Speaking at a lecture he was giving at the London School of Economics on Monday, the Turkish Cypriot chief negotiator, Kudret Özersay, told his London audience that his side needed to take Greek concerns into consideration if a peace deal is ever to be reached. “We must not create a new Bosnia in the Eastern Mediterranean”, said Özersay, ‘Londra Gazete’ reported.
Özersay was in London as part of a series of cross-visits by both negotiators to the countries of the guarantor powers.
The TC chief negotiator said that to achieve a lasting solution on the island, both sides needed to agree on a detailed plan. He added that both sides shared the same objectives for a settlement but that there was no structure to the negotiations.
He also said that in order to reach a settlement, his side had to acknowledge the concerns of the Greek Cypriots which had led to their overwhelming rejection of the 2004 Annan Plan. The Turkish Cypriots widely voted in favour of the plan.
“If we are willing to achieve something that is viable and sustainable and if we don’t want to have a failed state like the one in Bosnia-Herzegovina, we need to take into consideration the concerns mentioned by the Greek Cypriots since 2004,” Özersay said.
The UN-sponsored Annan peace plan for the island in 2004 “was perceived by the Greek Cypriot community as a kind of an imposition in 2004. We need to see that. Even if we disagree with that, we need to understand that.”
Referring to the current talks with his Greek Cypriot counterpart Andreas Mavroyiannis, Özersay said that there had been some progress but difficulties remained.
He said the two sides had resolved “some of the core issues” on the kind of country Cyprus would become, from its federal parliament to its judiciary. They also agreed on the formation of a federal police force, he said.
But “serious difficulties” remain in overcoming the burdensome issue of property ownership on an island that was divided following the Turkish military intervention of 1974. Thousands of Greek and Turkish Cypriots fled from their homes to opposite ends of the island when fighting broke out and have never been able to return.
There was an instinct, Özersay said, to leave the most sensitive issues to the end of the talks.
He said the negotiations needed more structure if they are ever to succeed:
“If we discuss and agree on a road map regarding the process it will enable us to bring all these outstanding issues [that] the parties are not willing to negotiate or fix at the early stages of the talks.
“It can be part of a package deal that [will allow both sides] to negotiate more meaningfully these sensitive aspects for the people.
“I’m not talking about a road map where some other third parties will come and impose on us. I’m talking about a road map that we should sincerely negotiate and fix for this process to turn into a really productive and results-orientated process.”
He went on to say that both sides should “not be afraid” of greater international involvement in the talks, even though they had agreed that no foreign powers should arbitrate in the negotiations.
US Vice President Joe Biden visited the island last month in a bid to boost the talks, and on Monday Özersay met David Lidington, the UK minister for Europe, in a sign of increased British involvement in the peace talks.
But so long as there remained the “absence of a mutually hurting stalemate” on the island, a solution would be difficult to reach, Özersay concluded.