Cypriot community leaders take big step toward restarting negotiations

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NICOSIA, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) — Leaders of the estranged Cypriot communities took a big step forward on Friday toward resuming peace negotiations, by agreeing to jointly meet with United Nations Secretary-General in September, after engaging “in efforts to finalize the terms of reference for an effective dialogue.”

The leaders’ decisions were announced by the UN mission in Cyprus issued on behalf of Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci after a three-hour meeting.

It said they decided to continue engaging in the efforts undertaken by UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy Jane Holl Lute “with the determination to finalize the Terms of Reference that would enable structured and results-oriented negotiations leading to a settlement (of the Cyprus problem” with a sense of urgency.

The two leaders also decided to announce their readiness to hold a tripartite meeting with the Secretary General after the UN General Assembly in order to plan the way forward, the statement added.

It further said that Anastasiades and Akinci also welcomed the implementation of the confidence-building measures they formerly announced, including the electricity interconnectivity of the two parts of the island and mobile phone interoperability that would facilitate greater interaction between the two communities.

It was the first meeting between Anastasiades and Akinci, since Feb. 26, when they last met and announced confidence building measures, some of which were launched eventually in July.

It was partly attended by their host, the UN Special Representative in Cyprus, Canadian diplomat Elizabeth Spehar.

The decision of the leaders to move in earnest towards the resumption of the reunification negotiations, which stalled in July, 2017, came amid pessimistic political guessing due to tensions between Turkey and Cyprus over natural gas exploration.

Turkey objects to unilateral planning and exploration by the Cypriot government, which it does not recognize. Turkey is engaged in two drillings of its own, one 60 kilometers west of Cyprus and one in Cypriot territorial waters less than 12 kilometers in the east.

Before the meeting, Akinci had said that he would raise the issue of a joint committee to manage hydrocarbons exploration, but the joint statement made no mention of the issue being discussed at all.

Yet, political analysts were on Friday pessimistic about the prospects of new peace negotiations, given the wide divergence between the two sides on the issue of security and guarantees.

Turkey on Thursday sent to the Turkish controlled part of Cyprus its Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, along with the four top officers of its armed forces, to attend celebrations marking bombing attacks against Greek Cypriot villages by the Turkish air force in 1964, shortly after the Turkish Cypriot pulled out of the joint Cypriot government amid armed clashes between the two communities.

Akar warned that Turkey, exercising interventions rights it obtained under the 1960 Treaties establishing Cyprus as an independent state, would be ready to repeat what it did in 1964 and 1974, should the Cypriot government refuse to share the island’s wealth with the Turkish Cypriots.

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