President of the Republic, Nikos Christodoulides, highlighted on Sunday the importance of the meeting which the UN Secretary – General, Antonio Guterres, will have on Tuesday in New York with Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan as regards developments in the Cyprus question.

Speaking during a press conference in New York, where he will address the 78th session of the UN General Assembly and will hold a series of meetings, the President said that they consider as important the meeting of the UNSG with the Turkish President, expressing his belief that “it will determine the next moves of the Secretary – General on the Cyprus problem.”

“I consider the meeting of the Secretary – General with the Turkish President as the most decisive one as regards the developments on the Cyprus issue,” he underlined. 

Referring to his meeting with the UNSG, on September 22, President Christodoulides said that “the messages are clear; it is what we say in public as well; it is what I have included in several letters that I have sent to the SG that a special envoy who will look into the prospects for the resumption of talks must be appointed.”

President Christodoulides  did not rule out the possibility of developments this week that will allow the announcement of unilateral measures by the Republic of Cyprus for the Turkish Cypriot community, that were drafted after discussions that took place with personalities from the Turkish Cypriot community, with the civil society. “I hope that there will be developments that will allow this to take place this week,” he said. He also noted that he has some suggestions to make for confidence building measures which are related to the everyday life. 

In his statements, Christodoulides said that his meetings as well as the meetings of Foreign Affairs Minister, Constantinos Kombos, in New York, have three objectives set out by the Republic of Cyprus before this trip.

The first and most important one has to do with the Cyprus problem, he noted. He went on to say that they hope that the meetings that will take place will open the way first for the appointment of a UNSG envoy and after that for the resumption of Cyprus talks.

He said that the second matter that they will discuss during the meetings concerns energy developments, in light of the EU effort to end energy dependency on Russia and to establish new energy routes. He said that in this framework there will be bilateral meetings on this issue, adding that Israel and Egypt are two important countries for Cyprus in this sector. He noted that in this framework they will hold meetings in New York with the heads of Exxon and Chevron.

The third objective has to do with attracting quality investments to Cyprus, and particularly of US investments, a goal that has been set out together with the US administration, the President noted.

Ιn his statements, President Christodoulidis said that the contacts he and the Foreign Minister will have in New York have three objectives set out by the Republic of Cyprus.

The first concerns the Cyprus issue, he said, expressing hope that the way will open for the appointment of an envoy by the UN Secretary-General and for prospects for the resumption of talks.

The second concerns energy, which will also be at the focus of the meetings, due to the circumstances at the European level as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as the EU’s effort for ending energy dependence on Russia and the establishment of new energy routes, Christodoulides pointed out.

He added that as a follow up of what was agreed with the Prime Minister of Israel, decisions should be taken by the end of the year, noting that he will have meetings  with Exxon and Chevron, so that there are developments within 2024. 

“The third thematic section concerns our effort to attract quality investments to Cyprus, especially American investments. It is a goal that we have set out together with the US administration and we are working in specific directions, in specific areas where we see interest from the American sector to see how this can be transformed into specific investments”, he pointed out.

He stated that the Foreign Minister will have bilateral contacts with his counterparts and tripartite meetings at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs together with his Greek counterpart, with Jordan, Israel and Egypt that aim to prepare meetings at the level of heads of government in the immediate future.

He said that the next tripartite meeting with Jordan will take place in Cyprus. He added that the goal is for the meeting to take place before the end of 2023, as in the case of Egypt.

President Christodoulides also stated that he has scheduled meetings with the President of the European Commission as well as with the President of the European Council “so that in the meeting we will have with the Secretary General, we will also convey the readiness of the EU” as regards the Cyprus problem.

He mentioned that the General Assembly constitutes the first milestone and the October European Council the second one. “We are in the process of defining the agenda of the October European Council. I believe that Euro-Turkish issues will also be on the agenda. If not, or if we do not see  Turkey’s readiness in practice, I believe that Euro-Turkish issues will not be on the agenda of the October European Council and will be transferred to the December European Council”, he pointed out. 

“We hope that there will be developments. We consider the meeting of the Secretary General with the Turkish president important, a meeting that will determine the next moves of the Secretary General in relation to the Cyprus issue”, he pointed out. 

He also expressed his readiness “to discuss the Euro-Turkish specifics on the basis of the full spectrum of Turkey’s relations with the EU, especially in some areas where we see a special, an increased interest on the part of Turkey.”

President Christodoulides expressed hope that  there will developments “that will allow us to be optimistic about the resumption of talks from where they left off in Crans Montana, hoping to achieve what I have repeatedly said is our number one priority, which is the solution of the Cyprus issue “.

“At the same time, meetings are of particular importance both for energy, it is the time for decisions, but also for our effort to attract investments from the US,” he added.

Replying to a relevant question, he said that “certainly the developments and what will be discussed in New York will be of decisive importance to see how we proceed in the Cyprus issue.”

“I hope, and we will consciously work in this direction, that there will be developments when we depart from New York,” he said.

Regarding the government’s unilateral measures towards the Turkish community, he said that “there are thoughts by the Republic of Cyprus which we have processed, they are ready, and we are at the stage of the announcement. The timing of the announcement will also depend on the developments that will take place in New York.” 

“Our decisions have been taken and we will go ahead,” he added.

Asked about the Mitsotakis-Erdogan meeting in New York, he said that “the Cyprus issue will be on the agenda. I will also have a personal meeting with the Greek Prime Minister, precisely to see the specific issue but not only this one”.

“Many public statements are made, but as I said since I assumed my duties, I am not going to get involved in a public blame game or a communications management of the Cyprus issue; what we are interested in is the substance and the substance is not reflected through public statements. That is why we have repeatedly consciously chosen not to respond to public statements made because what counts is the substance.” 

In response to a question about Greco-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue, he said that “an improvement in Greco-Turkish relations will certainly help our own efforts, but you understand that we cannot talk about a complete normalisation of Greco-Turkish relations without resolving the Cyprus issue”. 

“So any contact made at the level of Greece and Turkey, we consider that it can also help our own effort”, he said.

In response to another question he noted that “we will do everything possible to create hope based on substantive developments.”

“Our position is clear in relation to the current state of affairs that it cannot be the solution to the Cyprus problem, we have proven it through specific actions, that we are absolutely committed to solving the Cyprus problem on the basis of the agreed framework and it is important, because we have the support of the international community, especially from the EU and the US, we see an increased interest in the direction of a resumption of talks,” he said.

Asked if we will know on Tuesday if there will be a meeting of the UN Secretary General with him and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar, he said that “there is no time frame. Our readiness to hold such a meeting is there.”

I think, President Christodoulides continued, “the Secretary General will make a determination based on everything he has heard and possibly call such a meeting or not. Possibly now, towards the end of the official General Assembly week, or if the Secretary General feels it should be held at a later stage. Certainly, we feel that such a meeting is important to determine the next steps in relation to the Cyprus issue.” 

Asked if the tripartite meeting could be held after the General Assembly, he replied: “Yes, I do not rule it out. The Secretary-General can decide that it will be good to do it at the end of this week, he can decide that it is to be held at a later stage, he can decide from what he has heard that it is not justified to have this meeting. What I can tell you are the messages from both the Republic of Cyprus and the EU at the institutional level, as well as some EU member states such as Germany and France,  to the General Secretary is the need to proceed with such a meeting and the appointment of a personality.” 

This is what the Security Council itself has requested repeatedly and more recently after what happened in Pyla, he said.

When asked if, beyond the issue of the envoy, the Confidence Building Measures concerning everyday life will also be on the table of a possible tripartite meeting, President Christodoulides said that he believes that these can proceed regardless of the appointment of a personality by the Secretary-General.

“But certainly if there is such a development it will be even more reinforcing of our effort. As I have told you, we have also worked out unilateral measures and low politics confidence building measures. These will proceed from our side regardless of whether there is an appointment or not,” he said.

“However, the appointment by the Secretary General will be something even more reinforcing,” he added.

Asked about the issue of the buffer zone in Pyla, he said that consultations are underway for Pyla, and are now at an advanced stage.

“There is a consensus, at least in discussions we have with the United Nations, about what should be done in the area. The details are always important as regards the implementation of any decision. Our goal is not to challenge the status of the buffer zone under any circumstances but neither to create data that would offer any comparative advantages to the Turkish occupying army”, he said.

Discussions continue in Nicosia and hopefully there will be a result, he added.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.  

Members of the Security Council condemned on Tuesday, August 22, 2023, the incidents in the buffer zone, in the village of Pyla, in Larnaca district, with assaults against UN peacekeepers, reiterating their full support for UNFICYP.

They also condemned the attacks on UN peacekeepers and the damage to UN vehicles by Turkish Cypriot personnel and wished a speedy and full recovery to the peacekeepers who were injured. They emphasized that “attacks against peacekeepers may constitute crimes under international law and reaffirmed their full commitment to the safety of all UN personnel.” 

On Friday August 18, 2023 Turkish Cypriots punched and kicked a group of international peacekeepers who obstructed crews illegally working on a road that would encroach on a U.N. controlled buffer zone.  

The attack happened as peacekeepers stood in the way of work crews building a road to connect the Turkish occupied village of Arsos with the mixed Greek Cypriot-Turkish Cypriot village of Pyla, inside the buffer zone.

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