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Akinci: solution ‘in months, not years’

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci

By Elias Hazou

TURKISH Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci sounded an upbeat note on Thursday, saying he looked forward to “productive negotiations” leading to a settlement of the Cyprus issue over the next few months.

“Hopefully, we will achieve a mutually acceptable solution in months, rather than years,” Akinci told reporters in New York coming out of a half-hour meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The new Turkish Cypriot leader, elected on a plank to push for peace, repeatedly alluded to a positive climate shaping on the island.

“We look from now on to have productive negotiations and productive CBMs (confidence-building measures). This is what we are trying to achieve actually, to create a better future for the younger generations.”

Akinci said the UN chief was “very satisfied” with what he has heard from the leaders and from UNSG Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide.

Whereas Cypriots are the main actors in the drive for a lasting settlement, Akinci said, he welcomed the engagement of the international community, including the European Union, as well as Cyprus’ guarantor powers – Greece and Turkey.

“It is often said that it takes two to tango. But in this case, I think we need a line dance, like the Greek sirtaki,” he noted.

Akinci said he was optimistic as both communities’ leaders are committed to a solution.

“This time we have two leaders who, ten years ago, supported the Annan plan. I continue to share this vision, and I hope Mr. Anastasiades will also share this vision in the coming months.”

On his next face-to-face meeting with Anastasiades on June 17, Akinci clarified they would not be discussing the territorial aspect, contrary to media speculation.

At this stage of the talks, the two sides could well review the “criteria” for land swaps. But the nitty-gritty of territory and guarantees would best be left to the tail-end of the negotiations, he said.

Asked about the Turkish general election this coming weekend, Akinci said he believed that whatever government emerged it would be committed to the Cyprus negotiation process.

He was also quizzed on the island’s hydrocarbons reserves – a source of contention between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey.

“I regard this issue as an asset… we can create a situation where we can use them [hydrocarbons] as an asset to finance a solution,” commented Akinci.

The Turkish Cypriot leader said that both Cypriot natural gas, once extracted, as well as Israeli gas, could be exported via pipeline through Turkey.

Akinci said he asked the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) for technical assistance in pinpointing minefields in the occupied areas, the coordinates of which were recently relayed to the north by the Greek Cypriots.

While welcoming the gesture, the Turkish Cypriot side said the coordinates given were deemed to be insufficient.

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