UN Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide says that he is confident that the community leaders will find a way to return to the negotiating table.
In an interview with Greek Cypriot daily ‘Politis’, Eide, before he left the island on Sunday, had met with the leaders last week. He said he expects some positive action to help break the deadlock in the negotiations.
“The current crisis consists of both the vote in parliament and the reactions,” he said.
“This is a real problem when the one side, in the most delicate moment, involuntarily or voluntarily invokes an issue that touches on the fundamental fears of the other community. Here I must say that both communities were always celebrating things that bothered the other side. This time we had a new element that was a minor or major movement towards a more nationalistic direction, and no, the Turkish Cypriots do not really consider that the Greek Cypriots want union with Greece.”
Eide was referring to the reason the talks ground to a halt last month when the South Cyprus parliament voted in favour of a proposal tabled by far-right party Elam, for schools to commemorate a 1950 referendum on Enosis (Union with Greece.) Following which, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said he would not return to the table until it was revoked.
Eide said it was not that Turkish Cypriots believed that there was any intention of achieving Enosis, however, even references to it appear to show that nationalism is an issue on both sides.
Enosis brings back bad memories for the Turkish Cypriots, Eide said. It was also used by previous Turkish Cypriot leaderships as a slogan to invoke nationalism on the grounds that the Greek Cypriots had never given up the idea.
It was time to focus the real issues now, he said, because if the current stalemate was left, it would not improve with the passage of time. Additionally, there were schedules in place for drilling for oil and gas on the Greek Cypriot side, regional developments and the deterioration of Greek-Turkish relations.
“Honestly, I did not expect that the famous window of opportunity would remain open as long as it has,” he said. Eide said he was sure the leaders want to return to the table and a way would be found to do that. “The main goal for me and my team is to be ready when this happens.”
“I think we need cooperation and determination together. A good start would be to address the cause of the crisis, but also to reduce the intensity of reactions,” he said.
“It’s time for calm and to do lobbying work in order to overcome both the cause and effects of the crisis. It is not enough one side to do something.” Eide denied reports that he was trying to get the two leaders together for an informal dinner, as this was not appropriate under the circumstances.