An agreement regarding the Conference on Cyprus possible by the end of the week, Eide says

I think it is possible and it is my ambition to try to get an agreement regarding the Conference on Cyprus by the end of the week, UN Secretary Generals Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide said on Wednesday after a meeting he had with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.

Eide said he had a long and constructive discussion with Akinci, after having met earlier with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, noting that both leaders have said that they are in principle committed to go the final mile to seek to reconvene the Conference on Cyprus in Geneva and they both talked about doing this in the near future.

“But there are outstanding issues which remain outstanding even now on the modalities around that and how to organise both the Conference as such and surrounding activities, and also what has to be done before we go there. I see that there is scope to find an agreement on this, but there is still a way to go. So I dont want to jump to conclusions,” Eide noted.

He said that his shuttle diplomacy will continue, adding that “both sides have explicitly asked me to continue to shuttle between them and to try to iron out these outstanding issues. I will not go into detail on that.”

“The work continues. The starting point of both leaders is and has been now for the last week clearly that there is not much more that can be achieved in Cyprus without agreeing on an international Conference to be reconvened,” he noted.

Because, he added, “at some point we also have to address those issues that can only be addressed in the presence of the guarantors and of the EU as an observer while there are of course also outstanding issues on other chapters. But we have reached a point where they want to make that decision but they are not yet ready to make it because there are some issues that they are still outstanding.”

Asked when a date is expected to be announced, Eide said “I think it is possible and it is also my ambition to try to get an agreement on this particular issue by the end of this week. The sooner the better but these are also sensitive issues for both sides. Despite of this shared principled will there are real differences that we still have to work on from both sides.”

Invited to say if they have enough instruments to draw a road map to Geneva the UN diplomat replied: “Yes in the sense that we know what its done and we know what still needs to be done and we know how the different issues relate to each other, so in that sense the ingredients are there, but there are issues about sequencing, there are issues about the modalities in which different issues can be discussed and at what point they can be discussed even in Geneva.”

“These are relatively detailed questions but in respect of the sides I have to say that behind what seems like details lies of course certain political differences that we have to be respectful of,” he noted, adding that the process is leader-led, the international Conference is UN-led, thats the SG of the UN who convenes the international Conference but there is no purpose in international Conference if it does not align with what the two leaders want to do on those issues which only they can deal with here in Cyprus.

He noted that an important part of this job, the Secretary’s General and the UN team’s is to make the best use of the two levels. “There is the bicommunal level between the two sides here. There is thankfully full agreement that most issues should be solved by Cypriots and Cypriots only, no guarantors, no other players, no UN, no EU, they are really Cyprus issues and then there are those issues which cannot be dealt properly without involving guarantors and the EU as well. So how do we align these levels so that they mutually reinforce each other rather than mutually exclude each other,” he said.

Asked if he has made any proposal about the modalities, the UN diplomat said that this is their process. “What I do is I listen very carefully in detail to what they say and what their proposals are and then of course I reflect on them and see if we can find a common ground. But whatever common ground will be found will at the end of the day be that of the leaders and I am trying to help them to get there.”

Asked when they are looking at a possible conference if all goes well, Eide said that this is one of the things they will be discussing, adding that “thats not the main problem.”

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Anastasiades and Akinci have been engaged in UN-led talks since May 2015 with a view to reunite the island under a federal roof.