Final preparations are under way on both sides of the island for the resumption of talks around the beginning of May.
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide is to return on Monday for meetings with the leaders and negotiating teams.
Key to a final agreement for talks is confirmation that Turkey won’t renew the naval notice (Navtex) for seismic surveys in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone which expires on Monday, April 6.
Through diplomatic channels, Ankara has provided specific assurances to President Anastasiades and has already withdrawn its vessel Barbaros from Cypriot waters. The president also wants promises that Barbaros will not return if a deal is made to sell gas to Egypt from the Aphrodite gas field.
Talks are due to resume after the April 19 Turkish Cypriot elections, with thorny core issues of property, territory and governance on the table. Taking into account the positions submitted in July 2014 – there is almost no common ground between the two sides.
On territory, the Turkish Cypriot side is willing to return only the ghost town of Varosha and the buffer zone under Greek Cypriot control, whereas Greek Cypriots are demanding much more.
On the issue of property, the Turkish Cypriots have proposed a global exchange and no restitution, whereas big differences have been also registered in governance.
Substantial and intensive efforts will be needed to bridge positions up to September and prepare the ground for final trade-offs, which is anticipated to be exchanged in the autumn.
• April 6: Turkey is expected not to renew the Navtex. Eide arrives in Cyprus, probably from Turkey where he will have had meetings with Foreign Ministry officials dealing with the political problem.
• April 7: Eide to hold separate meetings with leaders Anastasiades and Dervis Eroglu. The Special Adviser would like to announce the date and the agenda of the leaders’ meeting. Greek Cypriots will only accept a very carefully worded statement.
• April 19: Leadership elections in the north. A possible second round of voting will determine the start-date of reunification talks.
• End of April–May: Resumption of talks. The Turkish Cypriots proposed the negotiations to restart with leaders meeting abroad in the presence of UN Secretary-General. The Greek Cypriots rejected the proposal.
• Hot summer: Exploratory talks will start in May and last until the general elections in Turkey, scheduled for June 7. It is believed that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will not make concessions on the Cyprus problem before he establishes whether he has the necessary majority in the new parliament to make constitutional changes and upgrade his executive position.
• Evaluation in three months: After the Turkish elections, the two sides are expected to embark on intensive talks for three months. In September, there should be an evaluation of progress to determine whether the sides are ready for the last phase of talks, the give-and-take session. Eide believes he will be able to evaluate progress in July and inform the UN Security Council accordingly. The Greek Cypriots regard this scheduling as over-optimistic.
• End game: Final trade-offs are expected to take place from October until the end of the year or the first months of 2016 at the latest. All parties would like to avoid having the end-game of the current process coinciding with the May 2016 parliamentary elections in the south.