President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on Wednesday began discussions on the criteria for territory during their negotiations in Mont Pelerin in Switzerland but Thursday is expected to be the most crucial day for the talks.
The leaders met in the morning with their negotiators and UN envoy Espen Barth Eide and met again in the afternoon in accordance with their daily schedule at the Swiss resort.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, Greek Cypriot sources said the most important criterion was the number of the refugees that would be able to return under Greek Cypriot administration.
They also reiterated the importance of having an agreement on the criteria that would then be used in order to draw a map. No location names were being discussed at this stage but only the overall percentage of the territory that would be allocated to each constituent state.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said following Wednesday’s meeting the two sides submitted their positions in a document – the Greek Cypriot written in blue and red for the Turkish Cypriot side. Based on this document, the two leaders will begin the “substantial discussion” on territory criteria on Thursday.
“The goal is, through this discussion, for an agreement to be reached on the criteria, and for these to be applied to a map so that there can be an agreement on this issue,” Christodoulides said.
He added that the fact that it was very positive as this was the first time ever in the course of the settlement talks that territorial criteria were being discussed.
“We did not expect such progress today. The fact that we have this unified document and discussion begins tomorrow, we believe is a positive development to the right direction,” Christodoulides said.
Commenting on whether there is sufficient time by Friday to reach an agreement on the issue, he said that “when there is the necessary will at the negotiation table, we believe the time is satisfactory”.
He added that there has also been progress on some points of the property issue – which were not discussed in Cyprus – and which concern property that falls within areas where territorial adjustments are being discussed.
“There is progress, but discussion is focused on territory now,” Christodoulides said.
He added however, that even if there is no substantial progress as regards territory, talks in Mont Pelerin, “are not the end of the road”.
“The goal is to reach progress and those conditions so that we can reach a positive result. What’s important is the results on the negotiations table”.
He reiterated that the Greek Cypriot side would only agree to a five-party conference – where security and guarantees would be discussed – if there was agreement on the criteria and a map was drawn.
This statement contradicts reports from the north saying that the underlying position coming from the Turkish side was that once the criteria for territory was agreed, a map would not be produced until the leaders decided on a date for a five-party conference with the guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and Britain.
If a date of the five-party conference were not finalised, the process would not go ahead, according to Yeni Duzen, citing sources.
It said that among the criteria on which the Greek Cypriot side insists is the number of Greek Cypriots who will return under Greek Cypriot administration – it mentions 100,000 – the size of the constituent states and the length of the coastlines for each.
Under the title ‘If there is no five-party summit there will be no map’, daily Havadis reported that the Turkish Cypriot side insists on holding a five-party conference, which it considers as “the most important step to solving the Cyprus problem”.
“If the decision for a five-party summit, in which the guarantees and the territory will be solved, does not come out, the Mont Pelerin summit will fail,” it said because the Turkish side will not put a map on the table.
The reports said the Turkish side wants Anastasiades to agree on a date for a five-party conference to conclude the guarantees discussion by the middle of December and to issue a joint written statement with Akinci, before a draft of the maps based on the agreed criteria is put on the table. If this does not happen, the Swiss talks will have failed, sources told Havadis.
“If the effort fails and they do not return with a date for a five-party conference from Switzerland, the Greek Cypriot side will have great responsibility,” the sources said.
During the first two days of their talks on Monday and Tuesday, the leaders discussed the unresolved issues on the chapters of EU, the economy, governance and power sharing and property. However, the rotating presidency – which the Greek Cypriot side opposes – has not been discussed. Some progress was made on property on Tuesday but no one is saying what that entailed except that the issue is not totally closed.
The negotiations at Mont Pelerin are due to end on Friday.