UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was scheduled to arrive in Turkey on Friday – his first visit after assuming the post in January – to discuss the Cyprus issue with the Turkish leadership, it emerged late on Thursday.
A source close to Guterres confirmed the trip to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), adding that a statement would follow.
The talks in Turkey would revolve around the situation in Syria, the refugee crisis, and Cyprus.
Due to the bad weather, CNA said, Guterres and his team were on Thursday evening delayed at New York’s Kennedy Airport as they waited to board a flight to Istanbul.
The UN chief would spend a day in Turkey, later travelling on to the Gulf states, the source said.
Guterres’ visit to the region comes amid diplomatic efforts and jockeying by guarantor powers Greece and Turkey ahead of a new mooted summit on Cyprus.
President Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday meanwhile revealed that a new Conference on Cyprus would not be held before March 13.
Anastasiades was speaking on his return to the presidential palace after meeting Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.
“The two negotiators have prepared details on the convergences and deviations. Based on this preparation we have started the dialogue to see how the differences can be converted to convergences,” he said.
Anastasiades said at their meeting, the leaders had started with the issue of governance. “I should say that there was a relative progress, but certainly there remains much work to be done,” he said.
He said discussions in coming meetings would be a crossover between various chapters to achieve the maximum possible convergence before the Conference on Cyprus.
Akıncı said after the meeting that the right thing to do would be for the Greek Cypriot side to declare that the rotating presidency had been accepted.
He said there would be no agreement unless Turkish Cypriots were given political equality which would consist of effective involvement in decisions and the rotating presidency.
Instead of making contradictory statements, the Greek Cypriot side should start preparing its community for this, he said.
Akinci said there were eight or ten very important outstanding issues. “There are issues around these but if the important ones are solved, the rest will automatically follow,” he said.
He said he and Anastasiades had also discussed the opening of the checkpoints Dherynia and Lefka.
He said he appealed to Anastasiades to speed up the works on the Greek Cypriot side.
Commenting on the attacks on cars belonging to Turkish Cypriots in Troodos over the weekend, Akıncı said the important thing was for the perpetrators to be found and brought to justice.
Anastasiades when asked whether the leaders had been briefed by UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide on his recent meetings in Athens and Ankara, said there had been discussion on that.
“We have a picture,” he said.
“The general picture is that it is the intention of the parties to reach a solution the soonest possible.”
Turkey’s demand that the four EU freedoms be granted to Turkish nationals, was not on the table, the president said.
Asked about a date for the new Cyprus conference, Anastasiades said: “It will be possible after 13 March.”
The Turkish press reported Eide as saying on Thursday that increased tensions between Greece and Turkey were causing difficulties.
Following two days of talks in Ankara, Eide reportedly told Turkish Habertürk television that a solution was possible and the leaders had reached a point they had not reached before but the support of the guarantor countries was necessary.
“The increased tension during the last days and weeks has made my work difficult. I wish it did not exist but we want to have a platform where Turkey and Greece could cooperate without been negatively affected by the Cyprus problem,” Eide said.
He said this could help towards having good results at the Cyprus negotiations and a positive impact in the region of Eastern Mediterranean.
Referring further to the negotiations, he said that during his visit to Turkey they had the opportunity to put all the issues at the table and seek answers to questions regarding the status and the guarantor powers in Cyprus.
“I believe that we can find a middle road. Negotiations showed to me that this is possible. A solution that the two sides would feel that are not threatened is possible,” he said.
He added that they were trying to approach the issue of security from a different point of view which would safeguard the present and future.
“We want a solution for both communities to be co-owners of the state,” he said.
Eide referred to four levels regarding the efforts for the solution: the solution itself, and the quality of the solution; the solution regarding inter-security and the safeguarding of the application of the solution and the foreign security of Cyprus.
He said it was not possible to say what results could be reached at this point but added that “one has to be creative and think outside of the box” in order to meet the needs of the two communities.
This involved making the Turkish Cypriot community feel that it was politically equal despite being smaller numerically while at the same time making sure this is done in a way that will also satisfy the Greek Cypriot side.
Eide said that the maps submitted by the two sides were very close to each other. He also said that this issue has been transformed into something that could be solved. “Since the two sides committed to their people that they will do anything possible for the establishment of a united state, which was a dream of years for many people and a development that will be positive for the people of Cyprus, then I think that a solution will be reached,” Eide said adding that he is “realistically optimistic”.
“If there is a will there will be a way,” he added. “Both leaders want the solution and share a common dream. This is a solution written by the Cypriots themselves. The UN does not want to write the solution for them. This is a mistake we committed in the past.”