All eyes on the Cyprus negotiations are now focused on September 14 when the leaders complete a series of meetings which aim to bridge gaps on certain chapters and for the first time discuss previously ‘taboo’ issues such as guarantees.
Between now and then, no statements will come out of the ongoing talks but Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is preparing intensively for major developments in New York towards the end of September, including the hope of a five-party conference with the guarantor powers.
President Nicos Anastasiades and Akinci met for around four hours on Monday, sticking to their word that no statement would be made.
Another five meetings are scheduled until September 14. The leaders are set to meet again on Wednesday August 31, Friday September 2, Tuesday September 6, Thursday September 8 and Wednesday September 14.
“We have agreed that no statements will be made during these important meetings,” Anastasiades said after Monday’s meeting, adding that an announcement would be issued on September 14.
He asked the media to respect the decision. He said the intention was not to impose a black out but rather to facilitate the work “during these important meetings and render them more effective”.
Akinci on Sunday met with his negotiating team and worked out a timetable, the target of which is to achieve as many convergences as possible.
In statements published on Sunday, the Turkish Cypriot leader made it clear that the ultimate objective in New York is to have a five-party meeting with guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and Britain after first meeting jointly with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The Greek Cypriot side has said that no joint meeting with Ban could take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly sessions as Anastasiades would be in New York as a head of state and not the Greek Cypriot leader but has not ruled out a meeting following that.
Akinci said it made sense to have the five-party conference in New York as the guarantor powers would be there.
“I hope the Greek Cypriot side is ready for this because I believe that from now on such an opportunity will not be easy to come by,” he said, adding that he expected to see “logic and realism” prevail during the coming process. “The Greek Cypriot side must approach the issues weighing what is possible and what is not possible,” he said.
Akinci said it was possible for the two sides to create a reasonable framework “especially if the Greek Cypriot side does not commit the mistake of asking for the impossible”. The target now was a joint statement on September 14 that would allow for developments in New York.
The Greek Cypriot side does not want any guarantor powers, least of all Turkey, involved post-settlement but the Turkish Cypriots say there cannot be a solution without some sort of Turkish presence. “If you want a solution, you cannot say you will never discuss this,” Akinci said.
“Our people feel the need for safeguards. We see this and our people reflect this. The importance of Turkey for the Turkish Cypriots is very clear. This should be understood by all sides. We will go nowhere if the Greek Cypriot side sees the issue of guarantees only from its own point of view.”
Touching on the Cyprus Republic’s hydrocarbons explorations, which Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side opposes, Akinci said an “energy dynamics” had been created in the region and that after the resumption of ties between Turkey and Israel, Greek Cypriots could find themselves left out of that equation.
The coming three or four months were crucial, Akinci said. He said if 2016 closed without a deal, come 2017, there would be more potential risks to reaching a settlement such as the looming presidential elections in 2018, which he fears would distract and influence Anastasiades. “Certainly there is no one hundred per cent guarantee of that. But we see very clearly that there is this possibility,” he said.
Akinci also said that if the current effort fails or goes to separate referendums and still fails, it would not be the end of the world. “We will certainly continue our own way. This is not the desire or wish but if it happens we cannot do anything else,” he said.
“At the moment we walk the path of the solution. This process is the last effort of our generation and quite possibly could be the last effort for a federal solution, for a federal Cyprus “.