Efforts to solve the Cyprus problem in 2014, took off on an optimistic note but ended with Cyprus suspending its participation in the UN-led talks due to Turkey`s provocative actions.
The year was marked by an increased US involvement in the Cyprus issue, UN Secretary General`s Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer resigning to be replaced by Norway`s former Foreign Minister Espen Barth Aide and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades suspending his participation in the talks, following Turkey`s NAVTEX to begin exploration in Cyprus` EEZ.
The leaders of the two communities agreed on February 11 on a joint declaration on the insistence of President Anastasiades whose aim was to ensure the base of the talks and of the solution of the Cyprus problem.
Negotiations to reach an agreement on the joint declaration lasted from November 2013 until early February 2014 and concentrated on certain phrases. Differences finally were surpassed with the intervention of US officials as it was disclosed by Secretary of State John Kerry. Victoria Jane Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State paid a visit to Cyprus in February and the joint declaration was agreed with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, signalling the relaunch of the Cyprus talks.
The joint declaration outlined the basic provisions for a negotiated settlement that will reunite the country under a federal roof. The leaders expressed their determination to resume structured negotiations in a results-oriented manner. All unresolved core issues will be on the table, and will be discussed interdependently. The leaders will aim to reach a settlement as soon as possible, and hold separate simultaneous referenda thereafter. According to the joint statement “the negotiations are based on the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
The resumption of the UN-led talks took place following months of discussions between the negotiators of the two sides on the text of a draft joint declaration, to which both leaders had given their consent. The Republic of Cyprus, divided by Turkish troops since the Turkish invasion in the summer of 1974, is a full member state of the European Union since 2004.
The joint declaration was welcomed by the Security Council, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Britain, the EU and the White House which clearly depicted its political support to President Anastasiades.
The two negotiators` representatives began meetings in February, visiting Athens and Ankara, and expressing satisfaction over the result of their talks.
However, towards the end of February, Ankara came back with threats over Cyprus` EEZ with President Anastasiades issuing his first warning that if the EEZ continued to be violated, the Greek Cypriot side would abandon the talks.
The Confidence Building Measures and the Famagusta issue that were to be discussed simultaneously, however, did not show any signs of progress. Ankara and Dervis Eroglu remained intransigent in their positions, demanding that after the first phase of the negotiations concluded, a give and take process should take place.
In the meantime, the Americans continued to work to create a new dynamic for the Cyprus problem.
Alexander Downer returned to Cyprus in March for a last visit while the report which the UNSG asked him to submit on his good offices remained unexploited.
The two leaders met again end of March and President Anastasiades` statement showed the need for further dialogue on all aspects of the Cyprus issue. The President gave Eroglu a document which compared the Turkish Cypriot side`s positions with those of the joint declaration, which depicted the distance between them. After the two sides` views went through a screening process, it was concluded on 15th April and the second phase was agreed to resume on 6th May with both sides agreeing to exchange documents on every aspect of the Cyprus issue.
On 12th May, the White House announced Vice President Joe Biden`s visit to Cyprus, the first such visit in 50 years. The first issue on the agenda of his visit was reconfirming the strong strategic partnership between Cyprus and the US. President Anastasiades stated that Cyprus depends on the US help to secure its rights in its EEZ and finding a solution to the Cyprus issue.
Biden said Cyprus has assumed a leading role in Eastern Mediterranean and was ready to be a key player in transforming the region to an international energy hub.
In July, both sides on the island concluded submitting their proposals on all chapters of the Cyprus problem and UN Secretary General`s Special Representative Lisa Buttenheim made a positive assessment of the current course of the talks, calling for encouragement of the two sides to make more progress.
September entered with tension as newly elected Turkish President Tayiip Erdogan paid an illegal visit to the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus. The leaders` scheduled meeting was postponed on the excuse that the newly appointed Special Adviser, Espen Barth Eide would be visiting Cyprus and would hold separate meetings with the two leaders. Eide`s meetings concluded with an agreement to present ideas in October to bridge the differences.
However, Nicosia was greatly concerned over new Turkish provocations as ENI-KOGAS was scheduled to start drilling in the Cyprus EEZ. Biden said that Erdogan began appreciating the large interest for Turkey in exploiting the significant resources of natural gas in Eastern Mediterranean.
When President Anastasiades returned home from the UN General Assembly in New York, the worst crisis after the declaration of the illegal regime in the occupied areas took place. Turkey’s issued a maritime order, NAVTEX, on October 3, reserving a large swathe inside Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for seismic surveys from October 20 to December 30. This prompted President Anastasiades to suspend his participation in the UN backed negotiations which aim to reunify the island under a federal roof. His decision, that was conveyed to the UNSG in writing, was backed by the island`s political parties.
Eide undertook to talk to Ankara about the provocations and presented the a proposal for the creation of a bicommunal committee to discuss how energy resources will be distributed after the solution. His proposal, however, was rejected by both sides on the island.
With the expiration of the NAVTEX on Wednesday night, Barbaros left the Cyprus EEZ area and docked at the closed port of Famagusta.
January is anticipated to be a month of announcements as the SG`s report on UNFICYP is expected, including a chapter on his good offices mission. Eide will also brief the Security Council on 26 January and the renewal of UNFICYP`s mandate is scheduled to follow.
The aim of the Americans as well as the UN is to resume the talks and after an intensive two-month process to follow before the so called elections in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus. It is hoped that the efforts will bridge the differences and after May a give-and-take process can start.