Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar will put forward a proposal during his meeting with President-elect Nikos Christodoulides for bicommunal cooperation on earthquake response in Cyprus.

The pair are due to meet informally on Thursday at the residence of UN Special Representative Colin Stewart who met separately with Christodoulides on Tuesday and with Tatar on Wednesday at the ‘presidential palace’ in the north of Nicosia.

Speaking after the one-hour meeting, Tatar reiterated the Turkish side’s position that negotiations on the Cyprus issue can only begin with the acceptance of the “sovereign equality” of the Turkish Cypriots.

After the meeting, no statements were made by Stewart.

Tatar described it as “a preparation for tomorrow’s meeting with me and the Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Christodoulides”. “We discussed in detail the essence of the Cyprus issue and our expectations at the stage we have reached,” Tatar added.

At the moment, he said all focus in the north is on the recent earthquake in Turkey where 49 Turkish Cypriots lost their lives.

“I do not want to say anything about the essence of the Cyprus issue at this stage. However, I have stated that only with the acceptance of our sovereign equality can formal negotiations begin. I will point this out tomorrow as well, because this is the essence of the matter,” he said.

Tatar did refer to the importance of bicommunal technical committees.

“Now that the issue of the earthquake has come up on the agenda, I pointed out to Colin Stewart today that we should also discuss the possibility of an earthquake in Cyprus tomorrow,” he added.

“I hope this will not happen, but we all know that Cyprus is in an earthquake zone. In the past there were earthquakes that affected Paphos, Famagusta and Salamis. There is nothing to indicate that there will be an earthquake in Cyprus in the near future but there are expert opinions that say in the future an earthquake may occur here as well. We have to be prepared,” he said.

Tatar said Stewart told him that it was “extremely important to have such a partnership”.

“I also mentioned the successful work of our teams in Adiyaman. There is a lot of experience. I’m sure there are definitely similar search and rescue teams in southern Cyprus as well. We could study how they would act together in such a situation.”

Back to the Cyprus issue, he said if there was an understanding on the positions of the Turkish Cypriot side “and the corresponding decisions are made, then we can proceed to formal negotiations”.

“But for now I would like to have a meeting and perhaps prepare the infrastructure for future talks and emphasise the importance of dialogue between the two leaders in order for these technical committees to be more useful,” Tatar added.

Following his meeting on Tuesday with Stewart, Christodoulides reiterated that a two-state solution was not up for discussion.

Thursday’s meeting is set to take place at 11am.