Eide: Leaders should not let this opportunity slip by

Eide: Leaders should not let this opportunity slip by

UN Secretary General`s Special Advisor on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, believes there is still a lot to be done in Cyprus and the leaders of the island`s two communities should not let this opportunity slip by.

In the second part of his interview with the Cyprus News Agency, Eide said that the security issue is going to be discussed late in the process and is one of the decisive issues, noting that if the two sides want to overcome their mutual fears, they do not necessarily have to be overcome with security solutions, but perhaps with a credible political set-up.

He further said that the donor issue is one of the international dimensions of the Cyprus problem and when the leaders reach it, any kind of involvement of guarantors will happen through the UN.

In addition, he said the sequence of when they discuss what and when the guarantor powers are brought in is still open.

In his interview Eide talks about the tripartite meeting between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Cyprus President Nicos Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and explains what the role of the Secretary General will be on the “international dimensions of the issue”.

The Special Advisor highlighted that the UN was present at the meeting at a very high level. The Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, Chef de Cabinet Edmond Mulet, Under Secretary Generals – Herve Ladsous and Jan Eliasson`s and Elisabeth Spehar, Special Representative.

“It was a very high level meeting and the SG pointed out that there was no issue during the UN General Assembly that he has spent so much time on, than this particular meeting. This was a tribute to his own commitment to the process”, said Eide who added that the SG sees a possibility for the process to move on.

During the discussion at the meeting, Eide said the sides presented a similar perception where things are, where they agree and where they do not.

“Where did we have to spend some time? We know that we want to go from here to there. From where we are and at the end of the day we want a signature on the deal between them. On that time we have to have involved the international players, because otherwise we don’t know what to sign. The guarantors have to be involved,” he told CNA.

The Norwegian diplomat said that on these (things) there is agreement. The issues that are still open are “the sequence of when we discuss what, when we bring the guarantor powers, how much we need to do at home before we bring the guarantor powers in, etc. still open. We have spent some time on that.” He noted that the discussion did not conclude, but he believes that “we left more enlightened on what we will deal with on that particular issue.”

Asked about the role Secretary Ban will have in this phase and if by “international dimensions of the issue”, the statement, issued after Sunday`s meeting, means he will be involved with the guarantors and the donors, Eide said:

“This is the response on what the leaders said on September 14. He is going to get involved with both. The international dimensions are not many, but particular is the donor issue. And again, when we get there and the leaders agree, we are there, any kind of involvement of guarantors happens through the UN. Because it’s a UN led process, it’s not that Akinci and Anastasiades will have their own meetings with the guarantor powers. It has to be a UN event in any form and the SG is ready to do that at the moment the leaders ask him to.”

Asked about a multi-party conference, the former Norwegian Foreign Minister said there is no date or specific format for a multi-party conference, but there is an understanding on what will have to happen before it is over.

“It’s a sequencing issue and – I want to be honest – it’s not a small issue, because these things matter. It’s not an issue of substance on where you want to go, but it’s an orchestration challenge. Reality is very typical of this kind of last stage of complicated processes.”

Asked if he left the meeting more optimistic than before, he described himself as a “realist optimist” and that he believes that the meeting was “useful.”

“It was not the end of the road at all; we have a lot to do and a lot to do in Cyprus and a lot to do further, but it was important to have this opportunity. Last time the SG saw the two leaders was in Davos in January. Then he met them individually several times. This time we went much deeper into substance and it was an opportunity for him to convey his willingness to take personal charge for whatever they ask him to do, including with the guarantor powers and so on. We are – both he and I – working on the donor issue all the time. And also a kind of a reminder from his side that they have the international support, it’s massive and that we are at the best of times; they should not allow this opportunity to slip.”

During the past week Eide held several high level meetings with the foreign ministers of the guarantor powers – and others – on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

With these discussions the UN is laying the ground work for the moment this can be negotiated.

“It’s not negotiated, so no one is acting in a negotiating form (i.e. saying I can accept that, or I can’t accept it) but we are preparing, we are involved and listening and sharing some initial ideas and it’s very constructive, but not conclusive. Nobody thought it could be conclusive yet, because it has to be negotiated at the end of the day. We have to go into the final agreement between the two sides on security which needs also the support of the guarantors and in order to get there we have to have more formal conversations. Now it’s the second track and it’s not only me but more people are involved. They speak to each other, the guarantors speak two plus two in all formations and ideas are exchanged.”

Asked if security could be the last issue to be solved and the last decisive obstacle of the peace process, he says it’s not the last. It is definitely going to be discussed late in the process and it’s one of the decisive issues, but not the only.

“It’s perfectly logical that the leaders have chosen to put that at the end. What would be the purpose of trying to rearrange the security set-up if you didn’t even believe that you could solve your own issues? The Cypriots (both G/c and T/c alike) will have a much stronger hand coming into a space – I am not saying conference – with the guarantors.”

He pointed out that both communities have reasonable security fears.

“There is a very reasonable Greek Cypriot fear of the presence of a foreign army and there is also an understandable fear of the Turkish Cypriots of returning to past tragedies of the `60s. If you want to overcome the mutual fears, you don’t necessarily overcome them with security solutions, but maybe with credible political set-up.”
By that Eide means to get people together again and make them believe that this time maybe the federal system will work over time.

“When they feel that, the need to seek traditional security aspects maybe it diminishes. So the likelihood of a successful outcome on security increases with every convergence on governance, property, territory and everything else,”, Eide concluded.

President Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci have been engaged in peace talks under the UN aegis with a view to finding a solution to the Cyprus problem. The island has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.