By Annette Chrysostomou
Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn on Tuesday that 2016 would be an important year for Cyprus as he welcomed the resumption of settlement talks and the strong commitment of the two leaders to reaching a solution.
“We all hope that the negotiations will soon lead to a comprehensive settlement to the benefit of all,” Asselborn said after a round of separate contacts in Nicosia that included President Nicos Anastasiades, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and UN Special Representative Lisa Buttenheim.
“Everybody in the EU is ready to support and knows about the importance of this ongoing process. I am also convinced that in spring there will be steps in a good direction. I spoke to President Anastasiades, the minister of foreign affairs and Mrs Buttenheim and everybody told me that there is hope and that, on the other side, there are difficulties, such as the property issue, the guarantees, but the political will is there and this must come to a positive result,” he said.
Asked to clarify if he expected a solution by the spring of 2016, Asselborn said what he expected, after being briefed, was that “important steps can be done… but that does not mean that in spring everything is solved. I do not want to operate with dates, I know a little bit about the peace process not far away, and if you operate with dates you are not on a good way.”
He reaffirmed Luxembourg’s full support for a comprehensive settlement, given its importance for the wider security and stability in the region, with its increasingly instable political climate and the worst refugee climate since World War II. “Making such an agreement is a geostrategic asset for the European Union,” Asselborn said.
Referring to Turkey and the outcome of the recent EU-Turkey leaders’ meeting on 29 November 2015, Asselborn welcomed the re-energising of the accession process.
“I am convinced that negotiations promote reforms in Turkey, particularly in the area of rules of law and fundamental rights. It is in the EU’s interest to promote close relations with Turkey in a number of important areas of common interest, such as migration, counter-terrorism, energy, economy and trade. We cannot but engage with Turkey in these fields,” he said.
“We constantly recall in our contacts with Ankara that Turkey can accelerate the pace of negotiations by advancing the fulfillment of benchmarks, by meeting the requirements on the negotiating framework and by respecting its contractual obligations towards the EU and all – I underline it – its member states”.
Asselborn characterized the issue of migration as “a top priority and it will remain one at every level with the ongoing migration and refugee crisis, in the next decade. As long as political differences are not resolved, dealing with the refugee crisis will be an even bigger challenge in the future, he said but if the EU worked together, durable solutions could be found.
“Until now the implementation of what we decided has failed,” he said in response to a question. He added that some progress has been made under Luxembourg’s EU presidency, which will wrap up on December 31.
“But I think in our presidency, we have always considered the whole migration problem as a package: It is relocation, resettlement, is control of external borders, returns and so on. In some areas we made a lot of progress.”
On the second day of his visit on Wednesday, Asselborn will meet Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, and is planning to visit the buffer zone in Nicosia.