Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu have agreed to start negotiations aimed at a settlement of the island’s decades-old division, after agreeing to a document setting out the parameters of the talks.
It is widely believed that U.S. diplomatic efforts succeeded in persuading both sides to overcome their respective inhibitions and return to the negotiations after a two-year gap.
The two leaders agreed on a joint declaration on Tuesday by which they express their determination to resume structured negotiations in a results-oriented manner.
The joint declaration was read out by the UN Chief of Mission Lisa Buttenheim, after the two leaders and their advisors met at the old Nicosia airport within the UN Protected Area that separates the two communities.
Buttenheim also announced that the two leaders have instructed their negotiators –Andreas Mavroyiannis and Kudret Ozersay - to have their first meeting this week.
According to the joint statement “the negotiations are based on the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
The resumption of the UN-led talks takes place after months of discussions between the negotiators of the two sides on the text of a draft joint declaration, to which both leaders have given their consent.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the agreement and issued a statement that “today’s agreement is an important step forward.”
“It provides a real opportunity to secure a lasting and comprehensive settlement and I applaud President Anastasiades and Dr Eroglu for the courage they have shown by agreeing to restart talks. Their continued pragmatism and willingness to find a solution will be vital in the months ahead to ensure that the reunification of Cyprus becomes a reality. We will continue to fully support all Cypriots in their shared aim of a unified and prosperous island,” added Cameron.
Eroglu arrived first at the venue escorted by the Turkish Cypriot negotiator Kudret Ozersay and his other aides, followed by Anastasiades who was accompanied by the Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis and the Director of the President’s Diplomatic Office Nicos Christodoulides.
The EU is keen to play its part in supporting the negotiations, conducted under UN auspices and to offer all the support the parties and the UN find most useful, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, said in separate statements.
The US said it hopes rapid progress will be achieved toward a just and lasting settlement of the Cyprus problem that will be acceptable to both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, a State Department official said. Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had on Monday a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry over Cyprus.
The European People’s party (EPP), the largest grouping in the European Parliament, said it will champion the EU’s enhanced role in the Cyprus negotiations process, according to its President Joseph Daul who welcomed the joint declaration between Anastasiades and Eroglu.
Following an update he received from the ruling Democratic Rally (DISY) party President Averof Neofytou, Daul said that he welcomed “the fact that the leadership of both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities have come to an agreement on the joint declaration which will allow for the resumption of reunification talks between the two communities”.
On Sunday, Anastasiades urged the island’s political leadership, the media and civil society to work together to achieve a viable solution that will secure a modern, European state for all the citizens of the country.
He had said earlier that “after a very laborious effort that lasted many months, we have reached to the conclusion of a Joint Declaration that will allow us to resume a substantive dialogue to achieve a solution” that will lead to reunification.
Since December, negotiators from the island’s two communities failed to agree on the joint communiqué that would become the basis for future talks, leading to a bizonal, bicommunal federal state.
Anastasiades remained adamant on fundamental points within the joint document and chastised the UN-appointed mediator for taking sides, while Eroglu had refused to accept parts of the document and drafted a new one of his own, promptly rejected by the other side.
In a breakthrough announced last week, possibly at the behest of Washington, Turkey’s key ally that has started growing impatient with the deadlock on the island, Anastasiades and Eroglu announced their agreement to a draft joint declaration, set to pave the way for the resumption of the stalled peace talks.
However, Anastasiades’s biggest stumbling block came from within, as his junior coalition partner, the hardline Democratic Party (Diko) known for its rejectionist stance of any federal solution, has threatened to leave the government.
Ironically, the president’s main support will probably come from arch-rival Akel, the communist party responsible for the economic downfall of the past five years, as his own Democratic Rally (Disy) party, a member of the European Poopular Party (EPP) grouping have always seen eye-to-eye on the national issue and a federal system that sees power sharing with the Turkish Cypriots.
“The joint declaration is only the beginning,” the President said, and underlined that “we have hard work ahead and should make a persistent effort. In the time to come, everyone’s patriotic standing will be accounted for, the political leadership, the media and civil society. Everyone has a role to play in this effort,” he added.
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