Turkish Cypriots go to the polls on Sunday April 19 to elect a new leader. Veteran politician Mustafa Akinci is one of the four main candidates. Here he answers a series of questions put to him by Evie Andreou
Q. If you get elected what will be your first step in connection to the negotiations? It seems that the accepted approach would be to pick up where the talks left off last year. Do you agree?
A. Certainly. My aim is to start the negotiations from where they left off. I agree with the framework stipulated in the declaration signed on the 11th of February 2014.
Q. The NAVTEX expired on April 6 and ENI-KOGAS has stopped drilling for maintenance giving a window of opportunity; what will happen when drilling resumes? Do you believe there is a possibility of a new NAVTEX?
A. I’m on record to have stated that I do not approve of the renewal of NAVTEX after the 6th of April 2015 in order to give an opportunity to resume the talks.
What is important here is to formulate a mutually acceptable future for our island. Within this context, we must be ready to share not only the powers of the federal government, but also the wealth of this island including the natural gas deposits.
All of the riches of the island, whether they come from the soil, under the sea or even as water in pipes from Turkey, must be shared among all of the people of Cyprus in a fair and just way.
What is important is to show the political will and determination to bring about a solution to our long lasting problem on this island and create the conditions for a prosperous future for our forthcoming generations rather than to fight over a resource that is yet to be extracted.
For this to happen it is important to make use of this window of opportunity and to take caution not to close it. More important than both the renewal of NAVTEX or the resumption of drilling is to show the necessary determination for a solution.
Q. UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide said that when talks resume he will want to tackle the most difficult issues first. Do you agree with that?
A. I believe that all issues are difficult. We will have to tackle each of them one by one. For me, it will also be very important to show that there is a new understanding and a new mentality to tackle the overall problem and give confidence to our respective communities that this time, both sides mean business.
Besides tackling the main issues of the problem, I attach great importance to achieve some practical outcomes/measures which will increase the quality of life on both sides. Finding ways and means to connect our mobile systems or establishing car insurance systems to cover both sides are just a few simple examples.
Q. How would you utilise civil society towards a solution?
A. The leadership to be shown on both sides is definitely crucial in moving towards a solution, but at the same time, a movement coming from the grassroots and the involvement of civil society will add paramount impetus. Therefore my intention is to work very closely with civil society and receive their assistance throughout the process.
Q. In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge the Turkish Cypriot community is facing? If you are elected how would you address it?
A. The biggest challenge of the Turkish Cypriot Community is mistrust; this is mistrust not only towards Greek Cypriot political establishments but also towards the political institutions and leaders of its own community. Since the ‘No’ vote of the Greek Cypriots in 2004, the enthusiasm regarding a solution has faded away.
One of my main preoccupations will be to revive the hope and belief for a solution and to restore trust towards political institutions and hopefully create the conditions for mutual trust between the two communities. I believe that the same should be done in the Greek Cypriot Community.
Q. Some leaders have better rapport than others; do you see yourself cooperating on a personal level with Nicos Anastasiades?
A. During my term as mayor, I established good personal relations with Lellos Demetriades which we still continue. More importantly, we shared a common vision for the benefit of all inhabitants of Nicosia living on both sides of the Green Line.
I don’t underestimate the importance or value of a good personal relationship, however a shared vision for the future, mutual respect to the rights of each community, the ability to empathise with one another, to digest the idea that there is a politically equal partner on the other side and the readiness to share the powers and wealth that this island offers are all equally crucial for a healthy cooperation.
Q. How do you see a solution? What does a bi-zonal bi-communal federation mean to you? (For example, two sides fully cooperating or just co-existing side by side with as little interaction as possible?)
A. In a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation we will be coexisting side by side but at the same time we will also be cooperating for the benefit of all in the context which will be stipulated in the federal constitution. There will be issues which will come under the federal government and issues which the two constituent states (federated states) will be tackling themselves. The system we are looking for will not be a confederation but will also not be a unitary system. It will be a Cypriot federation which will take into account our specific situation.