Fri, 13 Jan 2017 16:35 UTC
While no major breakthrough has been announced at the five-party conference in Geneva, attended by Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci along with foreign ministers of three guarantor states, Turkey, Greece and the UK, the newly-appointed UN chief Antonio Guterres appeared to be quite optimistic about the progress reached at the talks.
Guterres told Reuters he expects the parties to make a "last effort" at the next meeting, yet to be scheduled after the technical details are thrashed out on January 18. Earlier, Guterres said that there cannot be a "quick fix" to the Cyprus issue, stressing that the sides are "looking for a solid and sustainable solution," not "miracles."
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed that the talks, which resumed in May 2015, gave ground for optimism - although there is still a "clear difference of opinion" between Turkey and Greece, he said, as cited by TASS news agency.
"We are not disappointed. We did not expect to get a result from this process in one day. It is not an easy process," Cavusoglu said, adding that a "wise decision" was made to hold a meeting of the deputies on January 18, at which the participants of the talks as well as the UN representative can put forward alternate proposals.
"The conference on Cyprus which started today will continue at the level of the technocrats on Jan. 18 to discuss the issue, more specifically the issue of security and guarantees, the concerns which exist and the [various] approaches and when the results are known there will be a continuation of the Cyprus conference with the same composition we had today," Nikos Christodoulides, Greek government spokesman, told Reuters.
The meeting is expected to pave the way for another summit at foreign ministers' level which can be convened by the end of January, Cavusoglu said, pointing out that no fixed arrangements have been done in terms of setting the date of the upcoming meeting.
Greece's Kathimerini daily reported that the main point of disagreement revolves around Turkish security guarantees to the Turkish population in the self-declared state of Northern Cyprus.
"It is obviously that our side does not want intervention rights [for Turkey] and wants withdrawal of the [Turkish] army," Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias was cited by Kathimerini as saying. Kotzias called the existing guarantee system "outdated."
"Greek Cypriots also have the right to feel safe. They and the three [religious] minorities should feel that they are responsible for the fact that the Turkish Cypriot family members are not in danger in this island," Kotzias added, according to AB Haber.
Meanwhile, Turkey indicated it is not going to give up on the guarantees, with Cavusoglu describing them as a "vital" element of security to Turkish Cypriots and their "indispensable demand."
"Our position, and the Turkish Cypriot side's position on this matter is the same. The guarantorship of Turkey and the existence of Turkish soldiers on the island will continue," Cavusoglu said.
The fate of the final draft of the reunification deal, when reached, will be put to a final test at a referendum. Ahead of the conference Akinci said that the vote could take place as early as in the middle of 2017.
Earlier, the sides exchanged territorial maps in a move described as a "milestone in the history of the Cyprus problem" by Anastasiades in a Twitter post.
Under the proposals, put forward Wednesday, from 28.2 to 29.2 percent of the island's territory will remain under Turkish Cypriot control, which presents a significant decrease from 36 percent than the Turkish Cypriots control now.
Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the island and occupied its northern part following a military coup staged by the Cypriot National Guard and the Greek military junta. Greek nationalist Nikos Sampson, who was briefly installed as President of Cyprus, sought a union of Cyprus with Greece.
Comment: More on this Cyprus reunification process:
- British military may surrender half its Cyprus territory in new peace deal
- Could Turkey swing over to the Russian camp?
- Cyprus peace talks underway to reunify the island prior to conference
- Building totalitarianism in Europe via Cyprus: The last coup of Victoria Nuland