UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday urged the two leaders in Cyprus to “make the most of the moment” as he joined them for the start of their crucial talks in Switzerland.
Ban was speaking after meeting President Nicos Anasatasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci for around 40 minutes ahead of the leaders’ intensified talks at Mont Pelerin amid spectacular views of Lake Geneva.
Under grey skies and a sudden snow shower, Ban arrived amid heavy but discreet security, and a media gaggle, at the Mirador resort and spa at 10.40am Cyprus time and was welcomed by his Special Adviser for Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, and Special Representative Elizabeth Spehar.
Speaking to the press briefly after meeting the leaders, Ban commended them for their efforts and said a solution was within their reach.
“The two leaders have expressed their hope that this meeting will pave the way for the last phase of the talks in line with their shared commitment to do their utmost in order to reach a settlement within 2016,” said Ban.
“I highly commend their Excellencies Mr Akıncı and Mr Anastasiades for their efforts.”
Ban said significant progress had been made in the leader-led process over the past 18 months.
At the same time, a number of sensitive and difficult issues still remained, he added but said the leaders were there with a strong commitment and determination to work towards solving all these issues.
“The two leaders have reached a critical juncture in their talks. I encourage them to make the most of the moment and the momentum,” said Ban. “It will be crucial as they tackle the outstanding issues across chapters, during this week in Switzerland and beyond.”
He commended the leaders for their vision, courage and leadership for advancing their talks further than ever before. “The prospect of a solution in Cyprus is within their reach. Expectations in both communities are high,” Ban added.
He said Cyprus offered tremendous hope to people around the world that long-standing conflicts can be resolved peacefully through negotiations.
Ban assured the two leaders of his full support and the commitment of the United Nations to assist them in whatever way to reach their shared goal, while respecting that the future of Cyprus would be determined by Cypriots, for all Cypriots.
He also called on all interested parties — especially the guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom — as well as the wider international community, to support the leaders in their efforts to overcome the division of their island.
Ban sat in on the first session of the leaders’ meeting and attended a working lunch, after which he left the hotel.
A surprise guest at the lunch was Michael Moller director-general of the United Nations office in Geneva who served as UN Special Representative in Cyprus from 2006-2008.
Eide tweeted in the afternoon that the talks were “off to a good start”, though they were not due to kick off substantial talks until around 6.30pm Cyprus time. Territory and property are not due to make an appearance on the agenda until Tuesday. The leaders are meeting twice a day from 10am to 1pm and 6pm to 8.30pm Swiss time but are said to be flexible.
According to Cyprus News Agency reports from Switzerland citing sources, Ban made an evaluation of the chapters with the leaders with specific emphasis on property and territory as the areas where there were more substantial differences. He also spoke about the ‘first day’ of a solution, its implementation and economic aspects. Ban also noted the differences between the two sides on security and reportedly it was agreed that the security of one side should not be at the expense of the other.
During the meeting with Ban, both leaders also spoke for around ten minutes each but did not enter the substance of the issues, CNA said. Anastasiades stressed the importance of defining criteria on territory, and of producing maps. Akinci did not get into detail in his statement, the news agency said.
The outcome of the week-long negotiations, which are to focus on territory and some other outstanding issues is likely to determine whether the talks continue into the final stretch of discussing security and guarantees at a five-party meeting. Akinci wants a date to be fixed for the multi-party meeting during the Swiss talks. The Turkish side also wants minimal territorial adjustments, which is contrary to the Greek Cypriot side’s red line on the return of Morphou.
There are also fears at home that Anastasiades will be bamboozled into agreeing to developments that could prove detrimental to Greek Cypriot positions such as linking territory with guarantees. Akinci says all issues are interconnected.
Anastasiades is being accompanied to Mont Pelerin by Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides, deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos, the President`s advisers and participants in the talks with the Turkish Cypriot leader, Polys Polyviou and Kypros Chrysostomides, the head of the team supporting the Greek Cypriot negotiator, Panayiotis Demetriou, and the members of the team, Nicos Kleanthous and Toumazos Tselepis, Nikolas Kyriakou from the Law Office of the Republic, the head of the working group on the property issue Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis and Senior Land Officer Andreas Hadjiraftis.
Akinci is escorted by his negotiating team and two experts on land and surveys and maps.
(Additional contribution from Politis Editor-in-Chief Giorgos Kaskanis in Mont Pelerin)
(Additional contribution from Politis editor-in-chief Giorgos Kaskanis in Mont Pelerin)