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‘Not all options on the table’ foreign minister warns Turkey

Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said UN envoy Jane Holl Lute will present 'something more specific' this weekend

The only type of settlement is that on the negotiations table despite Turkey’s attempts to push for its own preferred solution, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said on Monday.

A few days before UN secretary-general’s envoy Jane Holl Lute meets separately with the two leaders, both sides continued to make statements over what type of settlement solution is being sought and who is most sincere about it. President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci are to have separate meetings in Nicosia this weekend with Lute whose task is to facilitate an agreement on the terms of reference for restarting Cyprus talks.

The latest back and forth between the two sides began last Friday during the visit in the north by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who many observers believe came to reprimand Akinci for his insistence on a bizonal, bicommunal federation and stated opposition to discuss other types of solution as per Ankara’s and some Turkish Cypriot parties’ wish.

During a joint press conference, Akinci and Cavusoglu reiterated that Anastasiades had referred to a two-state solution on multiple occasions, angering the government. Anastasiades had replied that Akinci misremembered and that the Greek Cypriot side had submitted in writing at Crans-Montana in the summer of 2017 its proposals on all the issues the UN secretary-general had raised, and within the parameters of finding a solution based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation.

Christodoulides said on Monday that Cavusoglu had come to Cyprus following a public dispute between Akinci and ‘Foreign Minister’ Kudret Ozersay over what type of solution the Turkish Cypriot side ought to pursue. Ozersay’s views echo those of Turkey.

He said that Akinci may have been forced by Cavusoglu to say last week that all options were open.

“He came to enforce the type of solution Turkey has always been seeking and through this framework, they are trying to justify this approach by attributing this so-called reference to the president (Anastasiades),” Christodoulides told state broadcaster CyBC. “But not all the options are on the table. This is a clear message to Mr Cavusoglu and Mr Ozersay.”

Anastasiades’ recent proposal of a decentralised federation was in line with the agreed solution framework, he said. The president, he said, has already discussed his ideas with Lute and that consultations with her continue on Sunday, while he is ready to explain these ideas also to Akinci.

Lute, he said, will present on Sunday “something more specific”.

“I don’t know if she will bring a draft or not, but I have the impression that she will come with something more specific than the previous time. We hope it will be concrete, but I make it clear that the terms of reference will not be the text of the UN secretary-general. The terms of reference will be an agreed text of the parties involved in the Cyprus issue.”

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who will be in Cyprus this week to attend the Southern European Union summit to be held in Nicosia, will discuss the issue with Anastasiades, ahead of the former’s visit to Turkey in early February, he said.

Christodoulides added that it was clear that Turkey is pursuing a settlement solution different from the one on the negotiations table.

Cavusoglu, he said, “had said that he seeks a solution that is especially advantageous to Turkey”. This was the first time, he said, that this approach has been voiced so clearly by Turkey.

The foreign minister said that another issue was that Turkey, invoking the European parliament elections or Brexit, maintains that negotiations cannot resume before June.

“All these are excuses,” he said.

Christodoulides said that Turkey needs to clarify what it wants, as the terms of reference require that all sides are on board for the talks to resume.

He also said that the government was exerting efforts so that Turkey would not be able to drill within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.

Meanwhile, Akinci said on Monday that any option other than a federation would give only minority rights to the Turkish Cypriots and that he would not accept such an option.

He said that he looked forward to holding direct contacts with Anastasiades within the forthcoming days in parallel to meeting Lute.

“If new ideas really exist, we are ready to evaluate them with good will,” he said.

He warned that time was of the essence. “Either we will succeed in agreeing on what is possible and reasonable or the status quo, that is, division will become more permanent.” The communities, he said, ought to know this and realise the urgency of the situation.





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