UK Foreign Secretary Borris Johnson said on Wednesday that there is no deviation from his country`s standard line as regards the issue of guarantees in Cyprus.
Johnson who was responding to a question after talks he had in Nicosia with Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, ahead of which he held separate meetings with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, said that “we talked about the guarantees and security extensively this morning and as everybody knows our strong view is that this is a Cypriot-led process and it`s up to both sides to decide what arrangements they want for a united Cyprus, and we are not seeking a specific role for the UK.”
Johnson and Kasoulides discussed about developments in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, UK-Cyprus bilateral relations and Brexit. In his statements, Kasoulides thanked the UK for its offer to assist efforts for a Cyprus settlement. Responding to a question about the time that will be needed for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus once there is a settlement, he noted that everybody understands that the Turkish army or any army cannot withdraw from day one, adding that the rest is a matter for the negotiations.
Johnson said that he had an excellent meeting with Minister Kasoulides after “constructive conversations” he had this morning both with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.
“We talked about the progress that is being made in trying to settle a wide-range of issues over Cyprus. I welcome the progress that has been made in recent months and I salute the determination and the courage that is being shown by the leaders on both sides,” he noted, stressing that the UK stands ready to help.
He noted that “a lot of work has already been done, challenging work to get the negotiations to this point but obviously as you get towards the conclusion of any negotiations that is when the hard yards really begin.”
Johnson said he was convinced “that with further flexibility and creativity on both sides a solution can be reached and that the remaining difficulties can be overcome. And the UK is ready to support in any way that it can,” he reiterated.
Referring to Brexit, he said that they may be leaving the Treaties of the EU but they are not leaving Europe. “We are not abandoning our commitment to our friends in Europe, certainly not to Cyprus,” he added.
He went on to say that the UK`s foreign policy now is to intensify our outward looking role in the world. “And we want to build the strongest possible links both with Cyprus and of course with the rest of our European neighbours and the Commonwealth as well,” he added.
He said he was absolutely confident that UK-Cyprus relations will go from strength to strength. “We already have I think a million visitors from the UK coming to this island, we have a strong close historic relationship and we are going to build on that,” he noted.
Asked about his statement in an interview he gave to “Phileleftheros” daily that the “big picture” has to be taken into account when discussing the issue of guarantees after a Cyprus settlement and to a remark by the journalist that this may be interpreted as a deviation from the standard policy line of the UK on this issue, Johnson said that there is no deviation from the standard British line.
“We talked about the guarantees and security extensively this morning and as everybody knows our strong view is that this is a Cypriot -led process and it`s up to both sides to decide what arrangements they want for a united Cyprus and we are not seeking a specific role for the UK,” he added.
Asked what the exact status of the British Bases in Cyprus will be once Brexit does become a reality, he said that he did not see any change to the status of the British Bases as a result of Brexit.
“But I think that it is very important that we should work with our friends in Cyprus to make sure that we continue to be useful, in guaranteeing and helping the security of the area and as far as the Bases play a role in that then that I think is valuable,” he added.
On his part, Kasoulides said in his statements that Johnson was received earlier this morning by President Anastasiades, who informed him “on the outcome of the recent talks in Switzerland and the challenges that still lie ahead of us.”
“During our discussions we continued on the way forward for the effort to resolve the Cyprus problem and on the offer of the UK to assist, for which we are thankful,” he added.
Furthermore, he noted that they discussed about UK-Cyprus bilateral relations “and our strategic partnership, which has been growing stronger and deeper in the last couple of years.”
“Cyprus and the UK are already cooperating in crisis management, humanitarian operations as well as in finding ways to deal with growing asymmetric threats. Our bilateral cooperation is dynamic and constantly growing and I am pleased to observe that there is coordination on several fronts,” Kasoulides said.
Furthermore, he noted that they discussed about Brexit and the issues pertaining the ongoing consultations with the UK for the implementation of the agreement for the non-military development of the British Bases, and other related matters.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Anastasiades and Akinci have been engaged in UN-led talks since May last year, with a view to reunite the island under a federal roof.
They held in November two rounds of UN-led talks in Mont-Pelerin on the territory aspect of the Cyprus problem. The UN announced after the end of their talks that despite their best efforts, they were not able to achieve the necessary further convergences on criteria for territorial adjustment that would have paved the way for the last phase of the talks.