Greek and Turkish Cypriot negotiators have been instructed to pull out all the stops to define criteria that would provide a base for settling the property aspect of the Cyprus problem.
Government sources told the Cyprus Weekly that leaders Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci, during their meeting on September 1, agreed to almost all property categories. This is the list defining which properties could be returned to their original owners and which properties could be up for compensation or exchange.
That was the easy part, as filing Greek Cypriot properties in the north and Turkish Cypriot properties in the south into certain categories is an exercise that has been started since 2008.
Now the negotiators, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Ozdil Nami face the difficult task to devise the criteria, the guidelines, which will enable the Property Commission, to be set up after a solution of the problem, formulas returning properties to original owners or giving priority to the needs of current users.
It is a daunting project. At the moment, the two teams not only haven’t started discussing criteria, but cannot agree on what the term “current user” exactly means.
Greek Cypriots define the term literally and arguing that users cannot have first say in a property, even if they have occupied it for decades. They acknowledge, though, that current users should have some rights. Turkish Cypriots argue the opposite and insist that users should be able to determine the future of a property, provided they reside there for many years and have made even the slightest improvements.
Negotiation insiders point out that although the effort to find common ground will be considerable in September, nobody expects an early deal on property criteria.
A critical time frame to this end is considered the November –December period. In any case, earlier estimates that a deal could be reached up to January 2016 and referendums to be held next March are now deemed to be optimistic.
Diplomatic sources, argued that the whole process could continue after the parliamentary elections.
They also pointed out that such a development could be helpful to the prospect of finding a solution, especially if the support for hardline political parties, such as Diko and Edek take a plunge.
By Lefteris Adilinis