President Nicos Anastasiades appeared to extend an olive branch on Thursday afternoon after being furious over the attendance by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinici at an international event, and his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Istanbul on Monday.
The move prompted Anastasiades to shun the dinner and leave Istanbul a day early, and cancel meetings with UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide and Akinci on Thursday and Friday respectively.
US Vice President Joe Biden meantime spoke to both leaders and urged them to “resume settlement negotiations as soon as possible”. Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told journalists that Biden “agreed with our annoyance”.
On Thursday afternoon Anastasiades posted a message on Facebook that was taken to mean that he might be softening his position, though it made no mention of the week’s events.
“Our hand is outstretched to find an honourable solution to the Cyprus problem that will turn our state into a modern European state, to a state that accepts, supports, and helps all its citizens without exceptions,” Anastasiades’ Facebook post said.
“Let us work together in good faith, recognising rights and concerns, implementing basic freedoms, in order to make peaceful coexistence possible, to achieve a lasting solution, and not live in fear of facing disruptions in the state’s smooth operation, or whether we might prosper, and this, of course, concerns everyone, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike.”
Never, ever before has there been this good a chance, as long as we can all seize it with mutual respect, the president wrote.
But the message did not explicitly say that all had been forgiven.
Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said the United Nations “made a mess” of handling this matter, but noted that the objective was not necessarily a public apology or “to humiliate anyone”.
Speaking to reporters after a cabinet session on Thursday, Kasoulides said the explanations offered thus far by the UN Secretary General’s deputy spokesman suggest that the United Nations have not realised what the problem is.
“There needs to be a clear distinction between the procedure of the secretary general’s good services, in accordance with the mandate given to him by the Security Council, in the context of efforts to solve the Cyprus problem [and] a United Nations’ summit attended by its member-states,” Kasoulides said.
“We went to Istanbul for the summit, and the summit alone.”
With regard to Biden’s encouragement to resume meetings, Kasoulides agreed that “meetings must start as soon as possible”, but not before the United Nations clarify “certain things”.
“Why was the Turkish side’s claim that Mr Erdogan sent a plane to pick up Mr Akinci as soon as the meeting with the secretary general was finalised not denied?” Kasoulides asked.
“If the meeting was unofficial and unplanned, they ought to have denied the Turkish side’s claim that it was a normal meeting with the secretary-general.”
The foreign minister added that the suspension of the leaders’ meetings was “not indefinite” but relates only to Friday’s meeting.
Asked to comment on Eide’s role in the incident, Kasoulides said the Cypriot government “does not make issues personal”, but focuses on “the incident itself”.
The remarks followed a statement by opposition party EDEK, which – in a familiar twist – called on Anastasiades to seek the Norwegian diplomat’s replacement over his alleged involvement in arranging Akinci’s meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Against this backdrop, a meeting between Akinci and Eide on Thursday was held as scheduled.
“We all recognise that the situation right now is not optimal,” Eide told reporters after the meeting.
“I don’t want to overdramatise, or downplay, the situation, because we need to deal with it, [but] I am deeply convinced that the two leaders will not allow the difficulties of the last few days to overshadow the remarkable progress of the last year.”
Asked when he plans to meet with Anastasiades again, the UN special envoy said the two met in Istanbul on Monday.
“I will see him when he is ready to meet,” Eide said.
“I will see him when possible. My general attitude to life is that when you have a disagreement with someone, the best thing you can do is talk to them. So I’m ready.”