Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said on Wednesday he expected President Nicos Anastasiades to soon propose a return to UN-brokered negotiations after he skipped talks last week.
Anastasiades visited Istanbul last week to attend the UN World Humanitarian Summit. However, the visit was marred when he cancelled later meetings with Akinci and the UN’s special envoy to Cyprus to protest against Akinci’s attendance as a head of state at a dinner hosted by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during the international summit.
Akinci described Anastasiades’ move as “an unnecessary, exaggerated reaction” during a news conference on Wednesday with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim who was on a visit to the north.
“Our expectation now is that Mr Anastasiades will establish the necessary dialogue for a new meeting date, preferably not too late, with both the United Nations and with us,” Akinci said, dismissing a suggestion that the snub had amounted to a “crisis”, in comments aired live by Turkish state TV.
Anastasiades protested against Akinci’s attendance because it could have signalled international acceptance of him as an equal counterpart. The two leaders are in talks to reunite Cyprus as leaders of their respective communities, and Cyprus is sensitive to perceived attempts to hold them in equal standing.
The process of reaching a settlement of the Cyprus problem would not be facilitated if it was going to focus on who was meeting whom, Yildirim said.
“If in the future we decide to live as brothers, side by side, then we shouldn’t be sticklers for such details,” he added. “It will not facilitate a lasting and just solution if you deal with matters such as who, where, and who met with whom”.
He would like, he said, if Anastasiades could meet with Erdogan and for Akinci to be able to meet Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
“These meetings would send a nice message to both communities and the international community about the sincerity of the two sides,” Yildirim said.
Akinci said he would continue to have meetings on any platform, not only in Istanbul, but in Davos, Berlin, London, even with the UN Secretary General if he deemed it appropriate.
“What more natural than that,” Akinci said. He reiterated that it was not the first time he attended such events. He and Anastasiades had even met in Davos he said, in a room where there were leaders of various countries from around the world.
Akinci said that it was known that the negotiations were being conducted within the framework of the February 11, 2014 joint communiqué. He would not accept any conditions imposed on him outside of that framework, he said. Statements from the Greek Cypriot side after the Istanbul incident seemed to imply that for the negotiations to resume, he should not attend such meetings in the future.
“They [Greek Cypriots] said that as if it is a requirement to return to the talks. If they did not mean it like that, no problem, but if they do mean it, that is why I said that I do not accept any conditions on this issue,” Akinci said.
This is a historic period in Cyprus, he said, repeating that the next seven months were critical and that momentum should not be lost.
Akinci said he was satisfied with Turkey’s support for the talks as conveyed by Yildirim and expressed hope that other interested parties, especially Greece “will spare no constructive contribution to a just solution in Cyprus”.
The aim is to quickly reach a solution, Akinci said, however, this did not mean that “we halt our daily life and postpone everything until after the solution”.
The Istanbul incident was the first serious upset in the reunification talks that resumed a year ago. The two leaders will meet for the first time after the incident a bi-communal children’s event on Thursday.
Yildirim, arrived on Wednesday in the north on his first visit following his appointment in May. He was accompanied by his wife, and a number of officials.
According reports, the delegation from Turkey included the deputy prime minister responsible for Cyprus issues, Tugrul Turkes, the minister of forestry and water, Veysel Eroglu, who is handling the negotiations on the management of water pumped to the north from Turkey, and finance minister Naci Agbal, who is handling the new financial protocol – the aid given to the north.
Yildirim also laid wreaths on the graves of Dr Fazil Kucuk and Rauf Denktash. He also met Turkish Cypriot ‘prime minister’ Huseyin Ozgurgun before departing on Wednesday evening.
(Reuters contributed to this report)