A meeting between the two Cypriot community leaders Mustafa Akinci and Nicos Anastasiades began this morning in the UN buffer zone, at the home of UN Special Representative Elizabeth Spehar. The two leaders have not met for five months. Hopes of any success for this meeting are not high.
Foreign Minister Kudret Ozersay said “I guess that it will be a meeting during which some issues regarding confidence building measures will be discussed and perhaps decided. I have to say, regrettably, that I do not expect many things as regards going somewhere in the context of the negotiations for a comprehensive solution”.
Ozersay, speaking from Ankara, said that the Greek Cypriot side will most probably make some moves which would secure its participation in the process regarding Varosha/Maras. He reiterated that the TRNC government did not believe this to be right and that the Greek Cypriot side had always prevented the opening of Varosha.
“Therefore, exactly at a time when the TRNC government is at the stage of taking steps regarding the future of Varosha and while it has taken some steps, the Greek Cypriot leadership should not be included in this process, but they will most probably come with this demand”, said Ozersay. He added: “Therefore, our expectation of the president is not to allow this. If there is a development which the TRNC government does not find correct, does not see positive on the issue of Varosha, we, accordingly, as the TRNC government, will have a different stance”.
Ozersay said it was unacceptable that the Greek Cypriot side keeps the Turkish Cypriot side out of the process regarding the natural gas on the one hand and on the other expects to have a say in the reopening of Varosha. Arguing that the Greek Cypriot leadership would go to the meeting with some proposals aiming at stopping the Turkish side’s activities on the issue of the natural gas, Ozersay said:
“If they come with a proposal, such as ‘let us establish a bi-communal committee on the natural gas and we will discuss these issues among ourselves’, this should not be seen positively, because what we want is not only a dialogue between the two sides. We should be together in the decision–making process, because the natural gas issue is related to the natural resources which we also own. We should also be a part of the decision making process. We should sit and discuss which companies will extract this, when and how, the percentage which the companies will take and the share for the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots. As long as an effective and competent mechanism is not created in this sense, this means that we are excluded on the natural gas issue. I think that proposals on natural gas, which are ineffective, incompetent, without a role and are only maintained for appearances’ sake, should not be seen positively and I feel the need to make this warning”.
Reminding of the proposal submitted by Akinci to create a bi-communal committee on the natural gas issue, Ozersay reiterated that the proposal had been prepared together with the foreign ministry. He said that if the Greek Cypriots had good will, they would have approached positively this proposal, but the message they have given so far, shows that they do not accept it. “Therefore, I think that we should not allow them to water this [proposal] down with other proposals which they will make”, he argued.
Noting that the Greek Cypriot side wanted the Turkish side’s activities in South Cyprus’ self-declared Exclusive Economic Zone to end in order to begin negotiations, Ozersay argued: “Our concern is not the negotiations. Negotiating for the sake of negotiations is tantamount to the continuation of the status quo”. Reiterating the view that since 2011, the Turkish side had changed a paradigm on the Cyprus problem [with the agreement between Turkey and the TRNC regarding hydrocarbons], Ozersay said that a change of paradigm was needed in the Cyprus negotiating process as well.
Referring to the issue of Varosha/Maras, he pointed out that this was a part of the TRNC under the Turkish army’s control. They were the ones who execute power there, he noted. “Of course, we could turn it into a non-military zone after a certain period of time […]”, he said.
The foreign minister recalled that from the very beginning, they have been saying that they would proceed in such a way as not to harm the property rights of the Greek Cypriot owners of the fenced-off town. He said that Turkish Cypriots and settlers from Turkey who arrived as a labour force after 1974, had been using the properties which the Greek Cypriots had abandoned during the Turkish military intervention on the island. In time, some rights had emerged [for these people] within the framework of the use of the Greek Cypriot properties. He added that it was out of the question for these immovable properties to be returned to their former owners. He said that they would pay compensation for these properties, but the case of Varosha was different, as the properties had not been given to anyone.