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Nuland tries to help bridge the gaps (Update 2)

By Angelos Anastasiou and Elias Hazou

SECURITY and guarantees were said to be the main focus of numerous contacts on Thursday by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland but separate statements by the two leaders showed the gulf between them on the core issues.

President Nicos Anastasiades reportedly told Nuland the Greek Cypriot side would not agree to Turkish guarantees in a post-solution federal Cyprus, nor would it accept a Turkish proposal for a military base on the island.

Likewise, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said Turkish Cypriots would not accept that just because a federal Cyprus would be an EU member state, this did not mean there was no need for security and guarantees.

CNA said Nuland did not convey any proposal from Washington on the issue but Anastasiades and the US official did exchange views on the possibility of the United Nations Security Council undertaking a role post-solution. Asked to comment on Nuland’s role, Anastasiades said the US was trying to establish how the differences could be bridged.

“That is, if they can be bridged – because if the other side insists on what we know, you realise that the situation becomes more complicated,” he said.

During the meeting, Anastasiades was reported to have also tabled a number of issues not directly linked to the talks, but which were said to be undermining the dialogue and sending negative messages regarding the Turkish side’s intentions.

The issues, according to the CNA, included things like the Turkish Cypriot side’s refusal to allow their banks to be evaluated ahead of preparations for harmonisation with eurozone rules, its refusal to approve more religious services in Orthodox churches in the north, problems in staffing Greek Cypriot schools in the north, the agreement for the supply of power from Turkey to the Turkish Cypriots, as well as their decision not to change to daylight saving time on October 31, which will result in two time zones in Cyprus.

After meeting with Anastasiades, the US diplomat travelled north to see Akinci and also met separately with UN special envoy Espen Barth-Eide.

In the evening, the president received Nuland for a second time, for a follow-up discussion after the US diplomat’s meeting with Akinci.

After that, Nuland shuttled back to the north to meet anew with the Turkish Cypriot leader.

In comments to reporters after her second meeting with Anastasiades, Nuland spoke of “a very good round of consultations today.

“We come as a friend of the process and a supporter, but it is very much led by these leaders. We are delighted to be here in the middle of this very intensive period in October when they are meeting virtually every day, to have a chance to share openly with them the work that they are doing.”

The US government, she went on, is “enormously impressed by how the two teams are working really hard to create a future for all the Cypriot people and to create more opportunity here on the island.”

In his own brief remarks to the media, Anastasiades indirectly confirmed that Nuland’s visit focused on the issues of security and guarantees in a reunited island.

“What they are seeking to do, not only the United States but other countries as well, is to see how they can contribute to overcoming problems which do not relate to matters pertaining to the internal aspects of the Cyprus question.

“And they are welcome to do so, to affect the course of events in a bid to overcome problems or demands which do not pertain to the internal aspect.”

Akinci earlier told reporters in the north that he and Nuland discussed security and guarantees, as well as other issues.

No solution plan has been submitted from outside, he stressed, reiterating that the talks were a Cypriot-led process.

Security and guarantees would be the last of the six chapters to be negotiated, Akinci said.

The Turkish Cypriot leader stuck to his guns, saying: “Turkish Cypriots do not, and shall not, accept the viewpoint that because we are going to be a modern state and a member of the EU, that therefore there is no need for security and guarantees.”

And he cited the fact that only a year after the establishment of the Republic, in 1960, the Greek Cypriots amended the constitution.

The Turkish Cypriot insists on a rotating presidency, Akinci added, alluding to this year’s parliamentary elections in the south which witnessed a rise in reactionary forces opposed to a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation as the model for the solution.

The two leaders themselves also met on Thursday, for the fourth time since they agreed to further intensify talks in October, in a bid to make further progress ahead of a crucial meeting on territory in early November.

“Further convergences were noted on some issues,” Anastasiades said on his return to the presidential palace, noting that “differences remain”.

“Today, we discussed [with Akinci] issues of effective participation in government, decision-making processes, and the possible future need for constitutional amendments.”

Discussion on these would resume today, the president added.

He said the intensified talks were producing the intended results.

“There will be differences, and they will remain until the conclusion of the process – if the proposals tabled are such as to allow conclusion,” he said.

“But I want to believe that we are all working towards a conclusion, and that in the end the other side will show flexibility on demands not based on strong arguments, regarding views that we disagree with.”

Meanwhile Turkey and Israel were on Thursday launching official talks to examine the feasibility of building a subsea gas pipeline to pump Israeli gas to Turkish consumers and on to Europe.

“What we decided is to establish immediately a dialogue between our two governments… in order to examine the possibility and the feasibility of such a project,” Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said after talks with Turkish counterpart Berat Albayrak in Istanbul.

The talks on the proposed Israel-Turkey pipeline come just three days after Russia and Turkey signed an agreement on the construction of the TurkStream pipeline to pump Russian gas to Turkey and Europe.

Nicosia has ruled out piping Cypriot gas to Europe via a pipeline to Turkey – considered the cheapest option – unless and until the island’s political problem is resolved first. For its part, Ankara has warned that the Greek Cypriots cannot unilaterally exploit gas reserves, without including the Turkish Cypriots.

There has been tentative talk of Cypriot gas reserves possibly linking up with Israeli reserves into a single pipeline traversing the eastern Mediterranean and landing off Turkish shores.

 

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