IBNA/ Interview with Cypriot Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides

IBNA/ Interview with Cypriot Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides

Nicosia, May 11, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

“Turkey is the key-holder for unlocking a solution to the Cyprus problem”

By Kyriacos Kyriacou

The dinner held today May 11th by United Nations Secretary General’s Special Adviser for Cyprus Espen Barth Eide “will be an opportunity for the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders to have a first, informal exchange of views, as well as decide on the date for the resumption of the negotiations” to reunite Cyprus said in an interview to IBNA Cypriot Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides.

He added that the peace talks were regrettably interrupted last October by Turkey’s illegal activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus, “which left Mr. Anastasiades with no other choice but to suspend the participation of the Greek-Cypriot side in the negotiations”. The Eastern Mediterranean Island is divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

Nicos Christodoulides believes that the recent election of Mustafa Akinci as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community “has rekindled hopes, or a cautious optimism” to reach a solution, adding however that the “reality is that the key-holder for unlocking a solution to the Cyprus problem, has always been, and remains to be at the hands of Turkey”.

Government Spokesman also speaks on the progress achieved in the talks between the leaders of Greece, Egypt, and Cyprus and comments on Turkish warnings for the tripartite agreement on regional issues and the Exclusive Economic Zone.

IBNA: United Nations Secretary General’s Special Adviser for Cyprus Espen Barth Eide had a meet on Tuesday with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. He will also host a dinner for the Cypriot President and newly-elected Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on May 11th. What is expected from these meetings?

NC: President Anastasiades had a positive and fruitful meeting with UNSG Special Adviser Mr. Espen Barth Eide on Tuesday, during which they had an opportunity to discuss the way forward following the expected resumption of the negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem, and the choice of Mr. Akinci as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. President Anastasiades reiterated his strong and sincere commitment to reuniting Cyprus and ending the 41-year old division, through a solution that is in line with UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions, High Level Agreements, the Joint Declaration of 11 February 2014 and EU rules, values and principles. Turkey’s contribution in concrete terms in the efforts to find a solution is of course a sine qua non.

The dinner on May 11th will be an opportunity for the two leaders to have a first, informal exchange of views, as well as decide on the date for the resumption of the negotiations, which were regrettably interrupted last October by Turkey’s illegal activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus, which left Mr. Anastasiades with no other choice but to suspend the participation of the Greek-Cypriot side in the negotiations.

IBNA: UN-backed talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots sides have failed to reach a settlement since 1974. Has anything changed today to create hopes for a solution?

NC: It is true that the choice of Mr. Akinci as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community – a politician who is in his own words is pro-reunification and pro-solution, on the agreed basis as set out in UNSC Resolutions – has rekindled hopes, or a cautious optimism. It is also true that what will essentially dictate whether tangible progress in reaching a solution is possible, is how constructively the two sides will negotiate on the negotiating table, as well as how concretely Turkey, the occupation force in Cyprus, will support the negotiations. It remains to be seen whether these expectations will materialise, and we truly hope and expect that they will.

We believe that there are strong incentives for Turkey to contribute concretely in the efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem, including the energy developments the Eastern Mediterranean, the growing cooperation in an array of fields among countries of this region, the catalytic effect that a solution will have on EU-Turkey relations, as well as on Turkey’s EU accession process.

IBNA: Just hours after he was elected as the new Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci was entangled in an angry row with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Are these Turkish warnings a stark reminder of additional difficulties the Greek and Turkish Cypriots would face in trying to end the rift that has kept them apart for over 40 years?

NC: You are in fact touching on the core of the Cyprus problem. The reality is that the key-holder for unlocking a solution to the Cyprus problem, has always been, and remains to be at the hands of Turkey, which is an occupation force of part of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state. We hope and expect Turkey to play its part in resolving a problem that is not only costing Cyprus, but it is also costing Turkey, both in real terms and in political terms. A solution to the Cyprus problem will be catalytic for Cyprus and its people, but amongst other, it will also be catalytic for the Eastern Mediterranean, for Turkey, for EU-Turkey relations.

IBNA: Following talks between the leaders of Greece, Egypt, and Cyprus what is the progress achieved and in which fields?

NC: Two Summit meetings have already taken place in the framework of the trilateral mechanism, which was created one and a half years ago, and which meets every six months at Senior Officials, Ministerial and Heads of Government level.  As stated in the joint Declaration issued at the end of the meeting in Nicosia on 29 April, the three leaders, “cognizant of the immense and ever-growing challenges to the stability, security and prosperity of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and the wider region and aware of the need for a constant and concerted collective response” met in order to consider how to best address those challenges and to nurture the cooperation between them.

Issues of international terrorism are also discussed, and it has been agreed to step up cooperation on counter-terrorism in order to promote regional security and stability. Common positions and approaches on the issues of Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and the Middle East Peace Process were also expressed as well as the challenge posed by migratory fluxes across the Mediterranean. Actions are also underway to enhance cooperation in the fields of energy, investments, transport, tourism, maritime, education and other areas.

IBNA: What is your comment on Turkish warnings about the tripartite agreement between Cyprus, Greece and Egypt on regional issues and the Exclusive Economic Zone?

NC: There is no room for warnings, or threats in the volatile region of the Eastern Mediterranean. What is needed is a common vision of the countries of the region to create a stable, peaceful, prosperous Eastern Mediterranean, based on mutual respect, good neighborly relations, cooperation to the mutual benefit of the countries of the region, and respect for international law.

The tripartite cooperation between Cyprus-Egypt-Greece is based precisely on these pillars and covers an array of areas for cooperation that are mutually beneficial. President Anastasiades has been clear that this cooperation is directed against no other country, to the contrary, it is open to all countries that share the common vision for the Eastern Mediterranean, and that respect the principles I have referred to.