To miss this opportunity for a Cyprus solution would be an historic failure, UN Secretary General`s Special Advisor for Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, has stressed.

In an interview with the UN News Centre, Eide said that the Cyprus negotiations are in a very advanced stage, but noted that `I need to be honest saying that there are outstanding issues`.

Asked if we are close to a final deal, he said that `it’s closer than ever before, but there’s still a way to go`.

“And I don’t want to leave the impression that a deal is around the corner, because we still have to settle a few, but important issues. Numerically speaking, most issues are behind us; they are done and settled. So we have a big body of agreement already there. Volume-wise, most of the deal is written down. However, per usual, the most difficult issues are not those you take first, so of course we need to create the space, and I don’t necessarily mean the physical space, but the framework in which we’re able to deal with those final issues, in an expedited but also efficient and proper manner. That’s what we’re looking for right now”, he stressed.

Asked if Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades` reference at the UN General Assembly that a deal could be done by the end of the year is realistic, he said that “absolutely, it’s ambitious but feasible”.

Replying to questions, he said that “the great Powers have, in their perspective, bigger fish to fry, and would rather see this issue off the table, and hence I’m one of those envoys of the Secretary-General that has a united Security Council behind me”.

“That’s no small feat, and that’s something I also impress on my Cypriot friends, that this is a value that we want to use when we have it. And we also have very constructive openings from the guarantor powers that they’re ready to discuss, when time has come, to agree on what their role will be, or rather, what it will not be – depending on whom you ask – in the future settlement”, he pointed out.

Asked if there is a real danger that the last 50 years could be for nothing `and that we could face going back to the status quo, as it was in 1974 – a position of conflict between the two communities`, he said that `there is definitely a risk that we lose what we now have achieved because we have, in a sense, arrived at a plateau, from which you can either go to a solution or a downward spiral`.

`I wouldn’t say conflict as in the violent, physical conflict, but I think it is clear for all of us – and that is not only me saying it, but it is also well known to other people who are dealing with it on both sides – that the alternative is not any longer just the status quo; it’s not just a stable, safe status quo that will continue forever, in the sense that, the Cypriots have been living in a state of exception` he said.

He added that `they have quite correctly stated – both the North and the South – that the current situation is unacceptable and must be overcome, and I would be very worried if people think that they can just cool down this and there will be a new chance in five or ten years”.

“This is in no way to suggest that I know what the future will look like, but my sense and my own experience with international relations, suggest that losing this opportunity is not good for you; neither for Cypriots nor for somebody trying to be helpful in the neighbourhood. So the region needs this and it is so close that to miss this opportunity would be a historic failure”, Eide stressed.

Referring to the UN-proposed solution plan (the Annan plan), that was rejected in 2004 by the Greek Cypriots but approved by the Turkish Cypriots, he said that `the final version of the Annan plan was written by the UN, and neither leader on either side actually endorsed it`.

`So maybe, with hindsight, it was not that surprising that we got the outcome it gave` he pointed out.

The Cyprus process, he said, `has to be leader-led; it has to be owned by the Cypriots themselves. But our job is to help them, to facilitate and, I would also say, coordinate the overall international effort`.

The UN in Cyprus, he said, not only facilitates the meetings between the leaders and the negotiating teams, but a vast array of 16 working groups, five technical committees, and all possible issues.

`So basically almost all the formal communication between the North and South happens through the UN. Not only in the search for a settlement, but also on the daily basis. For instance, the only police cooperation that exists between the two sides goes via the United Nations, so you can imagine what would happen on a small and de-facto, heavily integrated island, if there was no contact on this issue`, he explained.

He added that “both in the current and in the future, I think the UN has a role”.

Concluding, he said that a settlement in Cyprus will be a source of inspiration for the neighbourhood and for the world.

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