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Guterres: Friday talks ‘slightly more positive’

File photo: Antonio Guterres, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci at Crans Montana (CNA)

THE Crans-Montana negotiations appeared to turn slightly more positive on Friday under the auspices of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who said though there was some progress on the internal chapters, major stumbling blocks remained on security and guarantees.

Guterres, who attended the main conference session, had lunch with the leaders and held meetings on the side with representatives of the guarantor powers, Turkey, Greece and Britain, said it was time for all of the parties involved to take bold decisions.

He said they had a responsibility to grasp the opportunity for peace and to “bring a comprehensive settlement home to Cyprus”.

“I firmly believe that through determination and political will, it will be possible to clear this final hurdle and reach a comprehensive settlement,” he said, adding that all participants had declared that they were there to find a solution.

“I call on the leaders and the other participants in the conference to heed the call for peace of thousands of Cypriots at rallies on the island this week,” Guterres said. “The voices in support of a solution are indeed getting louder. At the same time, there is no doubt that some sensitive and difficult issues remain to be resolved.”

He said the chapter on security and guarantees was of crucial importance to a comprehensive solution, adding that Crans-Montana offered a historic opportunity.

“But it is clear that the security of one community cannot come at the expense of the other and I urge all parties to continue in this area to engage in these critical negotiations with the same constructive and creative spirit that they have displayed so far, taking the bold decisions that are still needed to find common ground,” he added.

During questions from journalists, Guterres was asked to comment on reports attributed to him that his view was that Cyprus should become a “normal state”. This gave the impression that the UN agreed there should be no Turkish troops or guarantees.

He responded by saying that all parties involved hoped for this.

“Where there are differences is of course in the amount of time needed for that and the conditions for that to take place. This is one of the areas where we still do not have an agreement,” he said.

Earlier, media reports had suggested that the Greek side is in favour of the ‘sunset clause’, which provides for the withdrawal of all Turkish troops while the Turkish side supports the ‘review clause’ which provides for the withdrawal of the troops with a small number remaining with a review within a certain period of time as to whether their presence should continue.

Guterres said there were “some new positions” at the conference, showing increased flexibility in some aspects. “But still, the most important things are to be done,” he said. “It is slow progress.”

Setting a deadline for the talks, was not however an option, the UNSG said. “If we would put a deadline we would help create the conditions for the problem not to be solved,” he said, adding that it was up to the parties.

The role of the UN, he added, is to support the parties to find a solution, not to present one to the parties.

Asked about the possibility of UN disengagement in the event a settlement is not reached, Guterres said their role was to support the parties and that the UN was not impatient

“What we want is the result to be positive and sustainable. We don’t want a false agreement that won’t last,” he said.

“So I can guarantee that from our side, we are not impatient and we are not threatening the parties in any way. On the contrary, we are here with humility but with determination to help find a solution, knowing that solution is very, very difficult to find.   And, of course we are not thinking about any proposal to the Security Council in relation to the peace operations.”

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