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Tight two-month timeline

President Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci must take advantage of June and July if they want to achieve progress in Cyprus talks leading to a conclusion of the peace process this year.

Sources close to the talks told the Cyprus Weekly that this is not an easy task as, until December 2016, the two sides face various hurdles that could derail the negotiations. And in any case this will most certainly happen when French oil major Total starts drilling for hydrocarbons in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) next January.

The European Council, at the end of June, will present the first hurdle. Implementation of the EU-Turkey deal on containing the migrant/refugee crisis depends on lifting the visa requirement for Turkish nationals travelling to the European Union.

Diplomatic sources insist that it is mathematically impossible for Ankara to implement all 72 rules the EU has set for closing a deal on visas.

To save face, Turkey could then demand the opening of its five EU accession chapters blocked unilaterally by Cyprus. A development that would most certainly influence the talks.

July will have to be the month for constructive talks between the two leaders. They should tackle all internal aspects of the problem in order to facilitate an international conference on guarantees in mid-autumn.

August is traditionally a holiday month, even for Cyprus negotiations, whereas in September the focus will be in New York and the UN General Assembly.

Finally, two major international developments could affect the Cyprus talks.

Next November, after the US presidential elections, there will be a change of guard in the White House.

Whoever wins, there will be significant administration changes that could influence the way Washington sees Cyprus.

Secretary of State, John Kerry, and Vice President, Joe Biden, two influential figures who came to understand the political problem, will not be there. Another serious development is the change at the UN helm. Ban Ki-moon’s second and last term as UN Secretary General will be concluded.

It is highly unlikely that his successor will bank on resolving the Cyprus question as a way to boost their clout and international credibility.

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