UN Secretary-General (UNSG), Antonio Guterres headed the meeting at the Swiss Conference on Cyprus on Friday.
It was his personal style and diplomatic skills that brought a breath of fresh air to the proceedings. President Nicos Anastasiades said that the UNSG’s presence was effective. “The Secretary-General is trying his best to find a way to unblock the procedure,” Anastasiades said.
According to ‘Cyprus Weekly’, following the working dinner on Friday evening, the issue of guarantees for a federal Cyprus, how long some form of guarantee should last, and how to implement an agreement, remained unresolved.
Additionally, the issue of granting EU rights to Turkish nationals in line with those enjoyed by Greek nationals living in Cyprus and the issue of the rotating presidency of a reunited Cyprus remained as obstacles.
The two Cypriot sides, and the top level delegations of guarantors Turkey, Greece and Britain, will convene again on Saturday morning without Guterres, who left early. A proposal tabled by UK Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Sir Alan Duncan, received some positive initial reaction. According to ‘Kibris Postasi’, President Akinci agreed to the package proposal which was presented by the UN Secretary-General at the meeting.
The proposal was that the chapters of management and power sharing, property, land, four freedoms, security and guarantees will be handled simultaneously and in concert with each other. Diplomatic sources said that it is considered to be a great deal.
Meanwhile, the Conference will continue working until Tuesday at least, with a break of official meetings on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. UNSG Guterres may be able to attend again early next week.
On Friday morning, the two community leaders, Guterres and the three guarantors discussed the following:
To set up a working group to discuss ways to implement a settlement agreement. It consisted of six members and started working on Friday afternoon. Their reported goal is to set out guidelines on how to complete the task.
They will work to set out a guide for detailed discussions on security, as the earlier document produced by special advisor Espen Barth Eide was deemed as inadequate by at least the Greek Cypriots and Greece.
There was firm understanding that the issue of troop withdrawal should also be addressed.
Discuss how Cyprus could become “a fully normal state”, as the UNSG put it.
It should be noted that Greek Cypriots and Greece had rejected late on Thursday a proposal by Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, to tackle all six core issues of the problem simultaneously as a package.
During a press conference on Friday Guterres indicated that this is not an easy exercise.
“There were some new positions showing increased flexibility in some aspects (of security and guarantees) … Where there are differences is of course in the amount of time needed for that, and the conditions for that to take place … I would say the most important things are to be done”, he said.
After the morning session Guterres had a working lunch with leaders Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci.
He reportedly told them he needed to understand their differences on the other five core issues of the Cyprus problem, namely territory, property, governance, economy and European affairs.
He thought that possible trade-offs could be achieved by discussing property with the effective participation of Turkish Cypriots in the federal state (a governance issue).
Outstanding is also the Turkish Cypriot request for a rotating presidency in the future federal state. This could be discussed in a give and take manner together with territorial adjustment.
In the early evening, Guterres met Anastasiades and Akinci again to prepare for a working dinner with all participants on security and to discuss trade-offs for property and the effective participation of Turkish Cypriots. They talked about property at the end, with Cyprus’ leaders being reluctant to compromise at this stage.
They touched upon the following issues on the property issue:
How to handle the significant improvement of a property by the current user
How subsequent purchasers of mainly Greek Cypriot properties in the north (usually foreigners) should be treated
Who has the first say on a property, the initial owner or the current user
What is the status of under-developed properties
Guterres’ statement gives an insight into the current situation.
“I think we have made important progress in bringing closer the positions of the parties in relation to the outstanding issues of the other chapters, the chapters that are discussed only by the two communities. But it is slow progress, and many outstanding issues are still to be resolved”, he said.
In a press conference in the afternoon, Guterres made clear that UN is not in the business of forcing an agreement.
“We are not impatient and we are not threatening the parties in any way. On the contrary, we are here with humility, but with determination to help find a solution, knowing that solution is very, very difficult to find.”
He also put the concern about possible withdrawal of UNFICYP to rest.
“We are not thinking about any proposal to the Security Council in relation to peace operations,” he said.