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Cyprus Cyprus Talks

Eide: return of Morphou, or not, has yet to be discussed

Espen Barth Eide

The issue of whether occupied Morphou will be returned to Greek Cypriot administration post-settlement has yet to be discussed in the reunification talks, UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide said on Thursday.

He was speaking to reporters in the north coming out of a meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci. Later in the day, the UN official also met separately with President Nicos Anastasiades, a day before the two leaders are to resume negotiations.

Asked whether the leaders would be discussing Morphou on Friday, Eide said they would not, given that the two sides have already agreed to leave territorial readjustments to the end-stage of the talks.

As the talks have yet to enter that final stage, he added, clearly the issue of Morphou is not on the table at this time.

Eide said also that he discussed with Akinci ways in which the leaders might be able to ‘close’ some issues that have come up during discussions between their respective chief negotiators over the past few days.

The Norwegian diplomat declined to elaborate on these issues, citing the confidentiality of the talks.

His meeting with Akinci lasted an hour and a half.

Quizzed about President Anastasiades’ comments on Morphou, and Akinci’s subsequent retort, the UN official said only that the two sides are ‘reminding’ the public of their starting positions on the matter, so this should come as no surprise.

The issue has not been the subject of negotiations yet, he repeated, adding that in the past a number of other matters had likewise been considered difficult until the two sides began actual negotiations.

Following his meeting with Anastasiades later, Eide described it as “a comprehensive and good conversation.”

There is a sense that the sides have reached an ‘understanding’ on a number of issues, he said, but more discussion on the details was needed.

“And as we know there are big issues that yet still have to be solved and there is a lot of work behind us,” Eide noted.

Earlier in the week, Anastasiades said new investments in occupied Morphou would bring the end of the current negotiations process.

Responding, Akinci stated that “no one should expect life in north Cyprus to be put on hold while seeking a settlement to the Cyprus problem.”

Under a 2004 UN-brokered peace plan, Morphou was to be ceded to the Greek Cypriot constituent state of a united, federal Cyprus.

That peace plan as a whole was subsequently rejected by Greek Cypriots, and approved by Turkish Cypriots, in separate simultaneous referenda. Morphou has since become a major bargaining chip for the Turkish Cypriot side.

Weighing in on the issue last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the Turkish Cypriots to take a firm stance.

“Because the Annan plan was not accepted, [a return of Morphou] is not on the table,” Erdogan was quoted as saying, citing the fact that it is one of the most fertile areas on the island.

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