British High Commissioner to Cyprus Irfan Siddiq has drawn ire from both Cypriot communities following an interview with Greek Cypriot daily ‘Kathimerini’ on the Cyprus problem.
Speaking about the arrival of the UNSG’s Special Envoy to Cyprus, Maria Holguin Cuellar, he said that Holgun had begun listening to both sides in order to try and find enough common ground to begin talks once again.
In a report by Yeniduzen, it said that Siddiq, stated that he believes there is flexibility in the arguments presented by the Turkish side. He said, “Even if they may not go all the way with this argument, they want the right to speak of a separate state that grants them sovereign equality. They believe that this will strengthen their hand at the negotiating table. They need confirmation that this time the facts will lead to different outcomes“.
According to the report, Siddiq was asked about the outcome of the arrival of the new representative of the UN Secretary-General after six stagnant years in the Cyprus issue, and whether there can be any movement in the Cyprus problem. Siddiq mentioned that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the arrival of the UN Peacekeeping Force on the island, and despite all efforts made over these years, they have been fruitless. Therefore, people are generally sceptical about any kind of action.
Siddiq, indicating his relatively optimistic view due to the Republic of Cyprus’ willingness to resume negotiations, mentioned that the focus of Cypriot Greek leader Nikos Christodoulides has been on appointing an EU representative since he was elected, and now that a UN personal representative has been appointed, the idea of appointing an EU representative seems to have failed. “The European representative idea would not have been a pioneer in the process, as the authority lies with the UN. The goal was for the EU to play a more active role. In this way, Turkey would be encouraged to return to the process with incentives, but of course, this was not achieved“, he said.
Siddiq emphasised that the major issue in the appointment of a personal representative is to determine whether there can be common ground between the two sides that currently have significant differences in their arguments. He noted that the Cypriot Greek side is committed to a federal solution with political equality, as outlined in Security Council resolutions, which is bi-zonal and bi-communal. However, he mentioned that the Turkish side does not currently seem to agree with this thesis, adding:
“The United Kingdom supports a federal solution that is bi-zonal, bi-communal, and has political equality, as outlined in the Security Council resolutions. We are working in this direction. However, every time we articulate this thesis, the Turkish Cypriot side reacts. Personally, I believe there is flexibility in the arguments put forward by the Turkish side“.
When asked whether this flexibility is enough to return to the negotiating table and discuss a federation, and whether it is possible, Siddiq responded, “It will be challenging, but I believe it is possible”
Following the publication of the interview, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu made harsh criticisms of Irfan Siddiq, the British High Commissioner accredited to Southern Cyprus, and said, “Unfortunately, this person has not only exceeded the limits of diplomatic courtesy, but has also made it a habit to exceed the limits of decency. Siddiq has started to see insulting the TRNC and the Turkish Cypriots as a skill and a virtue“, he said. He went on to say that Siddiq presumes to know and understand the politics of the Turkish Cypriots. Ertuğruloğlu also attack the UK for supporting Cyprus and blamed the UK for its part in the division of Cyprus.
Meanwhile, the Greek Cypriot side was equally offended Greek Cypriot government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbioti said that “At a critical juncture, when the attention of the international community is focused on the mission of the UN envoy, we expect the United Kingdom… to contribute to the creation of a climate which will facilitate the resumption of the negotiation process.
“in light of developments in our region, where crises and tensions remind us that there is no such thing as a ‘frozen conflict’, we expect that the UK, with its influence and special interest in regional developments, can send important messages to the Turkish side”.
Following which the Greek Cypriot government handed a demarche to Irfan Siddiq when he was summoned to the Greek Cypriot Foreign Ministry.