The opening of the conference on Cyprus in Crans-Montana, Switzerland on Wednesday had a good beginning, “beyond what was expected”, UN Special Envoy to Cyprus Espen Barth Eide said.
After Eide had submitted a draft common document as a framework to initiate the talks, the atmosphere before the conference was strained. Both sides, in particular the Greek Cypriots, were unhappy with the contents.
Negotiations are being held with security and guarantees being discussed with the island’s three guarantors in parallel with discussions on the other four chapters – property, territory, governance and the EU.
During the morning session, both sides made their points to the three guarantor powers, Turkey Greece and the UK. Greek Foreign minister Nicos Kotzias, presented a proposal to abolish the islands guarantee system. Turkey was represented by its Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and the UK delegation was led by the Director of British National Security at the Foreign Office Jonathan Allen.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson left Switzerland on Wednesday before the talks officially opened to fly home for a parliamentary session, officials said. Johnson left after taking part in preliminary meetings on Cyprus and a working dinner on Tuesday night, a British spokeswoman and UN spokesman said. UN spokesman Aleem Siddique said: “The UK remains represented at the conference and we expect ministerial representation at some point in the proceedings,” Reuters reported. Johnson tweeted later: “Have been in Switzerland for #ConferenceOnCyprus. With flexibility & creativity, we have a real chance for a settlement. UK ready to support”.
British Minister for European Affairs Sir Alan Duncan, who was also in Switzerland and left with Johnson, is due to return to Crans-Montana on Friday and is prepared to stay until the end of the conference. Johnson might also return to Switzerland, depending on developments.
Eide, who held his news conference jointly with UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, said the plan is for the conference to go on until July 7 with everyone prepared to stay “for the long haul”.
He said getting a deal would be hard but not impossible and that Crans-Montana was now “the best chance” for a solution. “We had a good beginning, beyond what we expected,” he said. “After this morning’s session, I feel even better this is the best chance for agreement.”