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Turkey as much as virus behind ever elusive date of summit – sources

Chief negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis

Turkish expediencies seem to be behind the uncertainty about the date and place of the informal five-party conference on Cyprus to be convened by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, reports said on Saturday.

A well-informed source told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that it seems it is not possible for the conference to take place before the end of March and it will most probably be convened at a later stage.

“The situation is vague,” the source said.

A combination of pandemic measures and Turkey’s stance appear to be at the root of the delay.

The source referred to a possible game played by Turkey over the timing of the summit, down to the European Council that will take place on March 25 and 26 and the broader geopolitical developments. “On our part we are showing a maximum flexibility because we want the conference to take place as soon as possible,” the source said.

The EU leaders had said last December they would discuss the bloc’s relations with Turkey in their March meeting, with many assessing that Ankara wants the UN-brokered summit on the Cyprus problem to take place after the European Council to avoid any negative developments.

Nicosia, however, according to reports, seeing that the five-party summit date is being pushed back, would rather have the European Council postpone any decisions on Turkey, and especially the adoption of a positive agenda for Ankara, until after the summit.

The Greek Cypriot side’s chief negotiator, Andreas Mavroyiannis, said on Friday in an interview with Alpha TV that the government was “not satisfied” with the date being pushed back.

“First we were talking about before the end of the year, then the beginning of January, the end of January, March, now we are talking about April,” he said. “The UN mainly tells us that it is due to the difficulties due to the coronavirus. We see that there also some Turkish expediencies.”

On why Turkey would like to push the summit after the European Council, the chief negotiator said that any decisions by the EU leaders may also affect the informal five-party meeting.

He added that on the European Council’s agenda was to discuss some further measures over Turkey’s non-compliance with the EU’s previous warnings as regards its behaviour in the eastern Mediterranean. This, he said, would be a negative dimension for Turkey. At the same time, Mavroyiannis said, there is talk of a positive agenda for Turkey.

He added that both these dimensions that could emerge from the EU leaders’ meeting and any decisions, may also affect the informal five-party summit.

In the meantime, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar reiterated on Friday that from now on, the Turkish side would work towards achieving the existence and cooperation of two states on the island, based on sovereign equality.

Speaking to members of Turkey’s Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Tatar also said in case there was no agreement, the island will remain divided and the north will be even more integrated with Turkey. Replying to a question, he said there was no issue of Turkey annexing the north. He added that the Turkish Cypriots are used to self-rule but were very dependent on Turkey.

On the issue of Varosha, he said there were no legal obstacles for turning the fenced area to a non-military zone and that, over time, it will be an area like any other area within the breakaway regime.

He also said that the second phase of works in the fenced area of Varosha would start soon.

 

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