Official Cyprus-UK negotiations, in view of Brexit, begin in Brussels, FM tells CNA [VIDEO]

Official negotiations between the Republic of Cyprus and the UK, in view of Brexit, begin today, in Brussels, in the presence of the European Commission, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides has told CNA.

“We are at a crucial point as official negotiations begin in Brussels”, Christodoulides said, replying to a question during an interview with CNA, noting, at the same time, that “taking into consideration all the issues which Britain has to face with regard to its decision to exit the EU, we believe this is not a difficult issue. Things are crystal clear. Our aim is to fully safeguard the rights of all the people who live or work within the British Bases,” in Cyprus.

Asked about developments in the Cyprus problem and government concerns with regard to Turkish moves towards a confederal solution or even a two-state settlement, Christodoulides underlined that “our goal is crystal clear as regards the form of the solution, and this is a settlement on the basis of the relevant UN resolutions, EU values and principles. This is where our efforts concentrate and we will work on this, he noted, adding that “we hope that negotiations will resume soon.”

Christodoulides explained that this month’s elections in Turkey are the reason why an envoy of the UN Secretary General has not yet been appointed and sent to interested parties with a view to sound out their intentions with regard to efforts to resume negotiatons.

Ankara has made it clear that it will outline its position on this issue after the elections in Turkey, he noted.

“We want this mission to take place the soonest possible, we do not want to lose more time. But this cannot happen when one of the interested parties has this approach. Nonetheless we hope that there will be some movement after the elections,” he added.

The Foreign Minister welcomed as a positive move the decision of the UN SG to propose a second personality as a Cyprus envoy, after Turkey turned down his first recommendation of somebody hailing from an EU member.

Invited to comment on criticism by the opposition in Cyprus that President Nikos Anastasiades and the government do not show the necessary will to resume the dialogue, the Foreign Minister said that “we show the necessary will through deeds and concrete actions.

He recalled that on March 15 he met the UN Secretary General and conveyed the President’s readiness to resume the talks from where they were left off in Crans-Montana, last July. He also told the UN chief that Nicosia accepted his proposal for the appointment of a personality.

The Foreign Minister said that the government and the opposition are united in the common goal of terminating the current unacceptable situation and it is in this framework that they must work.

Asked about press reports that Cyprus is interested in joining NATO, Christodoulides said that the government is not concerned about such eventuality, noting that there are objective difficulties which everybody can understand.

A lot has happened within the EU since March 2013, when President Anastasiades, as a presidential candidate at the time talked about applying to the Partnership for Peace. We focus our goals and expectations with regard to our defence policy on the EU, he told CNA.

Christodoulides said that all 21 defence agreements which Cyprus has signed in the past five years focus on this pillar of the EU.

I am for example referring to PESCO, an important development for the future of the EU in this specific area, and therefore as EU members we focus on the opportunities within this prospect,” he added, noting that he has discussed relevant issues with the head of the Organization for Security in Europe during his visit to Cyprus.

The Minister indicated that speculation about a possible interest by Cyprus in joining NATO is probably the result of discussions Nicosia has had with Washington on defence and security issues, something, which as he noted has led to recent actions in the US House of Representatives, the Congress with regard to lifting the US embargo on Cyprus.

These discussions, he explained, relate to Cyprus bilateral relations with the US “the extended dialogue on these issues and not to any thoughts by the government to submit an application to join NATO.”

Asked about his forthcoming visits abroad, Christodoulides referred to plans to visit countries of the Middle East and the Gulf, European nations, in addition to contacts with the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Asked if trilateral cooperation among Cyprus, Greece and other countries of the region may expand to include others as well, Christodoulides indicated that there are plans to invite other countries either from the region or the EU to join this cooperation, such as Lebanon and Gulf states.

It is important, the Foreign Minister pointed out, to examine ways to connect all these initiatives in an institutional manner, something which will have an added value on their effectiveness and the goals set out on a political level.

Asked about Cyprus energy programme and Turkey’s plans for drilling operations in the region, Christodoulides noted that Turkey has been making similar announcements for a couple of years now.

He said that the Republic of Cyprus is taking action so that its sovereign rights and the rights of the people of Cyprus as a whole will not be threatened in any way.

We believe that our actions have to a certain extent yielded results, but this does not mean in any way that we have become complacent. We continue out efforts, without necessarily publicizing them, he added.

Asked if he considers that Cyprus allies have shown support to the Republic as regards energy matters, Christodoulides expressed the view that statements made so far, developments that have taken place and which will take place in the coming period show and prove that the Republic of Cyprus sovereign rights cannot be questioned.

Responding to a question about the negotiations between Cyprus and the UK, which retains two military bases on the island, in view of Brexit, the Foreign Minister said that today official negotiations begin, in Brussels, with London, in the presence of the Commission.

We believe that, taking into account all the issues Britain has to address with regard to Brexit, this is not a difficult matter. The objective is to secure fully the right of all those who live or work within the British Bases, he told CNA.

Asked about reports that the European Commission has included Turkey in a group of eight countries to begin discussions with Europol on the exchange of information related to personal data, Christodoulides noted that the issue is being discussed by EU Justice Ministers, noting that Nicosias objections focus on the fact that Turkey needs to implement any eventual agreement with all member states of the EU.

Furthermore he noted that the Republic of Cyprus and other EU member states are concerned, given the fact that Turkey could use such an agreement against Turkish citizens, who are in the opposition. These are issues we raise with the Commission and which we expect to discuss with member states, he added.

Asked about Cyprus role and initiatives with regard to regional issues, as the Middle East problem, Christodoulides said that there is no initiative at present, adding that when it comes to foreign policy one should set goals that can be implemented.

“We are currently focusing on actions which we believe can bring together all the states of the region and I am referring to issues which need to be addressed and which cause concern and constitute challenges for all states in the region. These are not necessarily political issues,” he concluded.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Turkey does not recongize the Republic of Cyprus an EU member state since 2004.

The UK has retained two sovereign military bases in Cyprus, one in Akrotiri and one in Dhekelia, since it granted Cyprus its independence in 1960

Source: Cyprus News Agency