Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci may have caused President Nicos Anastasiades more domestic headaches by asserting that the two leaders will be meeting again soon in a ‘Camp David-style’ setting at a location abroad, followed by a five-way conference including the three guarantor powers.
In various interviews since his three-way meeting in New York on Sunday with Anastasiades and the UN Secretary-General, Akinci has spoken of the Greek Cypriot side’s “phobia of timetables,” adding that, regardless, an informal peace process schedule does exist and both sides are aware of it.
In statements to Turkish news channel NTV, and asked whether the process is about to enter a five-party conference with the participation of Turkey and Greece, Akinci replied that “this is actually the point at which we stand.”
He said that a “natural timetable” is in place and that the last stage of this timetable is a five-party conference.
Akinci added that intensified negotiations in Cyprus were to take place during the first two weeks of October.
“Afterwards it is inevitable for us to pass into a different format and in the end to go to a five-party summit. If our commitment to the target of 2016 continues… we can predict that the five-party conference will definitely take place before the end of 2016”.
Asked whether there will be a procedure similar to the one at Camp David during which the leaders will be discussing alone and at face-to-face meetings, issues such as property and territory, Akinci clarified that the issues which remained in the first four chapters – governance and power-sharing, property, EU and the economy -should be concluded and added:
“What we mean as the Turkish side when we refer to a process like the one at Camp David, is that Cyprus is a small place and discussions leak within a short period of time. The issues which leak become front page news in the papers the next day in an exaggerated manner.
“We want to create an environment outside Cyprus where a series of meetings will take place on sensitive issues which concern the territory in Cyprus. And right after that we want a five-party conference to take place. And we want all this to happen within the next one to two months.”
The two sides have distinct negotiating strategies: Anastasiades is seeking to secure as many convergences as possible during the talks here in Cyprus, while Akinci has stated that the thorny issue of territory cannot be discussed in Cyprus under the current format, but rather during meetings of the two leaders abroad.
It’s understood that the Greek Cypriot side wants most of the legwork on territory to be done in Cyprus, in order to achieve the best possible map, whereas for the Turkish Cypriots the issue of territory has a higher correlation to security and guarantees and therefore should be discussed at the end stage in a multi-party process.
Akinci also warned that failure to reach a settlement before the end of the year would be a recipe for disaster.
“If the Greek Cypriot side chooses to delay the process and tells us that it is ready to continue talks in 2017 then let me tell you now… this will be the recipe for a non-solution. What do we have in 2017? We will have a new Secretary General; we will have a new administration in the United States.
“If the Greek Cypriots start new hydrocarbon explorations then we will have tension again. Then in 2018 there are the elections in South Cyprus… so in other words the solution to the Cyprus problem will be left to another spring… a federal settlement will most likely be shelved.”
Akinci’s comments are almost certain to cause the government some bother, as in the wake of the New York meeting Anastasiades boasted that he had achieved his objective of not committing to a solution timetable, a roadmap, a five-party conference or arbitration, which government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides reiterated to state radio CyBC on Tuesday morning.