Turkish Cyprus optimistic for breakthrough in joint statement row

Photo: Turkish Cyprus optimistic for breakthrough in joint statement row / Turkey

Shuttle diplomacy involving the UN, as well as the United States, is under way to break a deadlock on a joint statement that the Greek Cypriots want before talks on the reunification of Cyprus can resume and a breakthrough could come in a matter of days, the Turkish Cypriot foreign minister said on Friday, Today's Zaman reported.

"There is no reason why it should not be announced in a few days," Ozdil Nami told a group of journalists at a roundtable organized by the Global Political Trends Center of Kultur University in İstanbul, referring to the disputed joint statement.

It was hoped Turkish Cypriot leader Dervish Eroglu and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades would resume talks on the fate of the island after UN General Assembly meeting in New York in September, but the process stalled when the Greek Cypriot side insisted on a joint statement that would serve as a "blueprint" for the renewed talks.

But the talks on the joint statement faltered when Greek Cypriots insisted that it should include such principles as single sovereignty, single citizenship and a single international legal personality in the new, united Cypriot federation that would emerge out of reunification talks. The Turkish Cypriot side initially rejected them, saying such matters should be discussed during the reunification talks, but eventually countered, insisting that the joint statement text should include elements that would meet Turkish Cypriot expectations. The Turkish Cypriot demands include phrases that would clearly state that even though the new Cypriot state would have single sovereignty, it would emanate equally from the Turkish and Greek Cypriots. Turkish Cypriot demands also include guarantees that residual powers, which refer to authorities not stipulated in the federal constitution of the future Cypriot state, would belong to the Turkish and Greek Cypriot constituent states.

The current draft text of the joint statement has come out of talks on these mutual demands, Nami said.
Shuttle diplomacy

Nami is from the left-leaning Republican Turks' Party (CTP), which, under former Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat's leadership, staunchly supported the reunification of the island on the basis of a UN plan named after former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that saw a referendum in 2004. Eroglu, on the other hand, is head of the center-right National Unity Party (UBP), which objected to the Annan plan.

But Nami dismissed any rift within the Turkish Cypriot leadership, saying Eroglu was pleased with the final version of the draft joint statement.

Following a meeting this week between Eroglu and political party leaders to discuss the joint statement talks, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) Prime Minister Ozkan Yorgancioglu, who also heads the CTP, dismissed concerns over the inclusion of the principle of single sovereignty, saying it was also part of the Annan plan and agreed to during earlier talks between Talat and former Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias.

A visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu over the weekend to the KKTC helped the Turkish Cypriot side form a joint stance, Nami also said.

Davutoglu was in Athens before traveling to the KKTC and reportedly discussed diplomatic efforts for a breakthrough in Cyprus with his US and British counterparts in telephone conversations before his visit to Athens.

"The UN is involved. The United States is involved more actively than it has ever been in the past 10 years," said Nami, noting that the US ambassador in Greek Cyprus has been part of the shuttle diplomacy conducted to bring about a solution to the joint statement row.

"The chances of success are higher than the possibility of a failure," he said, even though he warned that failure has not been a rare commodity throughout the decades-old history of Cyprus reunification efforts.

Nami, who was the Turkish Cypriot negotiator in talks with the Greek Cypriot side during Talat's term in office, revealed that Anastasiades, in addition to demanding a joint statement, had also put forward preconditions in the name of creating a favorable political atmosphere for the restart of the talks. The Greek Cypriot leader, elected to his post in February, has, among others, requested the return to Greek Cyprus of the fenced off town of Varosha and wanted the Turkish Cypriot side to commit to an eventual solution that would include a mechanism of security guarantees for the island that gives no guarantor states the right to military intervention in Cyprus.

"We have spent considerable time eliminating these preconditions," said Nami, emphasizing that none of the demands made by the Greek Cypriot government have made their way into the current, almost finished draft version of the joint statement.

Talks on the reunification of Cyprus began in 2008 when Talat was president of the KKTC. Talat negotiated with Christofias until Eroglu's election as president in 2010. Eroglu then continued the talks with Christofias until he was replaced by Anastasiades in February. Even though some progress was made, the talks have failed to produce a breakthrough so far.

According to Nami, the Turkish Cypriot side has been determined to be as constructive as possible during the Cyprus solution process since a meeting in New York in September with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during which he said the UN was getting ready for a "final push" and that it will be done "in a time-framed manner."

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