Anastasiades to Guterres: I am ready to restart the negotiations

Anastasiades to Guterres: I am ready to restart the negotiations

With references to his actions and the obstacles raised by the Turkish side

By Michalis Michael

The Cypriot edition of the newspaper “Kathimerini” published the Cypriot President’s Nicos Anastasiades letter to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. There, Mr. Anastasiades refers to the steps the Greek Cypriot side has made forward, the proposals it has submitted in a more general context in order for the discussions to restart, as well as to the barriers Turkey raises with its movement within the EEZ, the CBMs and in anything concerning the thawing of the present state of affairs in the Cypriot issue.

The opposition in Cyprus, and especially AKEL, has been pursuing this letter over the past days, in order to be revealed what the Cypriot President informed the SG and the UN about, and also which moves will be made regarding the process around the Cyprus problem.

The letter

Excellency,

Amid a very challenging environment caused by tensions and particularly by the recent Turkish violations that contradict the UN Charter, the international law and the good faith provided by international relations, to an indisputable area on which Cyprus exercises its exclusive sovereign rights, as a result of the undermining of peace and stability in Cyprus and the surrounding area, I would like to share with you my concerns and my speculations around this situation.

At a time when the United Nations Special Envoy, Jane Holl Lute, faces difficulties reaching an agreement under the ‘terms of reference’ which would have served as a basis for the continuation of the negotiations with significant chances of success, the report you submitted to the Security Council for your good services’ dispatch on April 16 gave the process a necessary impetus. It sent a strong message of determination as it invites all parties involved to continue on a constructive basis the talks with Ms. Lute and with each other in an attempt for the negotiations to go on. The Security Council at its meeting on May 2 fully endorsed your approach.

Unfortunately, Turkey, rather than responding positively to your call, responded by escalating tensions with a series of aggressive moves and violations of the UN Exclusive Economic Zone, thus making the atmosphere toxic. Such provocative actions, even if they are not directly linked to the negotiation process, are nonetheless part of Turkey’s illegal and aggressive attitude towards Cyprus, a UN and EU member, and it undermines all efforts to resume to negotiations.

I have repeatedly expressed my commitment to the process, as well as to the return to negotiations as soon as possible, picking up where we left at during the Crans-Montana conference. Given this, I am working constructively with your special envoy Mrs. Lute, as part of my efforts to achieve the terms of reference, while I personally remain focused on the diplomatic initiatives she is taking. I strongly believe that the failure to reach an agreement during these last months should not discourage us, but rather should strengthen our efforts to achieve the reunification agreement, which will benefit not only Greek Cypriots but Turkish Cypriots as well. There are no alternatives to the efforts in finding a peaceful solution to the disputes, and I think this message is more important today than ever.

In this context, I would like to remind you of some of the proposals I have already made, in my effort to move the process forward. Regarding the Turkish-Cypriot side’s insistence that for any decision by the central government or any other institution is necessarily a positive vote is necessary, I have repeatedly noted that we are ready to look at the proposal of at least one positive vote there and wherever decisions might affect a community’s or a State’s vital interests, as there will already be an effective dispute settlement mechanism.

Following your encouragement, I have already suggested the submission of new ideas which can be found useful in bringing the two sides together, the proposal to open a debate on the decentralization of powers by the central government. Such a proposal presupposes that from the one side the central government will retain those powers that are absolutely necessary to ensure the unity and coherence of the federal state, but at the same time every constituent state within its administrative area and in coordination with the authority subsidiarity will enjoy greater administrative autonomy. I have proposed another idea related to the decentralization of powers, which may have positive implications for the dead-end to be escaped. The idea is to adopt a new power system under the name of parliamentary system, that involves a permanent Greek Cypriot President and a Turkish Cypriot Vice-President. At the same time, a rotation will take place with a ratio of 4 to 2 a Prime Minister and a Deputy Prime Minister, who will be elected by the House of Representatives. Such a system will bring the two communities and the two constituent states closer, as there will be a need for convergence and partnerships on an ideological level.

Afterwards, in response to your encouragement to adopt confidence-building measures which will strengthen the effort for dialogue and for resolving the Cypriot issue, during the course of our meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on February 26 in 2019, I presented a package of 21 confidence building measures aimed at reversing the counterproductive climate. Unfortunately, the Turkish-Cypriot leader’s response was that many of the confidence-building measures are related to issues concerning the Turkish army and the illegal zones that have been set in the north and, he has not responded yet. Regarding procedural issues that can allow us to positively support the effort your envoy has been putting in the reaching of an agreement within the ‘Terms of Reference’, I would like to remind you some suggestions I have promoted.

I have suggested to Ms. Lute to arrange a meeting with the two leaders and herself so as to discuss ways in which we can overcome the existing difficulties. The proposal has been rejected by the Turkish Cypriot leader, but I have made it clear that I am ready for such a meeting in the event that he revisits. I have also welcomed the proposal put forward by Ms. Lute for an informal procedural conference in the Crans-Montana model, in order to discuss and agree on the way we go forward. Unfortunately, Turkey has rejected it citing the EU presence as an excuse.

As you might remember during our Beijing meeting last month, I have already proposed a meeting of leaders in your presence, in order to assess the current situation and to explore possible ways in which we can move forward. At the same time, as I have repeated in many cases, in addition to the proposals I have put forward, I am always open to new constructive and innovative ideas to escape the current dead-end.

However, at the moment we have to deal with Turkey’s aggression, which is projected through hostile rhetoric and actions that constitute a clear violation of Cyprus’ sovereign rights. As I have communicated to you, and I think it is understandable, these Turkish actions undermine the negotiating process. What is most unfortunate is Turkey’s deliberate misconception of the provisions of international law and of the United Nations Treaty on the Law of the Sea, which Turkey has not ratified, especially as it refuses to enter into a debate with the affected states. What is also increasingly alarming is the ongoing statements by Turkish officials and Turkish Cypriot “officers” that Turkey will intensify its illegal actions within our EEZ.

That is why I would like to invite you as the guardian of international law as well as of the principles and values ​the United Nations are supposed to represent, to contribute by following a rigid attitude so that the illegal actions come to an end and that Turkey is prevented from proceeding to any further provocative actions. At the same time for Turkey to focus on the efforts and to constructively work in order for talks to start again. As I have repeatedly pointed out I am ready to move in this direction with dedication. In these challenging conditions it is very important not to let the hope and expectations for the continuation of negotiations to be lost. I hope that with your help and support, the right conditions will re-occur and the other side will agree to one of the alternatives mentioned above, so that the negotiation process will commence again.

In conclusion, let me also raise another crucial urgent issue. Taking into account the recent provocative actions by the Turkish army within the dead zone and in the villages of Deneia and Strovilia, I cannot omit to refer to the importance of maintaining a calm situation throughout the island. In conclusion, it is of the utmost importance for UNFICYP’s status to be maintained, to remain unchanged, as it helps to conserve or establish a creative environment for negotiations over a settlement, through an effort to keep tensions at a minimum regardless of the number of challenges it faces./ibna