The two sides in Cyprus appeared to be further apart than ever on Monday a day after the visit by UN envoy Jane Holl Lute whose suggestion for a four-party conference that would include guarantor powers Turkey and Greece was rejected by the Greek Cypriot side.
On Sunday when Lute met both leaders separately, each side came away dismissing each other’s positions on the issue of political equality, with the Turkish Cypriot side saying there was no chance of agreeing on terms of reference for a resumption of talks at this stage. They also accused the Greek Cypriots of presenting old ideas as new to Lute as regards the rotating presidency.
After Sunday’s meeting, the Greek Cypriot side said it had presented some ‘new ideas’ to Lute. These focused on President Nicos Anastasiades’ proposals for a more decentralised federation and also a way around the issue of political equality as it is perceived by the Turkish Cypriot side.
Anastasiades has now proposed a system of parliamentary democracy where there would always be a Greek Cypriot president, a Turkish Cypriot vice president, and a rotating prime minister.
“Such old ideas which are presented as ‘new ideas’ aimed at continuing negotiations for preserving the status quo are becoming a bore,” Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Kudret Ozersay responded.
On Monday, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said Anastasiades briefed party leaders on his two-hour meeting with Lute and alluded to the proposal for a new parliamentary system with a “symbolic presidency”.
He also revealed that Lute had suggested a four-party meeting but this was rejected because Anastasiades participates in talks both as the leader of the Greek Cypriot community and also as the President of the Republic, which would technically be a five-party meeting.
“Mrs Lute was carrying a suggestion that has been made by others, obviously by the Turkish side,” said Prodromou. “It is known that in the past there was this idea… the balance of the sides is not secured by a meeting between the two guarantor powers and [just] the two communities in Cyprus.”
What the president would like to see is a three-party meeting that would include the two leaders and Lute to clarify some issues, he added, but this has been rejected by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci. If the issue of political equality was first clarified, then he might be willing to take part in a three-party, four-party or five-party conference, he said.
Asked to say how close or how far the process was from agreeing to the terms of reference, Prodromou said the two sides were “in the midst of a procedure”, which had become bogged down by the issue of political equality, but Anastasiades was trying to overcome the difficulties, he said.
If the Turkish Cypriot side would facilitate the process there could be a joint meeting of the two leaders with Lute, which might be more productive, Prodromou said. “From the Turkish Cypriot side, we hear only one of the parameters – political equality.”
Akinci’s spokesman Baris Burcu, speaking of Sunday’s meeting with Lute in the north said that during her meeting with Anastasiades earlier in the day “she found he had not given up his negative attitude to the issue of political equality and effective participation”.
“This means that Mr Anastasiades does not show respect for the agreements of the past, he is not ready to accept the framework put forward by Guterres on 30 June 2017 in Crans-Montana, and this is what we have seen today. That is why, at this stage, I regret to say, there is no possibility that Mrs Lute’s terms of reference can be concluded. I suppose this situation will be somehow reflected in the report the UN secretary-general will make on 15 April at the UN,” said Burcu.
Referring to statements made by Greek Cypriot chief negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis following Lute’s meeting at the presidential palace, Burcu said this was an effort to create impressions.
He said that political equality, the rotating presidency, at least one positive vote in federal bodies where the Turkish Cypriots do not have numerical equality were already agreed points “and there should be no deviation from this convergence.”
The composition of the federal cabinet was also a convergence, he said in that the representation would be seven Greek Cypriots and four Turkish Cypriots “and for any decision they would need a positive vote by a Turkish Cypriot minister”.
“We want to support these convergences. We want to move forward rather than intensify the current situation,” Burcu added. “But unfortunately putting forward some proposals as new is something that is undermining the current situation.”
Mavroyiannis had referred to the Turkish Cypriot community’s demand for political equality “as it perceives it”. He called it “a continuously expanding perception” of the notion, which, he said, was not based at all on the reports of the UN secretary-general. Neither was it part of any discussions that had taken place since then, nor was it in the Annan plan, nor in meetings between previous leaders Demetris Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat “nor in the negotiations we have had over the last five years”, he said.