Turkey’s role in Geneva Conference will be critical, US official says

Turkey’s role in the talks at the new Geneva Conference on Cyprus will be critical, Jonathan Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US State Department has said.

Cohen, who was addressing the 33rd PSEKA Conference that began on Tuesday in Washington, said that he will be going to Turkey next week to hold contacts about Cyprus.

Noting that the US � Turkey relations are facing challenges and that the US is working on them, he said that Turkey’s role in the talks at Geneva will be critical.

“We will engage with the Turks as appropriate. We take heart from the leaders in Cyprus and from UNSG’s Special Advisor for Cyprus Espen Barth Eide. If there was not a chance they wouldn’t have agreed to the negotiations. We consistently address the Turks to be flexible and work for a solution, because we think there ‘s never been as good the time or as good as the players to get to the deal as is today,” Cohen said replying to questions by the delegates at the Conference.

He also said that we all have tracks what the Turks are saying in public but also what they have said before, in Geneva and in Mont Pelerin. If there weren’t that prospect of finding a way forward, I think the parties wouldn’t have agreed to go to Geneva.

“Let’s see what happens in Geneva. What I can say about Cyprus is that everyone is just waiting for what Turkey will bring on the table,” he stressed.

Asked about the Turkish threats as regards the drillings in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone, Cohen said that the US supports the right of Cyprus to explore its EEZ for natural resources.

“We believe that any proceeds that come from hydrocarbons should be shared equitably with all the people of the island. The other thing is that we strongly encourage all sides involved to exercise restraint in the rhetoric and certainly in any reactions to Cypriot explorations,” he stressed.

Referring to bilateral relations between the US and Cyprus, Cohen said that they reached their highest level ever and that in the last three months the Cypriot President paid a visit to the US twice and relations have become stronger.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Cyprus, Kathleen Doherty, expressed the belief that an agreement on Cyprus is possible, saying that there are great prospects. The US, she said, will do their utmost to assist the two leaders.

Ambassador Doherty said that a week ago she held a meeting with UNSGs Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide and noted that “he wouldn’t have proposed to the UNSG to hold the meeting with the leaders if there was not a chance. Let’s wait and see what happens in Geneva”.

Asked about the position of the US government on the guarantees and the withdrawal of the Turkish troops from Cyprus, Ambassador Doherty said that the US are not on the negotiating table, noting that “it really is a decision among the three guarantors and the two Cypriot leaders.”

“We have been in conversations with Athens, Ankara and the UN. The physical, economic, political and other security concerns of both sides should be addressed. There are options out there, on how they come together. Wait to see ideas about how to address these issue,” she said.

Describing Cyprus as a country of strategical importance for the EU, the Ambassador emphasized on the constant contacts between the two governments and noted that their political relations are very good.

Referring to the economic relations, Doherty said that there are US investments of hundreds of millions of dollars in the fields of energy, casino etc, noting that for US companies, Cyprus constitutes a platform for their activities on the island and in the wider region.

The leaders of Cyprus’ two communities and the UN Secretary-General agreed on Sunday on the need to reconvene the Conference on Cyprus in June, in line with the 12 January statement of the conference.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met in New York, with the UN Secretary General in an effort to help make headway in the Cyprus peace process.

Anastasiades and Akinci have been engaged in talks since May 2015 to find a negotiated settlement that will reunite Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion, under a federal roof.

Source: Cyprus News Agency