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FM: Strategic agreement on Cyprus issue means reaching point of no return

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If there is an agreement between the parties on the six points the UNSG introduced in his framework in last July’s peace talks, then negotiations will arrive at a point where the possibility of a solution of the Cyprus problem cannot be overturned, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nicos Christodoulides has said.

The Minister was speaking on Tuesday evening at an event organised by the non-governmental organisation OXygono during which he replied to questions of academic Neofytos Chrysochos and journalist Andreas Kimitris.

Christodoulides welcomed the UNSG’s recent report on Cyprus and his intention to send a senior United Nations official to conduct in-depth consultations with the parties in the framework of the efforts to solve the Cyprus issue, saying that the goal is to establish whether there are prospects to continue the negotiations from the point they were left off in the Swiss resort of Crans Montana last summer.

He also pointed out that the fact that, for the first time, the UNSG notes in his report the statement from the Turkish side regarding the aim of the solution.

Asked if there will be a new international conference on Cyprus, he said that the government hopes that an initiative will take place the soonest possible, adding that the  hope is to have a final conference that would lead to a positive outcome.

Invited to clarify the UN Secretary General`s reference on a “strategic agreement”, the Foreign Minister said that according to the UN Secretary-General this means to reach ‘a point of no return’, meaning clinching an agreement.

The UNSG, he added, believes that if there is an agreement between the parties on the six points he introduced in his framework in Crans Montana, then, the remaining issues – because there are issues on which there are disagreements – will not be capable to reverse the achievement of an overall agreement.

The Minister said that the UNSG has never spoken about an interim agreement.

“If an agreement is reached on the six points of the UN Secretary-General, we think that, yes, we will arrive at a point where the possibility of a solution of the Cyprus problem cannot be overturned,” he said.

Christodoulides praised the EU role in the efforts to reach a settlement in Cyprus, saying that its contribution has been decisive in achieving progress and convergences during the latest negotiating effort, adding that the government wants this EU involvement to continue during a new effort.

As regards Sunday’s elections in Turkey, he said that the government of Cyprus does not comment on electoral process of foreign countries, but noted that Nicosia would like to see a government that would lead Turkey to stability.

He expressed hope that Turkey will be able to see the numerous benefits from reaching a solution Cyprus, including issues concerning the EU, the energy sector or the cooperation with the neighbouring countries.

He spoke about the various plans to exploit the hydrocarbon reserves in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), such as the EastMed gas pipeline between Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Italy, saying that plans are at an advanced stage but noted that the Republic of Cyprus`s plans are not limited to that specific option.

There are discussions about other options and the final decision will be made on the basis of the hydrocarbon reserves.

He noted that the transfer or sale of natural gas to Turkey are choices that cannot be considered at this stage because the Cyprus problem has not been solved.

The Minister was also asked about the meeting held on Tuesday between President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades and  TOTAL Senior Vice President for Middle East and North Africa Stephane Michel. He said that there is a growing interest from the company to participate in Cyprus’ energy plans.

Asked if there is an interest in participating in plot 3 of Cyprus’ EEZ, he said that “we are in advanced discussions as regards our energy plans. What I can say is that our discussions are not limited to TOTAL regarding interest shown in the region, there is interest from other companies and I soon expect that there will be specific announcements. ”

The Minister did not rule out the possibility that this interest from other companies would lead to a new licensing round.

Invited to identify companies are, he said they are energy giants known in the region.

With regard to Turkish statements to proceed to illegal drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ, he said that ‘we do not expect any Turkish moves’, adding that the government has taken preventive measures and is in contact with international organisations, foreign countries and private companies to avert any negative developments.

Asked if the government will proceed with tabling coordinates for the rest of its EEZ, Christodoulides said that it is an issue the government is discussing, adding that “we are at an advanced stage in our planning” and that announcements will be made “when we feel that this is in the interest of the Republic of Cyprus”.

Christodoulides also spoke about Cyprus’ cooperation with third countries, saying that the government’s foreign policy is moving on three levels: the first is the neighbouring states, the second is its active participation in the EU, and the third concerns the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Asked whether he excludes the possibility of Cyprus joining NATO, the Minister replied that this idea does not concern the government at this time, noting that the Republic of Cyprus is not the only EU member state which does not participate in NATO.

He expressed satisfaction with the fact that the EU is developing its own capabilities and said that Cyprus is actively participating in the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) which is part of the EU’s security and defence policy.