UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide said on Wednesday he had great expectations for the new round of Cyprus talks that began on Tuesday.
Speaking after an early meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades, Eide said that for the first time all issues were on the table without taboo.
He said both he and the two leaders had agreed during Tuesday’s meeting that July had been a very good month in terms of the negotiations and that all six meetings held had been productive.
Over the next six leaders’ meetings, until September 14 when Anastasiades leaves for New York to attend the UN general assembly, the leaders will talk about issues from all of the six chapters that have not yet been thoroughly discussed or where there has not been complete convergence such as the rotating presidency in the chapter on governance.
The bigger issues are property, territory, guarantees and security, the latter three which have not been discussed in any detail by the two leaders since negotiations began. By September 14 they also hope to at least know where the talks are headed.
“Some things are in brainstorming mode, some of them in negotiating mode, but there is no taboo to issues that can be discussed at least in a very close format between the leaders,” said Eide after the one-hour meeting with Anastasiades.
“What is new is that we are now, in this round, entering into all aspects, even those chapters that haven`t yet been on the table. I have great expectations for these seven meetings,” Eide said.
Whatever happens after September 14 would be decided during the process and on that date the leaders would announce publicly whatever they were ready to say.
Eide said everyone recognised that time was of the essence but at the same time he said the groundwork needed to be done properly without rushing.
“We need conclusions that can last for a long time. So we need quality decisions and there is always a combination here between using the time available and also working properly,” he said.
Eide added many working groups were active at the same time right now to assist with different aspects of the negotiations but there were key aspects that were up to the leaders.
“This is really the time of Mr Anastasiades and Mr [Mustafa] Akinci [the Turkish Cypriot leader] to bridge the gaps and my work is to help them as much as I can,” Eide said, reiterating that the process was Cypriot owned.
Commenting on external factors that might impact the talks such as the situation in Turkey, Eide said this was a stark reminder that the window of opportunity might not remain open forever.
“It is open now, and we got clear reconfirmation from all the interested parties, including very clearly from Ankara, that they remain supportive and remain prepared to do their part as says Greece, the United Kingdom, as says the EU and all the relevant actors, and needless to say the UN,” Eide said.
He recalled that the UN Security Council regarded this round of negotiations as the best they had seen and referred to plans already afoot within the UN for adjusting the recomposition of the peacekeeping force’s presence to assist in the implementation of a settlement should it come about through referendums on both sides.
“Without anticipating that this is necessarily happening, there is contingency planning for how this can be done, supported by a unanimous Security Council,” Eide said.
Speaking in terms of ‘roadmaps’ for the process after September 14, Eide said he hoped there would be one.
“The leaders are very much aware of exactly where we are, where we have found solutions, where we are about to find solutions, because details remain, and where we have significant outstanding issues that have to be solved by then.”
He also spoke about the importance of confidentiality in the process because the leaders want to test some aspects without necessarily committing to anything.
He declined to speculate on a possible meeting in New York between the leaders and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon later next month, saying the focus was now on the next six meetings of the leaders.
Eide made similar statements after a meeting he had later Wednesday with Akinci.
In Turkey meanwhile, US Vice President Joe Biden discussed Cyprus with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
Speaking at a news conference afterwards, Biden said they would continue to talk to the two communities in Cyprus.
Yildirim said Turkey acknowledged the US efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem over the years. Referring to the rejection of a UN blueprint by Greek Cypriots in 2004, he said an opportunity was lost but suggested that this time it should not be missed.
“The Turkish side was always in favour of a solution and it will also be in favour this time,” Yildirim said.