Crans – Montana Conference best chance for Cyprus, Eide tells a press conference in Geneva

The Cyprus Conference at Crans – Montana in Switzerland is the best chance for Cyprus, UNSGs Special Advisor for Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide has said, replying to questions during a press conference he held in the UN headquarters in Geneva, one day before the commencement of the Conference.

Invited to comment on Turkish Cypriot leader’s statement that this conference is decisive for the future of Cyprus, Eide said that it is an extremely important conference and expressed hope that it will bring participants to a comprehensive settlement.

‘I know many people say similar things on both sides, my preference is to talk about this as the best chance and not to discuss about whether is a last chance, it is a unique opportunity and it would be extremely sad if it was wasted’ he stressed, adding that that this is recognized by all participants.

Noting that there are different starting points and a long way to go, he pointed out that both leaders (Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci) are committed, while Ankara, Athens, London and Brussels express the position that it is in the interest of the wider region that this issue is solved.

Eide said that since January, when the first Cyprus Conference took place in Geneva, more time was lost than expected.

‘The fact that we are only coming back in June has to do with the developments in Cyprus which are not directly related to the Conference’ he said, adding that ‘we are here to do our utmost to make it possible for them to succeed in reunifying their country’.

Replying to questions, Eide pointed out that an advantage in Cyprus compared to other places the UN is involved for peace is that there is no ongoing violence, but at the same time many Cypriots are aware that status quo is not guaranteed.

He said that given regional and global developments and the fact that the two leaders want the reunification, Cypriots are well advised to try to make the best out of this opportunity.

The UNSG’s Special Advisor said that there has been remarkable progress in the talks and no pair of leaders has been further ahead in any previous attempts and reiterated that the talks are Cypriot owned and there is no UN arbitration.

Referring to the negotiating chapters, he said that ‘in the four chapters, governance and power sharing, property, economy and EU we are largely done’ but noted that there are a couple of significant outstanding issues which are deliberately left outstanding because they can only be addressed together.

On the territory chapter, he said that the two sides for the first time in history exchanged maps in January and that there is still an issue of the exact drawing of the line.

‘On these five chapters we made substantive progress’ he said, noting that the most complicated issue is the chapter on security and guarantees.

Asked about the common document on security and guarantees, he said that it was an ambitious undertaking because they were trying to collect the inputs, both those from the Mont Pelerin meetings and then further inputs. He said that at this current moment the sides are diametrically opposed but the process was helpful because it brought more clarity on more detail.

‘But we clearly did not achieve what we can call a common document’ he said, noting that the UN will not present a common document at the Conference.

He urged everyone not to underestimate the importance of the process and said that in any case the negotiations will happen in Crans Montana.

In addition, he clarified that despite of many claims to the contrary, the UN made no proposals on substance.

Eide said that at the working dinner tonight they will see how to use the coming days, potentially weeks, most effectively.

Since January, he said, the discussions on the security and guarantees chapter have been enriched by more inputs so that there is deeper understanding.

Replying to other questions, Eide said that Britain has remained very engaged in the discussion.

‘You can hardly question the commitment of the UK. The commitment is there as I feel it is also from the other participants’ he said, whereas especially for Turkey he noted that ‘at this point at least it seems that Turkey is ready to play its part and I think that is true for the other participants as well’.

Asked about the format of the Conference, Eide said that there will be parallel discussion, with the international players, the guarantors and the presence of the EU as an observer and with the sides of Cyprus in one format and then there will be the continuation of the bicommunal talks happening in a separate room in the same conference centre separate but interdependent.

‘In principle every one will be there until it is over’ he said, explaining that this will not necessarily happen at the highest level, but whenever a Foreign Minister is not present, there will be a fully empowered chief negotiator.

He added that the current working hypothesis is that the Foreign Ministers will stay this week and then if there are certain developments this week then their deputies will continue.

Eide also said that the EU representatives, High Commissioner Mogherini and Commission’s Vice President Frans Timmermans will also stay this week.

Asked about the new US government’s role on the Cyprus issue, he said that the strong American commitment has continued from the Obama to the Trump administration.

‘The US with the other P5 of the UNSC have all been constructively active’ he said.

Source: Cyprus News Agency