The Cyprus negotiations have not been halted despite the altered mood of the talks after a controversial decision by the south Cyprus parliament to commemorate the 1950 enosis referendum, UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide said late on Thursday.
“Nobody sees this process as over, terminated or even suspended. The process is on, and this was explicitly said by both Mr [Mustafa] Akinci and Mr [Nicos] Anastasiades,” Eide told reporters after meeting President Anastasiades at the presidential palace in the evening.
In an attempt to counter the doubts raised by the incident, he added, “As of now, there has been no change in the programme,”
The two community leaders were scheduled to meet again next Thursday.
After the leaders’ meeting abruptly broke off on Thursday, reportedly over the enosis day commemoration, where the Turkish Cypriot side were greatly offended by the move, Eide undertook shuttle diplomacy.
Eide arranged to meet the leaders again separately, seeing President Akinci first in the north before heading back south to the presidential palace.
“The leaders and I were hoping to use the [morning] meeting to clear the air. This was the intention, it didn’t totally work, not yet, and the meeting ended abruptly which was unfortunate.”
Pressed as to which leader had in fact walked out, the UN official said it was Akinci.
“As Mr Akinci himself has said, at some point… as it was an emotional meeting for all participants, Mr Akinci left the meeting.”
Noting that the meeting of the leaders “was not a very happy one,” Eide noted that “the mood surrounding the talks, outside the talks, is not optimal.”
Eide referred to certain sections within both communities who are opposed to a settlement, pointing out that it was to be expected that they would turn up the heat during the negotiations.
“You also have many people who want the talks to fail. That is a reality. This is not illegitimate, it happens in a free society.”
Eide said he had discussed the episode on the phone with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who urged him to press on with the peace process.
“He [Guterres] said something important: communities have long memories. In the Greek Cypriot community and in the Turkish Cypriot community, all remember a number of bad things happening to them by the others.”
Adding his voice to the controversy on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the Greek Cypriots’ move to commemorate the enosis referendum was “unacceptable.”
“They are still talking about Cyprus’ union with Greece. In other words, they have not abandoned their hopes [for union with Greece], but on the other hand they say that Turkish guarantees are no longer necessary.”
If the Greek Cypriot side genuinely seeks to talk, it will return to the negotiating table, Cavusoglu added.