Hopes high in Cyprus despite disagreements

The Greek Cypriots have insisted on preparing a joint statement before sitting down at the negotiation table, but the Turkish Cypriots believe that a joint statement is not actually necessary

Hopes high in Cyprus despite disagreements

Even though there are disagreements between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots over what needs to be included in a “joint statement” -- a communiqué the Greek Cypriots demanded be made as a precondition for negotiation talks -- hopes are high that the differences will not stall efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus issue.

“No problem can remain unresolved forever. Therefore, I would like to start negotiations as soon as possible and find a solution at the negotiation table,” Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroglu told a group of visiting journalists from the Ankara-based Diplomacy Correspondents Association (DMD).

The Greek Cypriots have insisted on preparing a joint statement -- in which all the issues that they want to be discussed are included -- before sitting down at the negotiation table with the Turkish Cypriots. But the Turkish Cypriots believe that a joint statement is not actually necessary and that all the issues should be discussed during negotiations.

“What the Greek Cypriots want is to engage in a give and take process with the joint statement before the negotiations even start. All the Greek Cypriots want is to take,” Eroglu said.

“We have to overcome this joint statement [disagreement]. I think it is a trick to gain time. We are supposed to discuss these issues at the negotiation table,” Eroglu added.

Speaking to Today's Zaman on the condition of anonymity, a Turkish Cypriot official said that the disagreements over the joint statement could be overcome in a few weeks, but he did not elaborate any further.

According Ozdil Nami, the foreign minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), some sentences in the joint statement highlight the priorities of Greek Cyprus, including single sovereignty and single citizenship on the island. When talking to visiting DMD correspondents in Lefkoşa, Nami said, “A golden window of opportunity exists” in the Cyprus problem. “If the two sides confirm their commitments for a solution, we [will] not need to negotiate for years. All we need to do is to respect each other and finish the job.”

Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders were due to meet this month on the island and representatives from each side were then to visit Athens and Ankara.

But Eroglu said that Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is not ready to host a Turkish Cypriot representative. When Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called his Greek counterpart a few days ago and asked when the talks would start, the Greeks said they were not ready to set a date to begin talks, according to Eroglu.

Davutoglu met with Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos in New York in September and Venizelos said a special Greek Cypriot representative would like to visit Ankara. Davutoglu then said that Turkey could accept such a representative from Greek Cyprus, but only if Athens were to treat a visit from a special representative of Eroglu equally.

No date has been set yet for either of the visits.

Echoing Nami, Davutoglu said last week that Turkey sees a “window of opportunity” to end the Cyprus problem and expects peace talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots to resume this month.

Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades was elected to office in February of this year and Eroglu sent Anastasiades a letter asking if they could find a solution together. But Anastasiades replied that before dealing with the Cyprus issue, his main concern was the economy. The two leaders had talked about organizing a meeting in September, but that has yet to take place.

Eroglu said the desire for a joint statement had come from the Greek Cypriots as a precondition to negotiation, and even though the Turkish Cypriots thought that the joint statement was not necessary, they accepted the Greek Cypriots' demand. “We are still waiting for the negotiations to start,” Eroglu said.

“Cyprus negotiations are 50 years old. No one can keep the Turkish Cypriots at the negotiation table for another 50 years,” Eroglu emphasized.

Eroglu said that the Greek Cypriots do not want to accept the fact that a new state may be formed for all Cypriots. “They [Greek Cypriots] think that the current Republic of Cyprus will be transformed through evolution into a federal Cyprus. At the moment, there are two sovereign states in the north and south. What they want is like a hand on top, directing both states. We do not want that. We want two sovereign states transferring some of their power to the federal state,” he said.

No reason for Greek Cypriots to seek agreement on Cyprus

When asked about what has changed after the Annan plan was rejected by the Greek Cypriots in a referendum in 2004, Eroglu answered that almost nothing has.

“The Republic of Cyprus is recognized by the whole world. They were accepted into the EU as well. Given the circumstances, the question is: Why should they want an agreement? As you all know, after Turkey applied to join the EU, they were told to solve the Cyprus problem. But those who created the Cyprus problem, Greece and southern Cyprus, are in the EU now. None of the EU member countries told them to solve the Cyprus problem, and then to come to the EU,” Eroglu said.

As long as the embargoes continue and two of the UN Security Council's members, Russia and China, support the Greek Cypriot side, Eroglu said it would be difficult to reach an agreement on Cyprus that the Greek Cypriot side would accept. “There is nothing to motivate or push the Greek Cypriot side for a solution,” Eroglu said.

Natural gas in Cyprus

Southern Cyprus and its exploration partner, Texas-based Noble Energy, announced last month that the natural gas reserves it had found hold around 5 trillion cubic feet of gas, lowering their initial estimate of 7 trillion cubic feet that was made in late 2011.

After the Greek Cypriots had learned of the “quality and the quantity of the natural gas that would come out [of the reserves],” Eroglu said, the Greek Cypriots started to avoid the negotiation table more. Nationalistic views amongst the Greek Cypriots have also started to come to the fore.

“As Turkish Cyprus, we proposed transferring the gas to Europe via Turkey. This was the most economical method,” Eroglu said.

The transport of the natural gas requires 10 billion euros from the Greek Cypriots due to the need to liquefy the gas and carry it via ships. But Eroglu said if it were to be transported via Turkey through a pipeline, the cost would be 2 or 3 billion euros.

Eroglu said the Greek Cypriot side would be able to make money off the natural gas as early as 2020.

The Turkish Cypriot president agreed with a journalist who said, “Your Greek lover does not want to get married nor does it want to break up from this current situation.” Eroglu added, “Then what we, the north and south, have to do is live as friends. We cannot create one nation from these two people.”

Today's Zaman/Cihan

Last Mod: 15 Kasım 2013, 10:07
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