AKEL chief Andros Kyprianou on Tuesday briefed President Nicos Anastasiades on his visit to Istanbul last weekend where he met Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Kyprianou is also expected to brief the leaders of the other political parties, starting next week with ruling DISY leader Averof Neophytou.
Speaking after Tuesday’s meeting at the presidential palace, which lasted around an hour, Kyprianou, accompanied by member of AKEL’s political bureau Toumazos Tselepis, who was with him in Istanbul, said Anastasiades has also briefed him on his contacts in Davos last week during the World Economic Forum. The president is also due to convene the National Council on Monday.
Kyprianou said he told the president that thought the Istanbul meetings were conducted in a friendly and cordial atmosphere, this kind of dialogue would never be enough to solve the Cyprus problem, he said. “The problem will be solved at the negotiating table,” he said.
It was here, he said that the “real will” to resolve crucial issues in a way that meets the expectations of both communities, would become evident.
“If you try to impose the interests of one community over the other I think there will be no solution,” he added.
Asked if he found that Turkey had moved “even one iota” from its previous position on the issue of guarantees, Kyprianou said: “On a verbal level they have definitely moved but this has to be seen in practice.”
Further pressed as to whether he thought Ankara would accept EU guarantees as sufficient in a Cyprus settlement, Kyprianou said did he not wish to go into details but did make it clear that on the issue of possible guarantors, AKEL would not agree to NATO being an option.
Kyprianou said the Turkish side’s position as presented to him in Istanbul was that Turkish Cypriots felt unsafe after the intercommunal troubles in 1963/64 and in the years leading the 1974 coup and subsequent invasion, and that is why Turkey wants to maintain some kind of guarantee role.
“I replied that we [Greek Cypriots] experienced the 1974 Turkish invasion with thousands of deaths and a continuing occupation, and that hundreds of refugees fled their homes. So we also have concerns, not just the Turkish Cypriots. We have to discuss and agree to discuss them. That’s important but when discussing these issues, we need to convince them of the correctness of our positions,” he said.
For the moment, he added it was too early to ‘get into it’, and the issue had not yet reached the negotiating table and a lot of preparation would be needed “without departing from the basic principles that will satisfy the concerns of both communities”.
When asked whether he ate fish from the Bosphorus, he said: “I ate fish from the Bosphorus, yes. I do not think this is of any importance.”
The fish reference relates to a comment made by former AKEL leader and former president Demetris Christofias in 2011 when he called on Tayyip Erdogan to sit with him and eat fish from the Bosphorus, and solve the Cyprus problem together.
Kyprianou also denied reports that there was dissent within AKEL over his Istanbul visit. “There are many myths and fantasies I do not comment on”.
Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said after the Kyprianou-Anastasiades meeting that the president was satisfied with the messages imparted to Turkey.
“We believe that such meetings are useful, so that we are given the opportunity to send direct messages to Turkey… beyond that we would expect to see developments. All will be judged on the table and through the ideas, proposals and suggestions submitted,” he said.
Commenting on Kyprianou’s statement on Sunday that Ankara had given Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci a free hand to negotiate on internal issues at the talks, the spokesman said
“The role of the Turkish Cypriot leader in the negotiations is certainly important, but no one can ignore that in Cyprus there are 43,000 Turkish soldiers and inevitably it is Turkey that will take important decisions on issues such as territory, guarantees the withdrawal of the Turkish occupation army, and settlers,” he said.
The issue of guarantees, the spokesman said was not one of the difficult ones. “And from discussions with our interlocutors is clear that we cannot speak in the year 2016 about military guarantees let alone guarantees for an EU Member State. The fact that the Cyprus Republic is an EU member state will continue after the solution of the Cyprus problem and this is the best guarantee for the solution of the Cyprus problem,” Christodoulides said.
Christodoulides said despite Turkish declarations, the Cyprus issue would not be solved by public statements, but at the negotiating table. The spokesman also said that US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Istanbul at the weekend would also be evaluated when the government was briefed by the Americans.
The next meeting of the leaders on January 29, the spokesman said, would be focused on property and territory.