The momentum built up in the reunification talks must not be lost, the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide said on Tuesday, adding he was confident that both leaders are willing to come back to the negotiating table.
Speaking to reporters after meeting ruling Disy leader Averof Neophytou, Eide conceded that the collapse of the second round of talks at Mont Pelerin was a setback.
But after speaking with the two leaders since his return to the island, he was confident that both wished to resume talks.
The Norwegian diplomat said this was the first time in the history of the Cyprus problem that the two communities were directly negotiating the thorny issue of territory.
“The last mile is always the hardest,” he noted.
Meanwhile hours before arriving on the island, UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson called for more flexibility and creativity in the efforts to reach a solution.
“This is a significant time in the settlement negotiations and I look forward to meeting with both leaders. I welcome the progress made in the negotiations in recent months. I applaud the dedication of both negotiating teams, and the continued determination, and courageous leadership from President Anastasiades and Mr Akinci. With further flexibility and creativity by all sides involved, we believe a solution is within reach,” said Johnson.
He added that “the UK fully supports the current settlement process and stands ready to help in any way it can in order to bring lasting peace to Cyprus.”
In a statement he also affirmed that “the UK has a strong and important relationship with Cyprus,” a relationship that, as he said, he believes “will only go from strength to strength in years to come.”
Eide said his task as facilitator was to help bring the two leaders back to the table. But that decision rested with president Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.
“I cannot want this more than they do,” Eide remarked.
The UN special envoy said he would continue his shuttle diplomacy with the two leaders while also meeting with political figures to gauge their attitudes toward the talks.
For his part, Disy’s Neophytou said difficulties are always part of the equation.
“We have learned not to quit… I would like for the talks to resume tomorrow. Where this is a will, anything is possible,” he said.
Also on Tuesday Eide met Andros Kyprianou, leader of Akel.
“We are not working with a specific time frame in mind, but it is very important to be aware that as we loose time we increase the risks of other factors coming in and making it more difficult to find a lasting and sustainable settlement”, Eide said after that meeting.
The two sides disagree on the territorial delineation of the constituent parts of a future Cypriot federal state.
A one-on-one meeting between Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, to discuss security and guarantees, may be taking place in early December.
The two heads of state will be attending a UNESCO convention to be held in the United Arab Emirates on December 3 and 4.
International movers and shakers are said to be working on a novel proposal to get the talks back on course.
A twin-track process is being mulled, where Anastasiades and Akinci would resume territory discussions, while in parallel Greece and Turkey commence discussions on security and guarantees.
Should the two tracks progress satisfactorily, the thinking is to subsequently convene a multi-party conference – including Britain, the other guarantor power – to wrap up an overall agreement.
For Nicosia, the stumbling block lies in the Turkish side’s position that the second track should feature all involved parties – not only Turkey and Greece. In effect, that a multi-party conference be held, awaiting the outcome of the two leaders’ territory discussions.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was meanwhile due on the island on Tuesday evening. He is due to hold separate meetings with Anastasiades, Akinci and Eide.
And US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Euroasian Affairs Jonathan Cohen will also be in Cyprus next week.
Amid the flurry of diplomatic activity, opposition Diko have complained that the UN special envoy has chosen to meet with Disy and Akel only, but not with them.
Asked to comment, UN spokesperson Aleem Siddique told the Cyprus News Agency that Eide “would gladly meet with Diko.”
Diko leader Nicholas Papadopoulos is scheduled to visit Athens later this week for talks with Greek government officials and party leaders.