President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci will request UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intensify his personal engagement in the Cyprus talks when they meet with him on September 25, they agreed on Wednesday.
Ban said later on Wednesday he really appreciated “their leadership and commitment”, according to CNA.
Speaking during a press conference held at UN headquarters in New York, Ban said: “I’m also encouraged of their strong commitment that they will complete this process within this year and the United Nations is fully ready to support their initiative and as you know this is Cypriot-owned and Cypriot-led process. The United Nations is facilitating this one … you (they) can count on us and on me.”
In a much-anticipated joint statement after eight meetings of intensified negotiations, the two leaders reiterated their commitment to reaching a settlement even though they said challenges remained in the reunification talks.
“Cognisant of the remaining challenges, the two leaders are committed to continuing and intensifying their efforts in these leader-led negotiations in the coming months with the aim of reaching a comprehensive agreement within 2016,” the joint statement said.
For this purpose, the two leaders will hold a joint meeting with the Secretary-General of the UN in New York on September 25. During this meeting, the two leaders will take stock of the state of play in the negotiations and inform him of their achievements to date as well as the challenges ahead.
“… they will request him to intensify his personal engagement in the process in the months to come.” Ban ends his term in office at the close of 2016 and has already said he would like to see a settlement by then. It was not clear how Ban could move the process along any faster.
Anastasiades made in clear that the UNSG’s involvement did not mean him engaging in arbitration, an anathema to Greek Cypriots since the rejection of the previous reunification blueprint, the Annan plan, in 2004.
“That is why it is said in the announcement that it is a procedure, which belongs and is guided by the leaders of the two communities,” he told reporters after the meeting with Akinci.
Asked if he was optimistic, the president said a prospect for a settlement will arise if the Turkish Cypriot side showed understanding for Greek Cypriot concerns as the latter did towards theirs.
Anastasiades said the leaders could continue their talks on an intensive basis.
“… out intention is to succeed by utilising the next months. As ambitious as it may seem, it is feasible, if there is mutual understanding towards both sides’ worries, especially on sensitive matters that concern the Greek Cypriot side.”
Anastasiades said he would brief the Cypriot people after his return from the UN.
He smacked down a reporter’s remark that the previously hyped-up press statement was “wishy washy” and without detail, saying it was neither. It depicted the realities, he said. “We did not want in any way to mislead anyone”. He added that the hype in the days leading up to Wednesday’s meeting had only served to “cultivate a climate of negativity” and did not stand up to scrutiny.
According to the joint statement, read by UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide, significant progress has been achieved on many of the outstanding issued on the chapters of governance and power-sharing, economy, EU matters and property.
“However, certain substantial divergences still remain.”
The statement was meant to inform on the progress achieved during a so-called intensive round of talks that included eight meetings between the leaders.
The two leaders also exchanged views and positions, in a brainstorming manner, on the chapters of security and guarantees, as well as territory.
“Although these initial exchanges have demonstrated that the respective views remain apart, there is a strong determination to resolve them in a mutually acceptable manner,” the statement said.
Asked if there was a road map and if pressure was being exerted by the international community, Anastasiades said that there was no pressure and no intention to exert pressure, and added that if no substantive progress is achieved on the outstanding issues – which are many – so to justify a multilateral conference, this would not happen, “no matter who intervenes or who wants to exert pressure”. But he made it clear this had not happened.
Eide, asked whether a multi-party conference would be on the agenda during the meeting with Ban said: “What we will discuss with the UNSG will become known to the Secretary-General when the meeting is being held and then maybe we can say something after that.”
But the commitment, he added, “is to have a serious meeting, well prepared from all three sides, the two sides here and the UN, to discuss where we are in this process.”
He spoke of how committed and supportive Ban was to the process and the leaders “want to see that he becomes even more directly involved in the coming months.”
“They will take stock of the state of play in the negotiations, inform him of their achievements to date as well as of the challenges ahead,” he added.
Asked whether they would also discuss the financial aspect of the solution he replied, “absolutely.”
Replying to an additional question about a possible donors meeting Eide said “we will definitely discuss everything which includes of course the financing and that obviously also means that we have to discuss the modalities by which we ensure economic support”. In what kind of form, meeting or framework I have no comment, he concluded.
Following the meeting, Akinci stressed the importance of reaching a comprehensive settlement within 2016.
Extension of the procedure into 2017 involved risks, he said, while a procedure without a timeframe was not a goal and could lead to deadlock.
Akinci said the leaders wanted to agree on as much as possible or on everything concerning the four chapters where there are differences in order to make way for a five-party meeting and reach an agreement within 2016 on the issues of security, guarantees and territorial adjustments.
He added that while in the US, he might also meet with Vice President Jo Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry as they both expressed interest in meeting him.
Anastasiades, asked if he felt strong enough `given the climate of division in the domestic front`, said that he did not share the view that there was division in the domestic front. “I am interested in the unity that must prevail between us,” he said and noted that he needed a responsible stance on the part of the political leaders during the next phase of the Cyprus talks.
Later on Wednesday, the National Council, the top advisory body to the president on the handling of the Cyprus issue, will convene to be briefed by Anastasiades on the state of play at the UN-led talks.