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Cyprus

Akinci aiming for settlement by April (updated)

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is putting all his hopes into reaching a settlement by the end of April at the latest because after that campaigning would kick off for the 2018 presidential elections, he said.

In an interview with Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, Akinci said the UN Secretary-General’s special adviser Espen Barth Eide would be having contacts with the guarantor powers, Turkey, Greece and Britain to come up with a new date for the continuation of the Cyprus conference in Geneva to discuss security and guarantees. Eide is in Turkey this week.

Akinci said the important thing was that all sides had the intention and the will.

“If this does not work out, it is highly likely that we are also coming to the end of the attempt at a federal settlement,” he said.

“For this to happen, there is not much time left apart from the few months ahead of us.”

He said that in addition to the presidential elections new tensions could emerge around natural gas exploration. Total is expected to begin drilling around the same time. “Therefore, the months of February, March and April will be seriously decisive,” said Akinci.

The Turkish Cypriot leader repeated that the issue of security and guarantees does not only concern the two communities.

“There are five sides involved: two communities and three guarantor countries. That was the reason the Cyprus Conference in

Geneva had five attendants. If no agreement is reached, the international agreements will remain in place. No one can change these agreements unilaterally,” he added.

Akinci said Greece and the Greek Cypriot side should leave aside their rhetoric of ‘zero soldiers, zero guarantee’.

“Our counterparts need to understand that, in terms of guarantees, Turkish Cypriots do not see their safety in any other place than with Turkey. We are told, ‘you will be in the EU, this is enough of a guarantee’. Yet, the EU does not have such a mechanism.”

He said when it came to governance, the Greek Cypriots would have to come to terms with power sharing, something they have reservations about, Akinci said.

“They will come to terms with the fact that a Turkish Cypriot will become the president of the federal state within the framework of rotating presidency. They will share the government, the assembly and resources. Therefore, they have reservations about these issues.”

He acknowledged that Turkish Cypriots would also have to share, especially when it comes to territory. “Difficulties are being experienced regarding this issue,” said Akinci.

“There are 8-10 issues over which we need to reach an agreement.”

The leaders are aiming to resume the conference on Cyprus in early March. After the January 12 meeting in Geneva, they were to come back to Cyprus and try and solve outstanding issues before a new attempt was made with the guarantor powers.

In the second part of the interview, Akinci said “there are voices for a Plan B or a Plan C, like annexation by Turkey,” he said.

“These issues are not on our agenda. Such a development would benefit neither us, nor Turkey. Annexation benefits no one.”

On maps submitted by each side at last month’s Geneva summit on Cyprus, Akinci said the issue will be the last to be addressed.

“We have not agreed to any map,” he said.

“The Greek Cypriots rejected our map and we rejected theirs. The maps, which remain locked in a United Nations vault, will come out last. The vault will open once everything is over.”

Though there will be territorial adjustments, he said, “our goal is to move as few people as possible”.

On properties, Akinci said the issue can be solved as part of a comprehensive solution.

“The dominant view is that the problem will be largely solved through compensation,” he said.

“There will be compensations, exchanges and restitutions. There may be a limit for returns to be capped at one-third of total properties, but no agreement on this exists yet. However, the trend is in this direction.”

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