UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon may join the leaders in Switzerland during their crucial discussions on territory, the UN chief’s special adviser on Cyprus said on Thursday.
Espen Barth Eide did not rule out Ban’s presence at Mont Pelerin, the venue selected for the territory talks from November 7 to 11.
“It could happen,” Eide told reporters after meeting with Andros Kyprianou, leader of main opposition Akel.
The UN has yet to finalise its own arrangements for the talks at the Swiss resort, he added.
Whereas the five-day talks in Switzerland are by no means the end of the road for a Cyprus settlement, the Norwegian diplomat stressed, the outcome will prove critical to the negotiations process.
It has been several years, Eide said, since the two sides last sat down to discuss the nitty gritty of the territory aspect and to exchange maps. During previous peace processes, it was usually other parties – such as the UN – who had submitted maps.
This underlined that it is truly a Cypriot-led process, said Eide.
The talks on the sensitive issue of territory will be taking place overseas, at the insistence of Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, to prevent potentially damaging leaks.
The importance of the talks at Mont Pelerin was likewise underscored by the government.
“It’s get-real time for the territory issue,” government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told the state broadcaster.
The two leaders, he said, will be cutting into the marrow of the issue by exchanging maps and discussing specific areas.
And still-open issues in the other chapters already covered (governance, power-sharing) may also be discussed.
Christodoulides did not rule out that security and guarantees – agreed to be left to last – may be brought up in Switzerland.
It was possible the two leaders might “exchange views” on the issue, although it would certainly not dominate the proceedings.
Asked whether in Switzerland the leaders would engage in give-and-take, the spokesman said no.
“We are not at that stage yet,” he noted.
Christodoulides reiterated that the return of the district of Morphou is a “red line” for the Greek Cypriot side.
The Greek Cypriot team has drawn lines in the sand for a number of points, he said. But at the same time, in anticipation of the tough negotiations ahead, various alternative scenarios have been drawn up.
Meanwhile it was still unclear whether the leaders of political parties will be joining President Nicos Anastasiades at the Swiss resort.
That would be decided during the meeting of the National Council, scheduled for this Sunday, the spokesman said.
What is known, he added, is that the number of technocrats accompanying the president would run in the double digits.
Christodoulides demurred on the question of whether the Turkish Cypriot side attempted to broaden the scope of the talks in Switzerland, by having non-Cypriot parties attend as observers.
“The president’s position was very clear at the outset: this is not going to be an international meeting, a four-way or five-way conference or what have you.”
The government’s insistence on Morphou’s return was promptly rebutted by the Turkish Cypriot side.
In a statement issued later in the day, Baris Burcu, spokesman for Akinci, criticised the Greek Cypriots for their ‘sloganeering’.
“Mr Christodoulides insists on talking about so-called red lines, such as that Turkish guarantees [for a federated Cyprus] are unacceptable, or the return of Morphou,” Burcu said.
Such an intransigent stance, he said, is not helpful to the peace process as the two sides have not yet even begun to discuss maps.
“Our response to him [Christodoulides] is therefore that Morphou cannot be returned.”
As Anastasiades prepares for the Switzerland talks, he has continued to take flak from opposition parties for agreeing to transfer the negotiations abroad.
Diko said it was alarmed by the fact that, as it turns out, other issues beyond territory would be on the agenda at Mont Pelerin.
The party asked whether this meant the president will be forced into making concessions on other issues not directly related to the territory aspect – suggesting Anastasiades has been tactically outmaneuvered.