President Mustafa Akinci has said that every step he takes in the Cyprus negotiations, is taken conscientiously, always keeping in mind the responsibility he has towards the Turkish Cypriot people.
Pointing out that the Cyprus problem had reached its final stage where determined and courageous steps were required; Akinci said that it was possible to create an island where all sides could live in freedom, security and political equality.
Evaluating the latest developments in the Cyprus negotiations process and responding to criticisms as to how he is handling the process with a written statement issued yesterday, the President said that although there were still important issues on which agreement had to be reached, the convening of a five-party conference in itself was an important development.
Explaining that progress from this point onwards required political will, Akinci said that the Turkish Cypriot side had made important contributions on the road towards the five-party conference.
He also highlighted the importance of maintaining the current momentum in the talks and for all participants of the five-party conference to continue their determined support for a settlement.
“While those who support a settlement have been extremely pleased with having reached the point of a five-party conference, those who oppose a settlement for their own selfish interests have been troubled. We have seen this on both sides of the island,” said Akinci.
He pointed out that there were those in South Cyprus who rejected the principle of a bi-zonal federation and who wanted to grant Turkish Cypriots minority rights in a Greek Cypriot controlled unitary state.
“These groups have been deeply disturbed by the fact that we are progressing towards an outcome where Turkish Cypriots will be granted political equality,” he said.
The President added that there was a similar group in the TRNC who have been conducting politics for years under the slogan that the non-solution of the Cyprus problem was the solution.
“These groups have also started to worry. The former President Derviş Eroğlu who accused me of wrong doing, during his term as Prime Minister had voted in parliament in favour of accepting 29+ as a percentage for the territory to remain in the hands of the Turkish Cypriot side in the event of a settlement. Later on he acted insincerely towards the people by touring villages, stating that not a single inch of land would be given back to Greek Cypriots” he said.
President Akinci added that current Prime Minister Huseyin Ozgurgun was contradicting himself too.
“The Prime Minister, Mr Ozgurgun says he wants a solution yet states that he will not accept conceding an inch of territory. He too claims that we have made a strategic mistake. He however fails to explain to people how a federal settlement will be possible without making any territorial concessions. Why? Because this is the point they have reached with the logic and rationale they have been pursuing for years…they have been defending a non-solution, the continuation of the status quo for all these years,” he said.
Akinci reminded that the 11 February 2014 Joint Declaration’s first article stated that the status quo was not sustainable.
Stating that he had promised to tell the truth to the Turkish Cypriot people from the very beginning, Akinci said “I will not be abandoning this position on the issue of maps either. A solution in Cyprus is only possible by regaining our political equality stripped from us in 1963 by Greek Cypriots, through a federal framework and by returning land that we took from Greek Cypriots as a result of the war in 1974.”
Pointing out that all maps dating back to even the oldest UN Secretary General’s envisaged 29% of the land being left in the hands of Turkish Cypriots in the event of a solution, Akinci said that this will continue to be the figure as and when a solution is reached.
He said that it would be ultimately up to the people to decide whether or not they would prefer to live in an entity which had a higher percentage of land but was legally challenged at the ECHR or in a place that was recognised by international law and freed of uncertainty.
Akinci also stated that what was important that as few Turkish Cypriots as possible would be forced to relocate in the event of a settlement.
“Those who will have to relocate will be provided new housing and job opportunities. No one will be forced to move without these being provided,” he added.
Noting that the people will have the final say as to whether or not the island should be reunified when they vote in a referendum on the final settlement plan, Akinci said that the talks were still not at that stage.
“It is possible to reach that stage with the support of organised groups on both sides. Instead of focusing on unjustified short term interests, we need to act with the understanding that a settlement will have enormous benefits in the long term. This is our responsibility to future generations,” he said.