UN Special Envoy on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide on Saturday said the coming days would see steps taken to overcome the current Cyprus settlement talks crisis but also expressed the opinion the talks would not be restarting immediately.
Talks for a solution have come to a grinding halt since the Enosis Day bill controversy last month – which sparked a row between President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.
Speaking after a three-hour meeting with Akinci on Saturday, Eide said the UN was attempting to find ways for the current state of the talks to be overcome and that steps to this end would be taken over the coming days. He did not provide more detail on what these steps would be.
Eide also said his meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades on Friday and his Saturday meeting with Akinci had convinced him both leaders remain committed to and strongly desired a way being found for the talks to continue.
Even if this would not possible immediately, Eide said it was a case of the sooner the better, noting whether Cyprus could be reunited or not was something that could be decided on within the coming weeks, not months.
Specefically, Eide said the meeting with Akinci had been “substantive and long” precisely because we know that the process is in a difficult situation right now.
“We are working on ways to overcome that and I think steps will be taken in the coming days that might be helpful to that respect, without being able to go more into detail on that”.
He said that after having seen Anastasiades on Friday and Akinci: “is very clear to me that both leaders remain committed to making this work. There`s a strong desire to find the way both to continue the talks even if it’s not likely to happen immediately but hopefully the sooner the better”.
Eide said that when they resume the meetings they will work on a new methodology which will bring speedier progress in the outstanding issues.
He said after Geneva, although there were a number of meetings, there was no significant progress.
Before that particular crisis the meetings were not bad, Eide remarked but “were simply a little bit slow in producing new breakthroughs on key issues” and that all had sometimes spent time on minor issues, that should have been better spent on larger issues.
The UN advisor said they are “discussing constructively new ideas about how to organize the time for when talks continue towards hopefully an agreement, in a way where we systematically go through all core issues and see their interrelationship, even better than we have done before”.
Eide said that there are two things in a crisis, either to allow it to continue until the whole thing breaks down or you can use the crisis as a wake up call for a new approach and turn the crisis into an opportunity.
“I think that’s what both leaders want. It`s definitely what the Secretary General and I do want”, he added.
Eide said the “coming weeks will be decisive” and that it is “more true than ever before that the fate of the process, not only this one, but the fate of the question of whether Cyprus will be reunified will be decided in the coming weeks, not months”.
He stressed that “many people have a role to play in laying the foundation for this to continue” and called on everybody who has some influence to use it. This is really a time of strategic leadership and true leadership shows itself in crisis. It`s not very difficult to be leader when everything is fine”.
Eide said that a lot of people have to do what they can and really understand that this is not the time for `business as usual` but rather it is the time to really ask the big question. ‘Do we want the island to be reunified and are we ready to do the necessary things to go that final mile?’
Eide reiterated that despite of issues on trust and despite of concrete disagreement on issues, particularity outside of the talks, “it is perfectly possible to solve this question. Twenty-two months have been invested and most of those have been used systematically and creatively to solve many of the issue in most of the chapters. All chapters are on the table, including security and guarantees where we had a constructive dialogue, including territory which is not done but we have come further than any pair of leaders have done ever before”.
Noting that there is nothing in the talks to suggest it cannot be done, he emphasised that “it can not be done without trust and you need the trust between the leaders” adding the focus now is to re-establish the trustful relationship and the approach and the leadership that we saw from the top through all these months.