Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Ionannis Kasoulides and Espen Barth Eide, the Secrerary-General`s Special Adviser on Cyprus, discussed on Tuesday developments in the UN-led Cyprus peace talks, noting the challenges that lie ahead.
Addressing the Economist conference, in Nicosia, they were later joined by the leaders of three parliamentary parties, namely the ruling Democratic Rally (DISY), the main oppositive party AKEL and the opposition Democratic Party (DIKO).
In his speech, Kasoulides said that the time has come for Cyprus to become a totally independent and fully sovereign country. He added that the Treaty of Guarantee, which gave Turkey the pretext to invade in 1974, must be considered obsolete.
“We have learnt in the EU to respect the principle of proportionality, but armies react disproportionally,” Kasoulides said. Don’t give armies the right to resolve problems, they create bigger ones, he pointed out.
He also noted that “if we accept either the presence of foreign troops, or that one party in the federation has the right to ask a third country to intervene, then we are not talking about an independent and sovereign country.”
Kasoulides said that the island has a very big potential to use its geographic location and contribute as a factor of stability to the whole region, provided that it is totally independent.
Addressing the issue of the continuity of the Republic of Cyprus, he said that one of the major requirements is the continuation of the Treaty of Establishment, which goes together with the presence of British bases on the island.
Responding to a question regarding the use of revenue from natural gas in implementing a settlement, Kasoulides said that revenue from natural gas exploitation is not expected before the next 2-3 years. He added that the prospect of income is just the collateral Cyprus needs, in order to withstand economic difficulties in the first year after the settlement.
No phase of negotiations has ever been even close to the level of negotiations we are now, Espen Barth Eide said from his part.
He referred to the trade potential following reunification, with the Greek Cypriot side being able to trade with Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side with the EU market.
He also spoke about the potential to turn Cyprus into a significant energy hub in the Eastern Mediterranean.
On the ongoing peace talks, Eide said that the very fact that both leaders have agreed to go to Mont Pelerin is a strong signal of progress. Discussions are set to take place between the leaders of the island`s two communities – Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci – in Switzerland, between November 7-11, concentrating on territory.
However, Eide said that this will not be the end of the road, as there are outstanding issues.
Going to Mont Pelerin means finally to be able to open the emotionally charged chapter of territory, in connection with elements that are important to the two sides, said Eide.
He referred to the “nervousness of the last mile” as those involved in negotiations realize that a solution can happen and needs to make further accommodations, never been made before.
“Leadership in the end of the day is a lonely exercise”, said Eide and noted that President Nicos Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci will have to make in the coming weeks some of these decisions.
He observed that a referendum should never be taken for granted. Cyprus as part of Europe is coming together again, if the leadership by both sides continues, he concluded.
“We are near the finishing line, after decades we are probably closer than ever before,” said Averof Neophytou, President oft he Democartic Rally party (DISY), referring to the prospect of a settlement.
Responding to the comment made by Eide, Neophytou said that the Greek Cypriot side is not nervous. “We look forward to a solution and to be able to live in a united Cyprus,” he added.
Europe, he noted, “is our common home and implementing the solution is the best guarantee for the future of a member state.”
From his part, AKEL Secretary General Andros Kyprianou noted that the chapters of property, territory and security are those that can either lead negotiations to failure or become catalysts for a solution.
No one can expect both sides to reach an agreement if there are no significant territorial adjustments and if it is has not become clear that the security of one community can not come to the expense of the other community’s security, he said.
Kyprianou also said that Turkey holds the key to the solution of the thorniest issues in relation to the Cyprus problem.
Nicholas Papadopoulos, the leader of Democratic Party (DIKO), said that there is no progress in the chapters of security, the withdrawal of the Turkish occupation troops, the abolition of the guarantees and the return of the occupied areas. This is because these are the issues in which Turkey needs to concede something, and Turkey so far has refused to negotiate them, he said.
He added that what is being suggested is that the Republic of Cyprus is dissolved and a new Turkish protectorate replaces it as its successor state. He warned moreover that this dysfunctional structure will collapse, and Cypriots will become like the Palestinians.
The overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots will never accept it, “we want the protection of the Republic of Cyprus,” Papdopoulos concluded.