By Thanasis Gavos – London
Progress on the latest round of (attempted) negotiations on resolving the Cyprus problem seems to be rather slow; but that doesn’t mean than involved parties stand still.
The decision to have the Greek and Turkish chief negotiators sent to Turkey and Greece respectively as part of the new plan, was designed to bring these guarantor powers closer to the process and have them recognise the important role they can play – although evidently the Turkish role is the key one in this case.
Greece, via her Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, brought the issue closer to the third guarantor power which insists that it can do no more than wish the Cypriot leaders and the Cypriot people well: Evangelos Venizelos visited London and held talks with Foreign Secretary Hague.
Aides to the Greek official were saying that the Cyprus issue would obviously be on the agenda. So it was a surprise when in his statement after the meeting had ended William Hague forgot to include it in the list of topics that were discussed. An innocent omission of course, but perhaps symbolic of the risk of letting the Cypriot problem slip down the priorities ranking once again if no progress is achieved.
Mr Venizelos set the record straight, saying the Cyprus was central in the discussion at Carlton House Terrace. Responding to a question from IBNA, he also pointed to the importance of taking into account the European status of Cyprus. And he went on to complete the Greek position on the matter by stressing that for any agreement to be valid a referendum would be required.
“We need a viable, fair and acceptable solution, always in line with the resolution of the Security Council of the UN, a solution acceptable by the two communities through a referendum. This is something very important, absolutely vital,” noted the Greek Foreign Minister. The viable solution, he added, should also be in line with the European acquis: “Cyprus is a member of the EU. It’s absolutely important to protect the European character of the Cyprus Republic.”.
Asked about the pace of progress in Cyprus, William Hague said: “I don’t think it helps any people concerned for us to talk about slow or quick progress. The UK encourages reaching a solution. We’ve had a good discussion about it today. I also discussed it in Istanbul last week with the Turkish Foreign Minister. Of course we encourage progress and we encourage agreement, but it’s not for the United Kingdom to try to decide what that is. It would be a tremendous step forward in European affairs and world affairs if the right solution could be found. But that’s up to the people of Cyprus and up to the leaders involved. So we wish them well in trying to reach that solution.”
The Cypriot government would support the reference to the EU acquis and would welcome a more active European involvement. But although in no way would it want the British side to run the negotiations, Nicosia would definitely remind Mr Hague of the important role the UK could play in exerting more pressure on Turkey.