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Guterres comes to salvage Crans-Montana Cyprus talks

By Lefteris Adilinis

United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) Antonio Guterres is heading back to the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana on Thursday in a bid to move forward the stalled Conference on Cyprus.

The UNSG’s arrival at the Alpine resort was announced after the heads of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot delegations, together with guarantor powers Turkey, Greece and Britain, agreed that a steady hand was needed to initiate meaningful negotiations.

The Cyprus Weekly understands that Guterres will have to find ways to facilitate discussions on a package aiming to link security concerns, such as troop withdrawal and the future of guarantees, with internal issues such as the rotating presidency of the federal state, territorial adjustments, property arrangements and Ankara’s request for Turks to have equal EU rights with Greeks living in the island.

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After talks with all parties on Friday, the UNSG had stated on Saturday that a clear understanding had “emerged of the essential elements of a package that might lead to a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus”.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted after Tuesday’s evening meeting on security that “the return of UNSG is very important (…) this is the final conference”.

On Monday night Cavusoglu had talked on the phone with Guterres and UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to discuss developments in the talks.

Republic of Cyprus (RoC) President Nicos Anastasiades expressed the hope that “there will be progress enough to justify (the UNSG’s) presence on Thursday and avoid meaningless expectations without any concrete result”.

He added: “we have agreed to follow certain methodology with clear suggestions by the UNSG. If we all work together within the agreed framework then there could be progress”.

The Cyprus Weekly has learned that Anastasiades was ready on Tuesday afternoon to send Guterres a letter, briefing him on the developments. After Tuesday night’s news, however, it was not clear whether the RoC President would send the letter after all.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias also appeared somewhat reserved about the SG’s return. He said: “nothing has changed to justify Guterres’ return. But it is good he is coming.”

He added that, during Tuesday’s session, delegations discussed the Treaty of Guarantee and “we proved that it needs to be abolished. We also raised 10 questions with regards to troops presence and we are waiting for answers”.

Tuesday’s scramble
Delegates had finally started talking substance on Tuesday and apparently were unable to find common ground. As an insider put it: “they do talk, but they don’t move”.

Apart from sticking to their initial proposals tabled on Monday morning, the sides had different interpretations of Guterres’ framework on how to conduct discussions and handle all outstanding issues as a package.

Turkey and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci argue that Anastasiades should agree to a rotating presidency and grant Turkish nationals equal rights with Greeks in the island, before they reconsider their position on security, troop withdrawal and territorial adjustments.

The Cyprus Weekly understands that Anastasiades, during bicommunal meetings with Akinci on internal issues, has made clear that he will accept a rotating presidency as long Turkey agrees to a ‘sunset clause’ (a date for full troop withdrawal), drops the demand for intervention rights and hands back Morphou to Greek Cypriot control.

On Tuesday afternoon Foreign Minister Cavusoglu made some very blunt statements. He said the proposals tabled by the Greek Cypriots were out of the UNSG’s framework (rotating presidency was not included), that the Greek Cypriots were told off by the UN and had resubmitted an amended document. He also stated very firmly that Turkish troops and guarantees will remain until the Turkish Cypriots feel safe.

“Anyone who makes ludicrous proposals does not have the right to ask Turkey to fall in line,” said Cavusoglu.

He was responding to an earlier statement by Anastasiades calling on all parties “to align with what the UN Secretary-General has requested”. He also told the Turkish Cypriot press that Ankara’s proposals were not in line with UNSG’s framework.

Greek Cypriot and Greek sources argued that, although Turkey did not include intervention rights in its written proposal on security, Cavusoglu insisted during talks that Turkey wants intervention rights and could use them if needed, adding he wished such a need would never materialise.

On Wednesday morning the parties will try to find at least some minimum understandings ahead of Guterres’ arrival on Thursday when he will take over the proceedings and try to make reluctant delegates see the path leading to a Cyprus settlement.

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