Cyprus conference to meet for last chance
AP photoThe Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders are set to meet once again at an open-ended conference to be reconvened in the Swiss resort of Crans Montana on June 28 with the participation of the three guarantor powers - Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom - in a bid to end decades-old division and settle for a united new state for the island.
Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı and Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades will negotiate over the most important aspects of the settlement including guarantees and security as well as territories under the auspices of the United Nations, in what the former calls “a decisive conference.”
“As the Turkish Cypriot side, we are hitting the road with all our good intentions. This is a decisive conference,” Akıncı told reporters before his departure for Switzerland late June 26.
“The moment of truth has arrived. If the conference is successful, this will not only be important for those who live in Cyprus but also for regional and global peace. I am starting my journey keeping this positivity in mind but also my cautious optimism,” he said.
Akıncı and Anastasiades have been in negotiations for more than two years with an objective to establish a new, united, bi-zonal and bi-communal Cypriot state on the basis of political equality for the two sides.
In February, the parties met at a conference in Switzerland under the auspices of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres, but failed to reach a solution.
The Turkish Cypriot side and many observers believe the Crans Montana conference constitutes the last opportunity for a negotiated settlement on the island given the fact that Greek Cyprus elections will take place early 2018.
Best, but not last, chance: UN
U.N. mediators have said the Swiss talks are the “best, but not the last, chance.”
“There is an awareness that there is no time like the present,” U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide told reporters on the eve of Crans Montana conference on June 27.
“Make no mistake, it is not going to be easy, there is no guarantee of success,” he said, calling it the “most complex” round in the series of talks.
Guarantor powers set to attend
Eiden also said the foreign ministers of Britain, Greece and Turkey are due to stay this week to take part in security discussions.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will attend the conference, the ministry confirmed in a written statement late June 26.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will also be present and accompanied by Sir Alan Duncan, the U.K. minister for EU affairs, his office said.
“This conference builds on months of hard work, commitment and progress shown by both sides. It’s an exceptional opportunity for both communities to find a lasting solution for Cyprus, which will bring huge benefits to the whole island and the region,” Johnson said in a statement.
“It will not be easy, but with political will, creativity and flexibility, I believe that a deal can be done. The U.K. is ready and willing to help in any way we can,” he added.
Two parallel negotiation tables
According to Turkish Cypriot President Akıncı, two parallel tables will be set up at the meeting. Representatives from the two Cypriot sides and the three guarantor countries as well as a representative from the European Union will sit around one to only discuss the chapter on guarantees and security.
On the second table, which will host only the two negotiating parties, the remaining five chapters of the settlement will be discussed, namely territories, economy, property, power sharing and ties with EU.
“I must underline that this is not a conference only about guarantees and security. It is a Cyprus conference and includes all six chapters,” Akıncı said.
The duration of the talks is unknown, however, the principle “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” will remain as the main core of the negotiations.