Important weeks lie ahead for the Cyprus problem as the two sides on the island prepare for the arrival of a UN envoy who will determine whether there are grounds for the resumption of reunification talks, UN Secretary General Special Representative Elizabeth Spehar said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades, Spehar said they had spoken about the upcoming security council session and also about the upcoming consultations that will be undertaken on behalf of the secretary-general by his envoy Jane Hall Lute.
“And so, we will be preparing for some quite important weeks ahead,” she added.
Lute has been designated by the secretary-general to conduct consultations to see what the outcome of the reflection of the parties is with respect to what happened in Crans-Montana, the past negotiation process and their views on the possible way ahead.
Asked if the secretary-general will take a decision on how to move ahead and when Spehar said ‘we have to take one step at a time’.
She said Lute will first come to the island and speak with the two leaders and then with the other parties and see what the outcome of their reflection is before reporting back to the secretary-general.
“It will be up to the secretary-general to see what the next step will be,” Spehar said.
Spehar later met Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.
Government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said the Greek Cypriot side was ready to resume the talks and was looking forward to Lute’s visit.
“The positions of the Greek Cypriot side and President Anastasiades remain the same: the talks should resume where we left off,” Prodromou said.
On the visit next week by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the north, immediately after his swearing in after his recent re-election, Prodromou said that this an ‘illegal visit’ and that the Greek Cypriot side would like to see other initiatives by Turkey.
Commenting on Erdogan’s presence at the official opening of the enormous Hala Sultan mosque in Mia Milia, Prodromou said: “Unfortunately, the political direction of Turkey in recent years is well-known with regard to the issues of mingling religion with politics.”
He said that the government is concerned that fanaticism can be cultivated in the north in various ways, ‘especially since, there was never in Cyprus a question of political engagement on the basis of religion, and there was never such a fanaticism among the Turkish Cypriots’.
This, he said, is an additional reason for the urgent need for a settlement agreement, ‘which would end the Turkish occupation and this type of undesirable influence’.
Akinci, following his meeting with Spehar, said that the Turkish side has responded positively to the appointment of Lute. As the elections in Turkey are over, he said, the procedure can now carry on.
The Turkish Cypriot leader said however, that Lute’s visit cannot be considered as the start of new, never-ending procedure as regards the negotiations. He reiterated that his side is determined not to participate in an open-ended procedure and that they would like a procedure with timeframes.
Akinci said that he did not discuss this matter with Spehar, but that he will bring it up during his meeting with Lute.
To achieve a settlement solution, Akinci said, a federal structure with political equality must be agreed, and that need for security of one side will not be considered a threat for the other side.
The date for Lute’s visit has not been finalised yet. Greek Cypriots would prefer it to be after July 20, the anniversary of the 1974 Turkish invasion.
Akinci said that, according to his information, Lute will visit the island this month, and that the week beginning on July 23 is most suitable for the Turkish Cypriot side.
The latest round of reunification talks at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana took place between June 28 and July 6, 2017 but ended in deadlock over disagreements on security and guarantees.
Both sides have since blamed each other for the collapse.
Lute’s anticipated arrival follows the agreement by Anastasiades and Akinci last April, during their first meeting since the collapse of the talks last July, on the appointment of an envoy by the UN secretary-general to explore the possibility of resuming reunification talks.