Espen Barth Eide, the UN secretary-general’s special advisor on Cyprus, said on Monday the convergences between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders in the talks were far beyond what had ever been agreed before in direct conversations between the two sides.
But he warned there was still a lot of work to do and a ‘done deal’ was not just around the corner.
Eide was speaking after a three-hour meeting in Athens with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias which focused on the existing system of guarantees and the latest developments in the Cyprus talks.
He said he had had an excellent conversation with Kotzias, with whom he shared the developments over the last months in the Cyprus talks which had been “by far the most intense talks that we had since I started in this job a few years ago”.
Eide added that the final version of the Annan plan back in 2004 had been proposed by the UN, but that now every single sentence, every word, every comma, had been written by a Cypriot pen and through direct negotiations between the two sides.
The talks are organised into six chapters with four of them largely complete, he said.
“There are a couple of important outstanding issues in these chapters, but we clearly see the contours of a settlement inside these four chapters. And we have, what is new, over the last month, the last weeks actually, we have started a direct conversation in brainstorming mode also around the issue of territorial rearrangements which has been left so far, that is now on the table, and the security arrangements that will pertain to a future united federal Cyprus,” he said.
“This is the reason for my meeting with Foreign Minister Kotzias today and with Prime Minister Tsipras tomorrow, it is that these are issues where the guarantor powers, Greece, Turkey and the UK, are more directly involved.”
He said he commended all the guarantor powers – Turkey, Greece and Britain – for having been very careful about not intervening in those issues which the Cypriots had to solve themselves. But he stressed that to change or abolish the international treaties which covered the guarantor powers, they needed their support and cooperation.
Eide said this had been the essence of his conversation with Kotzias, adding that there had been many shared perspectives both on the talks but also on the way ahead.
Nicosia wants to abolish the guarantor system but Ankara is adamant her capacity as a guarantor power must be maintained. Both Athens and London have indicated the system is obsolete.
Eide said he felt confident that Greece would play its part in creating the conditions by which the 42-year-old division of Cyprus could finally end.
“I am not unrealistic, I know that we have work to do. I have shared with my friends, the leaders and their negotiating teams that there are important issues to be dealt with, particularly in the area of implementation of a settlement,” he said. “If there is a settlement, we need to be ready to implement it and there is a particularly long list of things that we have to do but the spirit, the commitment and the drive is clearly there.”
Eide will meet with the two leaders on Wednesday morning and then all three will travel to New York.
“If you look at the volume of text, there is a lot of agreement, what we call ‘black’,” he said, explaining that Turkish Cypriot proposals are written in red, Greek Cypriots in blue. When an issue is agreed it is written in black.
“We have more and more black text, but of course, as always in any negotiation, some of the most difficult issues will only be solved at the very end.”