyet newspaper, said Akinci`s election was encouraging.
He said Anastasiades and Akinci had a great opportunity to find a solution.
Kasoulides said Cyprus and Turkey could have friendly relations if the latter withdrew its army from the island. “The Cyprus issue will be solved with the Turkish Cypriots. For me, it is very important for Cyprus to have friendly relations with Turkey. If the Cyprus problem is resolved, they will have friendly relations,” he added.
Regarding Confidence Building Measures, Kasoulides said it was possible to open the fenced off city of Varosha as well as Ercan (Tymbou) airport and Famagusta port. He said that Varosha needed to be handed over to the UN.
Regarding Ercan, Kasoulides said there were solutions that the International Civil Aviation Organisation could offer. “I have a problem travelling to Brussels. Why can I not travel via Ercan once flights out of this airport become legal?” the minister said.