By George Psyllides
The UN on Tuesday said it expected a resumption of reunification talks after the Turkish Cypriot elections later this month.
The announcement was made by UN Special Advisor Espen Barth Eide after separate meetings with the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.
The Norwegian diplomat said they both agreed the “circumstances were now right” for the resumption of negotiations.
“I see no obstacle to a very early resumption of talks once the election process in the north of Cyprus is done,” Eide said.
Turkish Cypriots will go to the polls on April 19 to elect their leader.
Talks were cut short in October last year after President Nicos Anastasiades pulled out in response to Turkey’s decision to send a research vessel to carry out seismic surveys inside the island’s exclusive economic zone.
A maritime advisory for seismic research Turkey issued over the area expired on April 6, and companies licenced by Cyprus have ceased drilling for gas after coming up empty.
Turkey claims it is acting on behalf of Turkish Cypriots who should have a say in the island’s natural resources.
“The stated reason why talks could not happen are gone, at least for the foreseeable future,” said Eide, speaking to reporters at the defunct Nicosia airport, now a protected compound in the ‘buffer zone’ that splits the two sides and headquarters to one of the world’s oldest U.N. peacekeeping missions worldwide.
Eide is the latest in a small army of mediators who have attempted to make headway, but failed. Twenty-four have preceded him, and Eide said he hoped he would be the last.
“I think I will be the last one, but for a good reason,” he said, referring to settlement prospects. “There is of course the alternative, that the international community gives up.”
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said the Greek Cypriot side was ready to withdraw its decision to suspend its participation in a bid to create the prospects that will allow a solution of the Cyprus problem through honest dialogue without threats and intimidation.
Christodoulides said talks could not start immediately pending the election in the north.
“In the meantime … we will have the chance to verify the assurances Mr. Eide has conveyed,” he said, that Turkey would not repeat last year’s actions.
The spokesman said there was no written assurance from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
“He (Eide) brought a message from the Turkish government.”
The spokesman said progress in the talks, if any, would emerge at the negotiating table.
“That is where we will judge, that is where we will be able to say if there are prospects for a positive conclusion,” Christodoulides said. “We will work towards that direction that is our objective; political will is also needed, but also specific actions from the other side.”
Ruling DISY leader Averof Neophytou said dialogue was the only way of breaking the deadlock.
“Do we have an alternative? Do we have the capability of freeing our country through a different way?” Neophytou said, referring to the naysayers.
The DISY leader said the easiest thing was to say no.
“No to insolvency, no to foreclosures, no to the first (deposit) haircut (March 2013), no to dialogue, no to privatisations, no to reforms,” Neophytou said. “Yes, but it is high time the people who permanently say no to give their proposals.”
DIKO said resumption of the talks should not entrap the Greek Cypriot side further “in a vicious cycle of a fruitless procedure during which pressure and nee generous offers would increase supposedly in a bid to placate Turkey.”
EDEK said the reasons why the Greek Cypriot side withdrew from the talks were still there.
“Turkey not only continues to dispute the Republic of Cyprus’ sovereign rights but not even the smallest pressure had been exercises to make it comply with international law,” EDEK said.
AKEL said it was certain that the Turkish Cypriot side would try fir a fast-track procedure that would lead to a quadripartite meeting in a few months.
The Greek Cypriot side’s response should be the clear message that “we first seek a solution the soonest possible.”
A multilateral meeting would only be justified if the sides were close to a deal on the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem.
“If the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey mean what they say about a quick solution, then all they have to do is accept the significant convergences” achieved in the talks.