Greek and Turkish Cypriots close to agreement on joint statement

Greek and Turkish Cypriots close to agreement on joint statement

Greek and Turkish Cypriots close to agreement on joint statement

Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said both sides were close on drafting a joint communiqué that would engage them to resume reunification talks. REUTERS photo

Greek and Turkish Cyprus are close to an agreement on a joint communiqué that will open the way to the resumption of U.N.-sponsored talks to reunite the island, according to negotiators.

There were “serious prospects” that long-stalled talks to reunify the island could resume between the estranged Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said Feb. 6. Negotiations between the two sides on drafting a joint communiqué outlining principles of a settlement were at a “delicate point,” he noted.

“It appears there are serious prospects for a substantive joint statement which would satisfy the basic principles governing a Cyprus settlement, and lead to a resumption of negotiations,” Anastasiades told journalists after briefing Greek Cypriot party leaders.

The process on joint statement has not been finalized yet, the Turkish Cypriot Presidency said in a written statement. “Turkish Cypriots are still [acting in accordance] with the proposal made during [Turkish] Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s visit to the island on December. We continue our contacts in accordance with this position,” said the statement.

“We will evaluate if any offer is submitted to us, we’ll adopt an appropriate attitude in line with the rights and attitudes of the Turkish Cypriot people; it will be announced immediately if we agree,” said the statement.

Private broadcaster NTV, which says it obtained the joint draft text, reported that the most important element in the text was the definition of sovereignty.

Accordingly, the text states that “sovereignty emanates equally from Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots,” in line with the Turkish side’s desires.

“The settlement will be based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality as set out in the relevant Security Council resolutions,” said the statement.

The dispute has come into sharper focus since the discovery, first by Israel and then by Greek Cyprus, of vast deposits of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean. Peace talks stalled in mid-2012. The United Nations had difficulty brokering a resumption because the two sides failed at the outset to agree on the wording of a joint statement of what sort of settlement they wanted.

Diplomatic sources said the United States was instrumental in pushing for a breakthrough. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Victoria Nuland visited Nicosia and discussed the issue with both leaders on Feb. 4.