NICOSIA, Cyprus – A solution to the Cyprus problem is possible within months, the Turkish Cypriot chief negotiator in UN-brokered talks that resumed this week on reunifying the island said on Saturday, May 16.
“It’s always very dangerous to talk about time frames, however, everybody agrees that with the required political will, technically it is possible to solve the Cyprus issue in a matter of months and not years,” said Ozdil Nami.
Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci on Friday resumed talks that had been stalled since October.
They agreed to meet twice a month to push for a solution to reunite the eastern Mediterranean island, with Anastasiades saying he has “high hopes” for the future and Akinci equally optimistic.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied the island’s northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union for Greece. (READ: Cyprus: A nation divided, 40 years on)
The self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was unilaterally declared in 1983 in a move recognized only by Ankara.
Nami said that decades on, “there is a feeling that this is a final push to find a solution”.
The Turkish Cypriot negotiator described Anastasiades and Akinci as “the right people to deliver” a solution. But he warned they must act quickly on the positive momentum that emerged from Friday’s talks.
“You can’t sustain that positive mood in the public opinion for long. You are obliged to deliver positive results rapidly,” he said.
“Everybody is aware that now that the Cyprus issue has been on the UN agenda for more than half a century. There is a feeling of being fed up with it.
After Friday’s talks Akinci tweeted his optimism saying, “if we find the way out until the end of this year, everyone will be happy.”
Steps to push deal
The aim of Friday’s meeting, held in the presence of UN special envoy Espen Barthe Eide, was to agree on the structure and frequency of meetings.
Anastasiades and Akinci emerged from the talks saying they would meet again for a new round of negotiations on May 28.
The Greek Cypriot leader reportedly presented Akinci with maps of more than two dozen minefields planted in the mountains north of Nicosia before the Turkish invasion.
Nami said the two sides had agreed on “practical measures” to help push a solution and satisfy public opinion and were working to fine tune other steps.
“We are already in great agreement about connecting our mobile phone operators, that will be one measure… There’s also teaching of Greek and Turkish in primary schools,” he said.
“Longer term measure may include opening more crossing points, and allowing free access to commercial vehicles to facilitate trade between north and south.”
Currently there are 7 crossings between northern and southern Cyprus, which are also not connected on the telecommunications grid.
Long-standing sticking points such as land restitution or the fate of Varosha in the north would be examined later, said Nami.
Varosha and its pristine beaches in the eastern town of Famagusta has fallen into ruins since its Greek Cypriot residents fled as Turkish troops invaded the north of the island in 1974.
“All aspects of these issues have been thoroughly discussed, the positions of both sides, are well known, the compromise positions are well known as well,” said Nami. (READ: Cypriots ready to resume peace talks)
Any agreement will have to be put to the Cypriot people for a vote.
A UN settlement blueprint put to a referendum in 2004 was rejected by 75 percent of Greek Cypriots. – Camille Bouissou, Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
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