Presidents Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci are scheduled to meet on 1st September. Top of the agenda will be one of the most critical issues to be negotiated, that is one of territorial adjustments.
South Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides, in an interview with Lefteris Adilinis for ‘in-Cyprus’, outlined the core issues, indicated possible trade-offs and emphasised the EU dimension on guarantees.
What would you say are the main challenges in the current talks and what would be the best way to deal with them?
All chapters are discussed in an inter-dependent manner, as provided for in the Joint Declaration of February 11, 2014. Some of these chapters are more important, or more sensitive for Greek Cypriots, such as Property, Territory, Citizenship and Guarantees, while this also applies to Turkish Cypriots, for example with regard to Governance. Our aim is to reach an agreement on all chapters, to the mutual benefit of all Cypriots, Greek and Turkish Cypriot, leaving no winners or losers, but creating the prospect of joint prosperity and collaboration.
Akinci has made clear that a rotating presidency is vital element for the Turkish Cypriots as it reflects their political equality. How do Greek Cypriots see the issue?
This is an issue on which there is no agreement between the two sides. What I can say in general is that political equality entails effective participation of either side as regards decision-making in the Federal Government, and we believe that this is effectively provided in all spectra, including the Executive structure, through the Council of Ministers.
On properties the two sides seem to disagree as to what are the rights of the initial owner and the current user. Is this accurate and how can this thorny issue be resolved?
In what is a highly important development, the two sides have reached an agreement on the recognition of the individual right to property. This agreement is of particular significance also given that the traditional position of the Turkish side was for an overall exchange of properties, and by extension abolishing the individual right to property.
The discussion will continue on the setting of criteria to be applied as regards the implementation of this individual right. The discussions will also address how the term ‘current user’ is defined. Our position is that the legal owners of property, whether Greek or Turkish Cypriot, should have the first word when it comes to their property. We will continue to work for an agreement which could be implemented within a short period of time following a settlement. Moreover, I need to stress the importance we attach to the right of the individual affected to have recourse to judicial remedy both in Cyprus and abroad.
Coming to territorial adjustments. When do you expect to start negotiating with maps on the table?
During the previous assessment phase of the negotiations a general discussion took place on the chapter of territory. Currently the criteria for territorial adjustment are being discussed, and that is where the substance of the chapter of territory lies. Once the criteria for territorial adjustment are agreed the next stage will be to apply these criteria to maps. Moreover, as already agreed, the chapter of territory will be one of the chapters that will dominate the next meetings of the two leaders.
Turkish Cypriots and Turkey, under certain circumstances, seem willing to discuss security guarantees. What is the Greek Cypriot position?
The President has publicly stated that in the year 2015 it is anachronistic to talk about guarantees. We strongly believe that the EU can provide all the necessary guarantees and safeguards for all issues on which there are concerns.
What can the international community in general and the EU in particular do to facilitate the process?
The solution needs to come from Cypriots and be satisfactory to Cypriots. At the same time, and contrary to the past, our call for greater involvement of the EU in the negotiations, which always remain under the auspices of the United Nations, has fallen on fertile ground on the Turkish Cypriot side, which now acknowledges the importance of having, post-settlement, a functioning, active European member state. We welcome the re-appointment of Mr. Pieter van Nuffel, who we believe can help us reach a settlement that safeguards and respects EU values and principles and European law.
Are there informal timelines for the current talks? Are there any landmarks to be taken into account? And in case of a deal, how long do you think the implementation of a solution should take?
As I have mentioned, there are no timelines in this negotiating process. Timelines were put to the test in previous negotiating processes and they failed to yield any results. What we are interested in is the substance of the negotiations, and not the setting of any artificial boundaries to the process. When the will for a solution is genuine time frames are meaningless.