2019 will be a milestone year for the Cyprus issue, Foreign Minister tells CNA

Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides has expressed the conviction that 2019 will be a milestone year for the Cyprus issue, underlining that the current status quo is unacceptable and cannot constitute the settlement of the problem.

In an interview to Cyprus News Agency (CNA) and invited to say if he believes that 2019 will be a pivotal year for the Cyprus problem, taking into consideration the latest developments on the issue and the process which is underway with a view to formulate the terms of reference, Christodoulides said that he considers that 2019 will be undoubtedly and without any exaggeration, a milestone year for the Cyprus problem and the efforts for its settlement.

Christodoulides noted that the first major task that has to be fulfilled is to formulate the terms of reference that will allow substantive, targeted and results-oriented negotiations to take place.

He stressed that in this framework an agreement on the terms of reference and the resumption of substantive and promising negotiations constitute the only goal of the Greek Cypriot side, and this is the message that has been clearly conveyed to the UN Secretary-General’s envoy Jane Holl Lute.

Lute is expected to pay a new visit to Cyprus later this month or in February, with a view to clinch an agreement on the terms of reference.

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said in his report on his good offices mission in Cyprus issued in October 2018 that prior to resuming fully fledged negotiations, the sides should agree on the terms of reference that would constitute the consensus starting point for a possible negotiated conclusion to the Cyprus issue.

Foreign Minister Christodoulides noted in his interview to CNA that the aim of the formulation of the terms of reference, that will touch both upon issues of substance and issues of procedure, is to clear up the matters related to the negotiations and the two sides to have a common understanding about them.

In this framework, he went on, it is expected that among others, the terms of reference will confirm what was achieved during the latest negotiating process, the Guterres Framework, as well as issues related to the procedure, for example if a new effort will begin with bicommunal negotiations in Nicosia, or with a new Conference on Cyprus.

He noted that a positive outcome on the terms of reference, which he considers as an absolutely achievable goal, if all the parties involved truly realise that the current state of affairs is dangerous for all the people of Cyprus, will lead to a second milestone for the Cyprus problem in 2019.

This milestone is nothing else but the resumption of substantive negotiations that could lead to a positive outcome, the Foreign Minister stressed.

Moreover, he noted that it is our strong belief, and we’ve been working towards this direction, that the current unacceptable status quo cannot constitute the settlement of the Cyprus problem.

Asked about the challenges which the Republic of Cyprus will have to face in 2019 as regards its foreign policy, bearing in mind the alliances it has been developing in the region and the implementation of its Energy programme, the Foreign Minister said that our foreign policy is determined taking into consideration a number of changing and stable parameters, both domestic and external, as our geographical position, the situation in the region, our EU membership, the Energy sector, the international situation, our national problem, factors related with domestic parameters, etc.

Therefore, he added, there are many and various challenges, and we need to be constantly vigilant, study and fully comprehend regional, European and international developments.

Furthermore, Christodoulides said that taking into consideration the three pillars of the Republic of Cyprus’ foreign policy, in 2019, among other actions, we will work systematically and through concrete planning for the operation of the Permanent Secretariat for Trilateral Mechanisms, that will give a new impetus to regional cooperation and consultation. It will also work to implement the ad hoc expansion of the trilateral schemes.

The Foreign Ministry will seek to establish a Secretariat for European Affairs that will decisively reinforce the horizontal cooperation of competent authorities and will enhance our substantive engagement with EU matters, particularly in a period during which discussions on the Future of Europe are expected to be intensified, due to the challenges because of Brexit and other developments which are threatening the Union’s cohesion, he noted.

The Foreign Minister expressed the view that 2019 will also be particularly crucial at European level in view of the European elections, the new composition of the European Commission and the election of the new President of the European Council, taking into consideration the need to address the migration issue, discussions for an agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework, EU relations with other actors of the international system etc.

Furthermore, he noted that other major challenges in 2019 will include enhancing reforms at the Ministry, fully institutionalising public consultations, completing Cyprus’ National Security Strategy and substantially developing new approaches directly related with the Republic’s foreign policy on economic, cultural and digital diplomacy.

The promotion and full use of these tools constitutes a priority in 2019, Christodoulides stressed.

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.

Source: Cyprus News Agency