There is sufficient progress in the ongoing reunification talks to warrant advancing to the thorny issue of territory, perhaps in November and at a venue outside Cyprus, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Monday.
The president announced also a press conference for November 3 to inform the public of where the negotiations stand.
Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci are currently engaged in intensified talks, focusing on governance and power-sharing, property, economy and European Union matters.
It has been agreed that the trickiest issues – territorial adjustments and security-guarantees – will be discussed at the tail-end of the negotiations process.
Speaking to reporters after his latest meeting with Akinci, Anastasiades said there was sufficient progress to justify proceeding to “the next stage, a conference on the issue of territory at a venue abroad.”
Asked when such a conference might be held, he hinted at early or mid-November, saying that by then agreement could be reached on the current chapters under discussion.
“We have said that we have observed significant progress, there are issues where we are very close, therefore I think that it is time for a meeting on territory, which is linked to property, where differences still exist,” he said.
For his part, speaking to media in the north after meeting Anastasiades, Akinci was quoted as saying that an “intensive process” on the issue of territory would be taking place during the first half of November.
Prior to that, the two leaders are scheduled to meet on three other occasions, on October 24, 26 and 31.
The Turkish Cypriot leader noted that he was “optimistic” about the next stage of negotiations.
The next stage would begin with a discussion of territory, followed by security and guarantees.
The goal for reaching agreement by the end of the year remains, he added.
Asked whether he has received promises for a five-way conference – featuring Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, as the guarantor powers – Akinci demurred on the question, saying only that such a conference is in any case necessary.
He said that there exists a “perception” that a Bürgenstock-type conference will be held, adding that if it were not held, that would mean the side opposing such a conference is not seeking a solution.
He was alluding to the March 2004 multilateral meeting in Bürgenstock, Switzerland, where the final stage of the Cyprus talks had been held prior to the referendums that year.
Greece and Turkey have already begun discussions on a multilateral conference, Akinci added.
Moving on to another issue, he said that all 220,000 persons who are currently listed as ‘citizens’ of the breakaway regime must be granted citizenship in a reunified Cyprus.
The two sides, he said, have reached agreement on what will be done with persons not having this ‘citizenship’ but who possess temporary work permits in the north – evidently alluding to the many Turkish nationals employed in the breakaway regime.
These people will not be sent back, their work permits would be renewed. The larger the labour force, the better for the economy in a reunited island, Akinci noted.
Residence permits would be reviewed by the federal government and a joint committee.
Differences emerged during the day on the issue of guaranteed majorities with regard to population and property ownership in each of the constituent states in a federated Cyprus.
Speaking on a television programme, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said guaranteed majorities were out of the question.
Hitting back, Akinci’s spokesman Baris Burcu said the Turkish Cypriot side’s position is that people with internal citizenship of one constituent state, at the time the island is reunified, and who subsequently seek legal domicile in the other constituent state, can only reach 20 per cent of the population of the other constituent state.
“Under these conditions, Turkish Cypriots will be the majority in their constituent state, and Greek Cypriots will be the majority in theirs.”
In addition, quotas should be placed for people switching their legal domicile and registering to vote in their non-native constituent state.
Legal domicile, and the right of abode without political rights, are two different matters, Burcu said.