President Mustafa Akinci and President Nicos Anastasiades have been interviewed in Cyprus on behalf of CNN-Turk television by Turkish journalist Cüneyt Özdemir.
Writing in ‘Hurriyet’, Özdemir notes that the Cyprus issue in not just a political issue for him but there is a family connection. His father took part in the 1974 military intervention by Turkey and his sister was married and has lived in Cyprus for 27 year years.
Reporting on the impressions he was left with after meeting the two leaders, he said, “I saw that they have many times racked their brains especially on the property issue, but the solution is not far away.” He adds that: “They say that from time to time tough debates are also taking place, but generally they discuss the topics one by one and look for a solution”.
Özdemir goes on to say that: “Akinci thinks that the natural gas found in South Cyprus and the water brought from Turkey to North Cyprus will unite the fate of both sides. He sees the future with hope. At the presidential palace of the Greek Cypriot leader Anastasiades, I was welcomed by a huge statue of Makarios. The interesting thing is that the signs in South Cyprus are written in Greek, English and Turkish. South Cyprus accepts the Turks as its citizens because it still sees itself as the owner of the island. And they are not considered to be wrong, if you think that all Turks of northern Cyprus possess a Greek Cypriot passport.”
Asking Akinci if the main worry of the Greek Cypriots is the presence of the Turkish army, Akinci replied that it is about the guarantees and the wish to return to their homes. “For example, if you ask a Turkish Cypriot, you will not hear the demand that ‘we should return and live among the Greek Cypriots'”, he noted and added: “Even if the demand for returning arises, surveys show that this issue can, to a great extent, be solved with compensations. This is good, because after so many years, new lives have been built both in the North and in the South. Therefore, the displacements should be limited.
The Greek Cypriots left properties of one and a half million donums in the North [a land measurement of around 1000 square meters]. The land we left in the South is around 450-500 thousand donums. Therefore, even if we exchanged all of it, around one million donums remain. Of course a part of this will be settled within the framework of the territorial adjustment. A big part of the remainder could be solved with compensations.
This solution cannot just remain on paper. An international effort is needed for its implementation. Look – the figure which the experts estimate, as regards compensations is around 25-30 billion dollars. If new settlements are built, the financial needs will increase. This is described as an extra cost.”
Asked whether the subject of the fenced-off city of Varosha is taboo, Akinci replied “Even if the negotiations are unsuccessful, this is an issue that I will discuss in the long term. I talked about it a lot during the election period, but when we met, I saw that the Greek Cypriot side was not very positive about Ercan airport”.Referring to his relations with Turkey, Akinci said that they have established a close dialogue with the competent authorities, which offer their support for the solution process, something which he observed during his recent meeting with President Erdogan. “I believe that the Cyprus issue stopped being a matter of exploitation in the internal politics during the latest period of the Turkish government”, he argued.
Replying to questions on the administration of the water from Turkey, Akinci said that the water had not been shut off, but there is uncertainty on the issue.
Asked whether a solution to the Cyprus problem may come by spring 2016, he replied that he exerts efforts in this direction, but the “others” must also make efforts.
Meanwhile, asked about the ‘climate’ in the negotiations and whether a solution will emerge, President Anastasiades said that progress has been achieved on many issues, but there are also difficulties, which the leaders are consistently working on to overcome.
Responding to a question regarding the role of the ‘motherlands’ and whether the shadows of Turkey and Greece hover over the negotiating table, President Anastasiades recalled that after the reestablishment of democracy in Greece in 1974, Greece in no way interferes in Cyprus’ internal affairs and pointed out that we must understand that we should establish an independent state, a full member of the EU with its own identity.
Asked about the fenced-off city of Varosha, the President underlined that no community can attempt to establish an order of things based on injustice by rejecting the other communities’ rights. He added: “We will leave no one without a home. We will not permit anyone to suffer without providing a place to live and the necessary conditions [to do so]”.
President Anastasiades said that finding a solution to the Cyprus problem by spring is not impossible, if there is the necessary will and mutual understanding to overcome the difficulties at the negotiating table. “Turkey’s active support is needed in the efforts being made”, he noted stressing that “the main chapters of the solution depend on decisions which will be taken by Turkey”.