By Elias Hazou
THE government on Thursday described as “extremely significant” for the future of Cyprus the President’s meetings in Switzerland with the United Nations Secretary General and the US Vice President.
President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, met jointly with UN Secretary General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Also attending was the UNSG’s Special Adviser for Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide.
Coming out of the meeting, the UN chief praised the two leaders for their efforts in seeking a settlement to the Cyprus question, calling on the international community to help.
“The leaders and I had a very comprehensive discussion on the current state-of-play in the Cyprus talks,” Ban said in statements to the press.
“I want to commend them for their efforts. Significant progress has been made in this leader-led process over the past eight months, demonstrating that with political will, it is possible to reach compromises even on the most difficult issues.
“At the same time, it is also clear that a number of sensitive and difficult issues still remain.”
The UN chief encouraged both leaders to “continue working tirelessly towards finding a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue as soon as possible, for the benefit of all Cypriots.”
He urged them also to “capitalise on the current positive momentum,” adding this would be crucial as they moved forward to tackle the outstanding issues.
Ban went on to call on “all interested international players, especially the guarantor powers, to do their utmost to facilitate and support the leaders in their quest for overcoming the division of Cyprus.”
Also on the sidelines of the Davos confab, Anastasiades met with US Vice President Joe Biden. Present were Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s top official for energy affairs, and Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
Speaking to reporters later, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said that as a result of the meeting with the UNSG, Ban now had a “crystal clear picture” of the reunification talks.
“The outcome of the discussion and the dialogue that took place fully justify the necessity of holding the meeting between the UNSG and the leaders of the two communities,” he said.
The spokesman stressed it was important, in the event the leaders reach an agreement, “not to have any gaps or ambiguities, that we must have answers… from day one about how a solution can be implemented and whether it will be viable.”
The UN chief had put no specific ideas on the table facilitating a settlement, recognising that “ownership of the talks belongs to Cyprus, with the two leaders leading the way,” said Christodoulides.
On Anastasiades’ meeting with Biden, the spokesman said the two men had an “excellent discussion, productive and cordial.”
Biden is due to visit Ankara, where on Saturday he will be meeting with senior Turkish government officials to discuss Cyprus, among other matters.
The US Vice President would be conveying “certain specific messages” to Ankara relating to the Cyprus peace drive.
Asked to elaborate on what these messages might be, and if they included the issue of guarantees for a future reunified island, Christodoulides said: “They do concern the issue of guarantees, and more.”
In addition to Cyprus, Anastasiades and Biden discussed security and energy-related issues pertaining to the eastern Mediterranean region.
The US Vice President also met separately with Akinci. Biden’s office – not the White House – later released a brief statement noting only that the meeting had taken place.
In an interview with Turkish daily Milliyet, Akinci said the international interest in a solution was growing, and that contacts made at the WEF would highlight the Turkish Cypriot side’s determination for a settlement.
“The Turkish Cypriot side wants a solution in good faith,” he said, adding that he hoped the negotiations process would benefit from the increased international interest. In Davos, he said, the leaders might be able to gauge interest in financing the solution.
“One of the sponsors of the solution will be the solution of the Cyprus problem itself,” said Akinci. “There is no expectation of a free ride. Cyprus with the solution will be a big area of investment.”
As the government played up the President’s contacts in Davos, back home the opposition – bar AKEL – focused on the black side.
DIKO leader Nicholas Papadopoulos demanded “a full and sincere” briefing once the President returns to the island.
According to Papadopoulos, the UN chief’s generic references to progress in the peace talks raise more questions than answers.
“They also prove, unfortunately, that the stage was set at Davos solely to upgrade the status of Mr Akinci.”
A cause for concern, Papadopoulos said, were remarks attributed to Turkey’s Permanent Representative to the EU Selim Yener, who spoke of the creation of a “new country” post-settlement.
Evidently this ‘new country’ could not be the Republic of Cyprus, Papadopoulos interpreted.
Chiming in, Greens MP George Perdikis adopted a sarcastic tone, wishing Anastasiades that “he returns from Davos safe and sound, both he and the cause of Cyprus.”
Yener’s comments, said Perdikis, “really sends shivers up our spines, and we can feel the cold at Davos.”