THE slowdown of progress in the Cyprus problem negotiations is owed to the fact that we are approaching the end of discussion on various issues, Foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters following the unveiling ceremony of a sculpture crafted by Bulgarian Culture minister Vezhdi Rashidov, Kasoulides noted that the mass ‘naturalisation’ of some 25,000 Turkish settlers by the Turkish Cypriot leadership will likely impact the talks, since it violates the two sides’ mutual understanding on the proportionality of population of the island’s two communities post-solution – four Greek Cypriot citizens for each Turkish Cypriot.
“We have repeatedly said that the deceleration of progress over the last few months is not a strange phenomenon,” Kasoulides said.
“Important progress was achieved early on, and now, approaching the end of various chapters, things become more difficult – the issues that remain to be resolved are the thorniest.”
Recalling that, after the two last meetings with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, President Nicos Anastasiades said that progress had been made, “meaning progress on the work that is being done now, turning mutual understanding into convergences”.
“This is why I explained there is no need to convene the National Council, in the midst of the campaign [for the upcoming legislative elections next month] – because the common understandings are known, and the president presented most of them in his speech to parliament,” said Kasoulides.
The Foreign minister noted that the government hopes to maintain confidentiality and avoid leaks, to minimise the impact on the talks.
“The negotiations have already been hurt by the leaks,” he said.
“For example, discussion of the issue of territory is being delayed because the Turkish side has concerns over leaks.”
Asked whether the time for the remaining two chapters – territory and security – to open for discussion is nearing, Kasoulides said yes, but he couldn’t place the time specifically.
“The four chapters already open will not close completely, but they will be closed to the extent possible, with certain issues to remain for horizontal discussion along with the remaining two chapters,” he explained.
Kasoulides said the issue of the ‘naturalisation’ of settlers in the occupied areas “concerns us”, adding that his hope is that it does not impact the ongoing peace talks.
The Citizens’ Alliance, the opposition party that protested on Thursday that it was not allowed to review the documents tabled by both sides in the negotiations, came down hard on Kasoulides.
“Unfortunately, if and when the National Council will convene is ultimately irrelevant, since Mr Anastasiades has rendered it purely cosmetic,” the party’s financial director Panayiotis Savvides said.
“Withholding the documents tabled in the negotiations gives rise to many and serious questions with regard to what he is negotiating and what he has really agreed to. The most classic of these is the issue of settlers, where Mr Anastasiades has implicitly agreed to the legalisation of more than 130,000 settlers and the Turkish side is about to make an additional 25,000 settlers ‘citizens’.”
DIKO also protested Kasoulides’ remarks, saying that not convening the National Council for fear of leaks is a cheap excuse to keep the public in the dark.
“There is no proof stronger than this that President Anastasiades, DISY and AKEL, want to avoid public discussion of the Cyprus problem, and full disclosure of developments in the ongoing talks,” secretary general Marinos Moushiouttas said.
“They don’t want the people of Cyprus to know what the United Nations, the Turks, the Americans, and the rest of the foreigners, know.”
But secret diplomacy can no longer be tolerated, he added.
“DIKO insists on convening the National Council to discuss Akinci’s tour in Europe, the new economic protocol between Turkey and the occupied areas, the naturalisation of 25,000 settlers, the electricity connection of the occupied areas with Turkey, as well as the convergences in four out of six chapters that our country’s Foreign minister mentioned,” Moushiouttas said.