President Mustafa Akinci and the Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades met for three hours on Tuesday, to determine how to move the Cyprus negotiations process forward following an eight week hiatus in the talks. triggered by the 1950 Enosis plebiscite decision taken by the Cyprus House of Representatives.
The two leaders will be meeting four times over the next two months on the 20th April, and the 2nd, 11th and 17th May.
Speaking to reporters following after their meeting, Akinci said that a natural timetable exists in the talks until July because of hydrocarbon exploration by the South and the upcoming Presidential elections in South Cyprus. “There is no reason why we shouldn’t achieve a result until July if we give our full focus and attention,” he added.
Warning that the risks to the negotiations he spoke about last year were coming to pass, including tensions connected with drilling slated for June or July, Akinci argued that the process could not drag on for another 50 years as everyone had long since run out of patience.
Akinci noted that the next few months would be very important. He said he had indicated in 2016 the risks to the process including drilling, and the 2018 Greek Cypriot presidential elections, if a deal was not reached by the end of last year. “I tried to emphasise the risks that existed in 2017 and they have begun to appear,” Akinci said.
He said that the Turkish Cypriot side wants the energy sector to become one of cooperation, and a catalyst for unification rather than division. “We want a fair distribution of this natural wealth in the knowledge that it belongs to both communities. But we know that this will not be feasible without a solution,” he added.
Also touching upon the UN’s role in the period ahead, Akinci reiterated that the Turkish Cypriot side does not want arbitration or written proposals from the UN. He however added that there is no reason why the UN could not develop creative ideas from time to time on the condition that it remained impartial.
He said that talks, as of this point onwards, would concentrate on convening a new international conference which he added will determine whether or not any results can be obtained.
Asked whether there will be a change in the methodology of the talks, Akinci said that what is important is achieving convergences in the top four chapters.
Responding to a question as to what will happen should the talks fail to produce any results until the end of July, Akinci said that his goal is to achieve a successful outcome in the talks. “We do not shy away from a solution, we say come and solve it,” he said.
He referred to Anastasiades’ stance in not discussing gas at the talks because of the so-called sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus, and reiterated that energy was already laid down in the joint statement of 2014 as a matter for the federal Cyprus government.
Answering a question on the UN’s bridging proposals and shuttle diplomacy, Akinci said: “How many times do you try to convince each other on the issue of effective participation? This has a limit. You cannot go further. This matter has reached the point of exhaustion. Only one option remains, the UN, and they are prepared to help us within the framework we decide on”.