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Leaders offer different takes on UN secretary-general meeting (Updated)

As the dust settled on Monday following the meeting of the two leaders with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Sunday, his envoy Espen Barth Eide spoke of a new tripartite meeting “in the near future”.

Both President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have agreed to continue intensive negotiations on their return but appeared to have walked away from the meeting with slightly different takes. The former said on Sunday he was “completely satisfied” with the outcome and that there was no timetable, arbitration or road map.

Akinci, though he said he was “satisfied”, thought the New York meeting could have been “more satisfactory” if the Greek Cypriots had not pushed their known stance on a timetable.

He said however, there was in reality a timetable as Ban’s term in office would end this year.

Akinci said it would not be a problem if some technical issues remained for early 2017 but if the main issues were still open then the sides would be looking at a “situation of non-solution”.

Eide, in an interview with Turkish Cypriot newspaper Havadis said the issues on which agreement has not been reached were few but of strategic importance. He mentioned there were nine.

“The security and guarantees and the territory are two of them… the one side wants more things to be said and the other less. Actually they think exactly the same thing in principle. Even though no date has been set, there is a consensus as regards the issue of a new tripartite meeting in the near future,” said Eide.

He said the UN had no timetable and there was only the goal set by the two leaders. “However, we recall that time is of vital importance… because we see the opportunity and we know that we will not be able to wait for the window of opportunity to remain open for very long.”

Eide said Ban had told the same to the leaders during the 90-minute meeting. The UNSG had also said time was of the essence and the leaders should intensify their efforts “without delay, in earnest”.

Eide, asked by Havadis to comment on what went “wrong” in the tripartite meeting and where the road map expected by Akinci was, said that the sides agreed on the issue of where they want to go, but they faced difficulties on how to walk the road and how to plan the walk.

Eide said although the Greek Cypriot side knew this should be sorted and that they would have to return to New York within a few weeks, he did not want to say this publicly as it might be seen as UN pressure or indicate a timetable, something that was important from the Turkish Cypriots’ perspective.

“I must help them in overcoming the problem,” said Eide, adding that “open-ended processes can lead us nowhere.”

“Now this issue is in the hands of the Cypriots more than ever. The decisive characteristic of the following months is leadership,” Eide added.

The UN envoy told another Turkish Cypriot newspaper, Kibris Postasi, that there was a roadmap “the name of which is not said” and that a new intensified process would begin in October.

As far as reaching a solution within the next 90 days, Eide said that in the past solutions had been reached within shorter periods of time and to much more difficult problems.  “If there is a will for a solution, a way is always found,” he said.

Eide also gave an interview to the Cyprus News Agency, saying the leaders should not let the current opportunity slip by. Asked if he left the meeting more optimistic than before, he described himself as a “realist optimist” and that he believes that the meeting was “useful”. “They [the leaders] should not allow this opportunity to slip,” he said.

Akinci, in his statements, reiterated that prior to going to the US he had said no miracles should be expected. “No news for an agreement could come out of course from New York, while the negotiations still continue,” he said.

“I think that there is no reason for pessimism. There is also no reason for giving negative messages. Very comprehensive negotiations were held. There is an understanding on the road map, even though this is not said to the public. If this understanding does not prove itself within three months and we cannot produce a clear framework before 2017, then there will be reasons for being pessimistic,” he added.

Alleging that if the “very precious” period until the end of the year was wasted and the problem is extended into 2017 “as it stands today” he was worried a solution would be left to “another spring”.

Ban’s statement, he said, had reaffirmed the 2016 target. He also said it would be better if such issues as territory, maps, and other topics be discussed outside Cyprus in a series of meetings to avoid excessive media scrutiny.

Both leaders over the past few days have reiterated their red lines. Akinci said there would be no solution without a rotating presidency and Anastasiades said there should be no guarantees.

Eide, when asked by CNA whether he expected the leaders to conclude the issue of the presidency, rotating or not, and then to discuss territory and guarantees, said: “When it comes to the rotating presidency… that might be an example of an issue… it’s up to them… they might jointly agree to the final package. But practically everything else in the four chapters can be done in short time. Not only I think so, they think so. They said it.”

The sides have differences across all six chapters. The rotating presidency falls under governance. The core chapters are property, territory, guarantees and security.

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