By month’s end, the two leaders will have had a ‘strategic discussion’ about all the aspects of a Cyprus settlement, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative Espen Barth Eide said on Thursday.
He was speaking after meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades, where they recapped progress thus far in the reunification talks, prepared for the leaders’ meeting on Friday, and reviewed the recent developments in Turkey after the failed coup attempt.
The leaders are scheduled to have three more meetings this month, on July 22, 26 and 29.
The July 29 meeting will be the first where the leaders will discuss security, territory and guarantees, and as such the outcome of that tete-a-tete is seen as crucial to how the process moves forward.
“When we come to July 29…we can say that the leaders now for the first time [will] have had a strategic discussion about all issues. At that time I think it appropriate to make an assessment of where we really stand for a solution in the coming months,” Eide told reporters.
“It’s been a good process, it’s been constructive. Both sides have been frank and open about their disagreements, but they’ve also come with a clear and demonstrated sustained will to overcome them, and real progress has been made.”
Asked whether and how the political crisis in Turkey might impact that country’s stance on the Cyprus issue, the Norwegian diplomat said the UN has to date seen no evidence of a shift.
“There is no sign as of right now that there is any change in the Turkish government’s position, which is consistently supportive of the talks, and there has been…a number of second-channel conversations going on which suggest that this is the sustained position.”
Eide stressed the fact that the political class in Turkey was united in rejecting the attempted coup, observing that “things are better than what they could have been.”
The UN official conceded, however, that events in Turkey had him worried over the past few days.
The Turkey crisis, as well as global developments over the past two years, he said, may serve as a reminder “that the window of opportunity might not stay open forever. This is not to speak of a timeline, but just to say that we have been actually quite lucky.”
“The good news of this phase, broadly speaking, is that it seems the interested parties, not only the three guarantor states but also the Security Council, actually want Cyprus to be solved. They want it off the table, [as] it creates more problems for others than it solves.”
Later in the day, the UN official met with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.
Akinci was quoted as saying on Thursday that the Greek Cypriot presidential election campaign would be begin in 2017. “It will be thorny to have negotiations in such an atmosphere,” he said. “I believe that Mr Anastasiades needs to make a decision. He will either be the leader of his community for a solution or he will solely be a candidate for presidency in the elections of 2018”.
Akıncı said the future could be rebuilt if the peoples of the island respected each other’s rights and take lessons from the past.
On the negotiations, he said: “We have difficulties and we have issues that we have not yet tackled such as territory, security and guarantee issues,” he said. “However we have made significant progress in regards of four chapters, which are economy, the EU, property, administration and power-sharing”.
Akıncı said all the issues would be revised after the meeting on July 29. He thought not everything would be finalised in 2016 but the general framework of solution would be determined.