During the first National Council session held under his administration, President Nikos Christodoulides on Thursday briefed party leaders on his proposal for the appointment of an EU envoy to support future Cyprus peace talks – while on the same day the Turkish Cypriot side was making inflammatory remarks about a two-state solution.
During the National Council meeting, lasting just over three hours, the president laid out his approach on the Cyprus issue, consisting of “cultivating a positive agenda and a positive climate,” government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis later told reporters.
The president briefed the country’s political leadership about his contacts at the European Council summit in Brussels last week, and about his meeting earlier this month with UN Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo – visiting the island to explore ways of kickstarting stalled peace talks.
On Nicosia’s proposal regarding a more active role for the EU in Cyprus negotiations, via the appointment of an envoy, the spokesman said this was not a precondition.
“Should talks restart without the appointment of an envoy, obviously we’d resume negotiations,” Letymbiotis said.
He reiterated that the EU would play an auxiliary role, and that any peace process would remain under United Nations auspices.
Asked whether Ankara has given any response – even an informal one – to this initiative, the spokesman demurred, saying only that at the moment Turkey is in the midst of an election campaign.
The objective, he added, is to prepare the ground for the EU envoy proposal to be implemented once the elections in Turkey are over.
Relaying the government’s thinking, Letymbiotis said that Cyprus joined the EU with the primary goal of finding a solution to the island’s political division.
“Accession [to the EU] concerned the whole of Cyprus, and today our Turkish Cypriot compatriots benefit from many matters connected to the EU. The message we send at every opportunity, and what the President of the Republic conveys through his statements, is that the EU is our common home, it will be our common home after a Cyprus settlement, and that this engagement of the EU is a win-win for all.”
On whether the president aims to have another ‘social’ meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar – they met once in late February – the spokesman said Christodoulides is ready to do so, but there was no news on that front yet.
Peace talks have been stalled since a 2017 summit held in Crans Montana, Switzerland.
In London, meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar fanned the flames by insisting on two states in Cyprus.
“Turkish Cypriots need their own sovereignty and their own state,” he told a local radio station.
“A two-state solution is crucial for the existence and well-being of the Turkish Cypriots,” he added.
Back in Nicosia, the government spokesman was also asked if Cyprus intends to report to Brussels the Turkish policy of denying port access to Cyprus-flagged ships or call for sanctions on Ankara over the same.
Here again, Letymbiotis did not answer directly, but said the issue of the ships would be part of the “basket of EU-Turkish relations.”
At the National Council meet, Christodoulides told party leaders of his intention to establish a National Security Council – fulfilling a pledge of his election campaign.
This is expected to be an advisory body on matters of security and defence policy. It would submit specific proposals to the cabinet, but also advise the National Council as well.
Christodoulides invited party leaders to give their feedback about the mooted National Security Council.
Speaking to media at a function held later in the evening, Christodoulides expressed satisfaction at the “constructive discussion” held during the National Council meeting.
“I heard the parties’ approaches, their remarks, which I view as constructive, and I will take them seriously into account going forward. At the same time, I asked them to play their part through the political groupings they participate in, inside the European Parliament.”
For their part, Akel said they had an opportunity to sound out the new president over his approach on the Cyprus problem.
Akel boss Stefanos Stefanou said the president confirmed that talks should pick up where they left off, in Crans Montana.
The president, said Stefanou, wants to use EU-Turkey relations as the main lever to get the Turkish side back at the negotiating table.
“As for us, we still think that it’s the area of energy that could act as an incentive.”