Turkey, Greece bless restart of Cyprus talks

Turkey, Greece bless restart of Cyprus talks

Zeynep Şafak – ANKARA / NICOSIA
Turkey, Greece bless restart of Cyprus talks

AA Photo

Turkey and Greece have expressed hope over soon-to-begin reunification talks in Cyprus, welcoming a decision by both parties to restart negotiations after pro-solution Mustafa Akıncı’s election as the new Turkish Cypriot president.

“The resumption of negotiations is an important development. We have the will for a settlement in Cyprus. I would like to express my belief that we will reach a permanent solution this year, if the Greek Cypriots and Greece have a similar will,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said during a joint press meeting with his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias in Ankara on May 12. 

“Let’s not miss this opportunity,” he added, calling for more frequent and intensified negotiations. 
The visiting Greek minister also said the current situation introduced a fresh opportunity for a permanent solution to the Cyprus question. 

“Cyprus should be an independent state. There should be a Cyprus that has very good relationships with all countries, and that has no need of guarantor countries,” Kotzias said.

Urging that no country should impose a solution or put pressure on the two parties, Kotzias praised the newly elected Turkish Cypriot leader. “Akıncı is a figure representing the Cypriot soul. Resolving the Cyprus problem will help sort out so many other problems in the region,” he added.

The leaders of divided Cyprus agreed on May 11 to restart peace talks on May 15, a U.N. envoy has said, offering fresh hope for healing one of Europe’s most enduring frozen conflicts.
Espen Barth Eide was speaking to media after a meeting between Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Akıncı. It was their first encounter since Akıncı swept to victory in a Turkish Cypriot election on April 26. 

“They agreed it was important to use the momentum created and opportunity to move forward without delay,” Eide told journalists outside a landmark hotel straddling a “buffer zone” that has split the capital Nicosia for decades. 

Once catering to Hollywood royalty, the Ledra Palace Hotel is now a shabby shadow of its former self, and is used as living quarters for British forces. 

Eide said May 11 that the two leaders had agreed to meet on May 15 to have a “general exchange of views” and discuss the modalities and structure of negotiations. 

“This is a unique opportunity, an opportunity to be grasped,” said Eide, a former Norwegian foreign minister. 

Both sides officially agree in principle that the island should be united under a two-state federal umbrella, but past negotiations have foundered on issues such as the powers of a central government and the residency and property rights of thousands of internally displaced people. 

The last major peace push collapsed in 2004, when Greek Cypriots rejected a reunification blueprint accepted by the Turkish Cypriots. 

In Ankara, Kotzias reiterated Greece’s support of Turkey’s membership in the European Union, but underscored that Athens favored seeing Turkey accept and implement all EU rules. 

“We also want to see the EU acknowledging the richness of Turkey and the Turkish people. We want the EU to see and embrace Turkey’s political views. I am of the opinion that the positive climate that will be nourished by supporting the resolutions in Cyprus and in the Aegean will constitute an inspiration for Turkish-Greek ties and for the entire region,” he said.

Both Kotzias and Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu also announced a fresh agreement on a package of confidence-building measures to avoid unwanted clashes that could increase tension in the Aegean Sea, in a move to launch a new era in bilateral ties. 

“We have agreed on a number of confidence-building measures to prevent the occurrence of unwanted accidents as a result of military activities in the Aegean,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters. 

Kotzias said the agreement included nine technical measures aimed at reducing the tension in the Aegean Sea and resolving existing problems between the two countries. The ministers did not provide details about the measures that they will take in the Aegean. 

“Our main objective is to make the Turkish and Greek peoples come closer together, to improve relations, and to turn the Aegean into a sea of friendship … We are continuing our efforts to resolve existing problems between the two countries through dialogue. We will resume exploratory talks,” Çavuşoğlu said.

The decade-old exploratory talks have aimed to find a negotiated solution to the existing problems over the Aegean Sea, including defining the continental shelf, territorial waters and airspace. 

Kotzias underlined that Turkey and Greece stood as “elements of stability” in the region, with a joint demand to resolve the problems stemming from the Aegean Sea. 

Tsipras-Davutoğlu in accord    

The Greek foreign minister also had separate meetings with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as part of his visit to Turkey.  

“My impression is that Davutoğlu and [Greek Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras are on the same wavelength. Both are young and are reading the international environment well. Tsipras will come to Turkey with pleasure. I am not a member of any political party in Greece but I think both countries are lucky to have such prime ministers,” Kotzias said. 

He also added that officials from two countries’ interior and justice ministries would soon come together to discuss illegal human trafficking, an issue of concern for both sides.