ATHENS – After decades of division, Cyprus will likely be reunified again within a few months, the Turkish-Cypriot negotiator in resumed talks said.
“It’s always very dangerous to talk about time frames, however everybody agrees that with the required political will, technically it is possible to solve the Cyprus issue in a matter of months and not years,” said Ozdil Nami, Agence France Presse reported.
Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci on May 15 resumed talks that had been stalled since October, when Turkey sent a warship and research vessel into Cypriot waters on an energy hunt.
After those were withdrawn, Anastasiades last month agreed to talk again but then Akinci, a moderate, beat hardliner Dervis Eroglu, giving new hope for the stalled talks.
They agreed to meet twice a month to push for a solution to reunite the island that’s been separated into two sides since an unlawful invasion by Turkey in 1974.
Anastasiades said he has “high hopes” for the future and Akinci is equally optimistic. But the wild card is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said Akinci will do as he’s told by Ankara, which does not recognize Cyprus and has barred Cypriot ships and planes.
Nami said though that “There is a feeling that this is a final push to find a solution” and said Anastasiades and Akinci are “the right people to deliver” an answer.
But he warned they must act quickly on the positive momentum that emerged from the talks resumption on May 15, even if that was just a meet-and-greet.
“You can’t sustain that positive mood in the public opinion for long. You are obliged to deliver positive results rapidly,” he said.
“Everybody is aware that now that the Cyprus issue has been on the UN agenda for more than half a century. There is a feeling of being fed up with it.
After the talks Akinci tweeted his optimism saying, “if we find the way out until the end of this year, everyone will be happy.”
The aim of the meeting, held in the presence of UN special envoy Espen Barthe Eide, was to agree on the structure and frequency of meetings and nothing substantive resulted. It was not said then why there was optimism.
Anastasiades and Akinci emerged from the talks saying they would meet again for a new round of negotiations on May 28.
Anastasiades reportedly presented Akinci with maps of more than two dozen minefields planted in the mountains north of Nicosia before the Turkish invasion.
Nami said the two sides had agreed on “practical measures” to help push a solution and satisfy public opinion and were working to fine tune other steps.
“We are already in great agreement about connecting our mobile phone operators, that will be one measure… Theres also teaching of Greek and Turkish in primary schools,” he said.
“Longer term measure may include opening more crossing points, and allowing free access to commercial vehicles to facilitate trade between north and south.”
Currently there are seven crossings between northern and southern Cyprus, which are also not connected on the telecommunications grid.
Long-standing sticking points such as land restitution or the fate of Varosha in the north would be examined later, said Nami.
Varosha and its beaches in the eastern town of Famagusta has fallen into ruins since its Greek Cypriot residents fled as Turkish troops invaded the north of the island in 1974.
“All aspects of these issues have been thoroughly discussed, the positions of both sides, are well known, the compromise positions are well known as well,” said Nami.
Any agreement will have to be put to the Cypriot people for a vote. A UN settlement blueprint put to a referendum in 2004 was rejected by 75 percent of Greek Cypriots.