Following his meeting with leaders, UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide stated that Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades will return to the table.
Eide said that during his meetings, both leaders expressed that there is not any obstacle anymore for resumption of negotiations, adding that Cyprus problem is one of the easiest of 30 problems in various countries of the world which can be solved in a perfect way.
Following his meetings, UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide made a press statement at UN Good Mission Office in the buffer zone. His speech is as follows:
Many of you will remember that on the 17th of September last year, the two leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot community gathered here and declared to move into the next phase of talks – structured, substantial talks.
In the weeks just after that event, we had thorough and serious, and very constructive meetings on how this substantial phase of the talks should be organized. But you will also remember that a little bit less than a month later on the 7th of October 2014, the meeting that was planned then was cancelled. Mr. Anastasiades suspended his participation in the talks, and we moved into a phase which I will describe as the hydrocarbons crisis.
The hydrocarbons crisis has many roots, but the key issue is that at least it seemed at the time that Cyprus was moving very quickly into a hydrocarbons economy and that this was happening before the Cyprus issue itself was solved; and the paradox was that, while there was and is a substantive agreement on how hydrocarbons issues will be dealt with post-settlement, there was deep and divisive divisions around how there should be dealt with prior to a settlement. And this led to a sequence of events that lasted exactly half a year – it’s exactly on the day half a year since that meeting was cancelled.
A lot of things have changed. And a number of people have been working to see if it was possible to create the conditions or more precisely to remove the conditions that prevented the resumption of the talks. And I am very happy to share with you that my judgment is that this is now the case, that the state of reasons why talks could not happen are gone, at least for the foreseeable future, and that that makes it possible to prepare for the resumption of talks in a structured, results oriented and fast manner. But even more importantly than what I think about this is that I have shared this perspective with both leaders today, with Mr. Anastasiades, representing the Greek Cypriot community and Mr. Dervis Eroglu, representing the Turkish Cypriot community, and they both agreed that the circumstances are now right.
And let me here quite precisely quote what I heard from Mr. Anastasiades today. Making reference to the fact that the seismic vessel Barbaros has already left Cypriot waters and the fact that the NAVTEX that expired at 12 o’ clock yesterday is not, and will not be renewed, and that there is no overhanging threat, he declared to me, he informed me, that he was ready to lift his suspension, or lift the suspension of his participation in the talks and that he looks forward to engage in constructive dialogue with whoever emerges as the Turkish Cypriot leader after elections happening in the north.
I also shared this of course with Mr. Eroglu and that means that I see no obstacle to a very early resumption of talks once the election process in the north of Cyprus is done.
It’s also very important that, both leaders agreed with me, that when we meet again, we will pick up from where we left. This exact wording was used by both sides and I very much agree with that. We have done substantial preparations for the next round so while we did lose half a year, we also know where we will be starting.
The UN has been ready all the time, my team, working both here and also in New York, engaging the Secretary-General on many occasions on this, have been systematically preparing for the restart of talks by looking into our reading of where the two sides stands, and where possible bridges can be made between the starting positions of both sides.
I am also aware that the negotiating teams, both on the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot side, are making their own preparations for this phase.
I want to very strongly appeal, not only to the leaders who I just met and had excellent conversations with today, but also to all Cypriots, that I strongly feel – I strongly feel – that 2015 is going to be a decisive year.
I very much hope it will be a decisive year in the right direction.
The conditions are in place. We also have behind us a crisis that illustrates the broader dimensions of the Cyprus problem and why it is maybe more important than ever before to work towards a settlement in line with the Joint Declaration and the principles already laid out, both there, and also in the statement that was presented here on 17 September, where the two leaders agreed to bridge the gaps to renegotiation on unresolved core issues, to increase the pace of their meetings, through that to increase the frequency of their meetings as appropriate, and all meetings at least twice as long as leaders, and then the negotiating teams would meet much more frequently, and work very seriously on all issues.
I want to call on all Cypriots to realize that this is a decisive moment, not only for political leaders, but also for everybody living on this island.
Having come to know a lot of people in the time I have been in this role, I feel that while some Cypriots believe that their problems are other Cypriots, I think that’s fundamentally wrong.
The problem Cypriots share is the absence of a settlement which is one of the reasons why a lot of young people leave the island, why investments that could have happened are not happening, why the benefits of economy of scale cannot be reached to their full potential, and why it has been very difficult to prepare for this hydrocarbons phase of Cyprus history.
So I think that this is really a time to think strategically and not tactically, and not only at the leaders’ level but across all elements of society, and understand that this is an opportunity that has to be grasped. It is a window of opportunity. We do not necessarily talk of deadlines, but the window may not be open forever. It’s not me saying that, but that’s my strong sense working with key interlocutors internationally and on the island that this country has to find a solution after 51 years. It’s possible. We have difficult months ahead, but there is nothing – I repeat nothing – in all the chapters that I know now quite well which I deem as unresolvable.
Every single issue can be solved if there is will, if there is dedication, and if that will is sustained as we go through all the chapters and eventually bring in the international community in some kind of [inaudible] final stage.
So that’s the news I have to share with you today. I am sure one of the first questions will be when exactly we will start – I can see that from the show of hands. I don’t have a date. The main reasons we don’t have a date is that we do not know the outcomes of the election in the north, but as soon as we know we will of course reach out to whoever is the Turkish Cypriot leader, and quickly agree on the date, but I’m thinking of something within weeks – not months – from now and also from the date when elections start over.”