Eroğlu pessimistic but wants settlement in three months
It is no secret that it has not been the first priority of the Greek Cypriot leadership to have a quick fix in Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriot leadership has been repeatedly offering Greek Cypriots to set a timetable for the talks. The response is somewhat obscure: “In the near future!”
Receiving this writer at his presidential office for breakfast, President Derviş Eroğlu complained he repeatedly offered his Greek counterpart Nikos Anastasiades to speed up the process, increase the weekly meeting schedule of the negotiators and the monthly sessions of the two leaders. The response? Eroğlu said instead of the agreed two meetings a week – which he demanded be increased – Greek Cypriots said they could have only one meeting a week. Frequent leaders’ summits? No answer except, “Will meet when needed.”
With such a mentality and with mediation excluded, Eroğlu was not sure whether there was a probability of reaching a Cyprus deal anytime soon. “The Americans and the British are doing a lot to accelerate the process. Offshore gas potential is energizing this interest in Cyprus, and is good. I would not think Americans would be so much engaged if there was no gas. We believe a settlement can be reached within the next three months and we can go to mutual referenda of the two peoples soon after. Yet, through their remarks to the media, we understand that Greek Cypriots talk of a settlement in 2015. What’s the meaning of that? In April 2015 we will be having presidential elections.” The answer was obvious; Greek Cypriots don’t want a settlement now or ever…
Indeed, Eroğlu explained the initial hardliner position of the Greek Cypriot leadership. He said despite earlier convergence, Anastasiades backtracked on the rotation of presidency and on territorial aspects, demanded territorial concessions large enough to resettle 100,000 refugees and resettlement in Turkish Cypriot territory remaining 60,000. Greek Cypriots claim 160,000 people were made refugees with the 1974 Turkish intervention. Though Eroğlu did not give a percentage, this writer learned that at talks Anastasiades offered only 18 percent of land to Turkish Cypriots, a figure that was not taken even as a joke. “That was an obvious non-start,” another source said. Currently Turkish Cypriots have 35 percent of the island and in past talks have offered to go as low as 29.9 percent.
Confidence building measures have become so popular nowadays on the island, yet, of course, it was impossible to reconcile the 18 percent of land offer to Turkish Cypriots with confidence building. Eroğlu was rather accustomed to such an attitude. He recalled the attack on former President Mehmet Ali Talat on the evening of March 26 at a conference in Greek Cypriot territory by far-right Elam members. “I spoke with Anastasiades; he sacked the police chief. Yet, it is a fact that there is a fanaticism problem there. Hate crime is among a set of probable cooperation topics being discussed at the legal sub-committee of the process.”
Eroğlu said on many occasions Turkish Cypriots have offered handing back the Varosha suburb of Famagusta in exchange for opening Ercan Airport to international traffic and an end to international isolation of northern Cyprus, but said Greek Cypriots were not interested in any such deal. “They want to get back Varosha without exchanging anything at all. Besides, there are lands in Varosha, the title deeds of which were issued to Greek Cypriots during the British colonial period. That issue must also be resolved. Giving back Varosha will only further complicate the situation, won’t contribute, but make peace prospects difficult. Furthermore, Varosha is a territory and must be part of the overall settlement as such.”
Regarding settlers? Eroğlu said there was no longer anyone who could be described as a settler in Northern Cyprus. “I told Anastasiades, we were seven people from the Turkish side at the table. The father of my grandchildren is from Turkey. The legal expert’s mother is Turkish. The wife of our territory expert is from Turkey. There were two ladies, their husbands are from Turkey. Only Kudred Özersay and his wife are both Turkish Cypriot. Even this shows that the Cypriot Turks and Turkey’s Turks divide no longer exists. No one can ignore the past 40 years and what those years have brought to our lives.”
Then, Eroğlu revealed something spectacular. He said the legendary group Deep Purple will soon be performing a concert in the Turkish side and Greek Cypriots are doing whatever possible to prevent that concert.
“I offered Anastasiades to go to that concert together. I was sincere. That would be a good confidence building move. He only smiled, but did not give a response.”