Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said on Wednesday that they were working towards a solution of the island’s division inside 2016, or the window of opportunity would close.
Speaking after a tete-a-tete meeting and a dinner in Ankara that lasted around three hours, the two men stressed that a solution must ensure the rights and security of the Turkish Cypriots.
“Our efforts are directed towards this. The aim of these efforts is for a new partnership to be founded this year so that the two sides can live within the UN parameters,” the Turkish president said. “It is a condition to find a solution in a way that the rights and security of the Turkish Cypriot side are ensured. It is very important to show political understanding.”
The Turkish president pledged that Turkey would continue to do its share with the aim of achieving stability and peace on the island and in the region.
Akinci said they would spare no effort in turning 2016 into a year of peace. The Turkish Cypriot leader said it had been a good meeting and the two sides would continue to be in close contact.
“The Turkish Cypriot side has reached a critical point,” he said. “Either we reach a solution before the end of 2016 or this window of opportunity will close” ahead of the presidential election campaign in the Republic.
“The logical route is to end this story before the end of 2016,” he added.
However, he said, there could not be an agreement if there were no equality, freedom, and security.
“We will participate in an agreement where these three vital elements will exist. With your support we have a better future,” Akinci told Erdogan.
Akinci said he expected new tension in the areas where Turkish Cypriots also have rights.
“Natural gas in the Mediterranean should not be a cause of tension,” he said. “The logical thing is to have a new cooperation between Greece and Turkey.”
Speaking before his departure to Turkey, Akinci said he hoped the Greek Cypriot side in the last quarter of 2016 would leave aside statements that say “guarantees could never be accepted”, “if this or that place is not returned there can be no solution” or that “the natural gas is in our sovereign territory and no one can intervene”.
“Such statements serve no purpose other than causing tension,” he added.
At the same time, UNSG Special Representative in Cyprus Elizabeth Spehar said the UN role on the ground to support the implementation of a solution would have to be looked into in detail if the leaders and the two communities on the island ultimately agreed on a settlement.
In an interview with online magazine Politically Speaking, of the Policy and Mediation Division (PMD) of the UN, which was posted on Wednesday on UN-Cyprus twitter account, Spehar said that the Security Council has already signalled some time ago that it expected contingency planning for a settlement.
“Some thinking has thus already begun. At the same time, much will depend, first and foremost, on what the leaders will ask of us as well as the contours of the settlement proposal that they will reach,” she noted.
Asked about her previous post with the PMD, Spehar said that based on her experience, she now had an even greater appreciation of the importance of “lessons-learning”, and of identifying and applying best practices.
“This is one of the areas I am interested in looking at in the context of my new assignment in Cyprus. Since the UN has been on the island for many years and we have dealt with many of the same issues over such a long period of time, there is a lot to learn from what we have done in the past, from various perspectives. It just makes sense to be very cognisant of what we’ve done and evaluate that experience carefully as we go forward”, she added.
Spehar assumed duties last June, succeeding Liza Buttenheim.