The United Nations (UN) envoy to Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, said on Thrusday that the restarted comprehensive settlement negotiations between newly elected Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades have borne their first tangible results with decisions to open new crossings and interconnecting electricity grids on the island.
Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders met at the Nicosia’s defunct airport in the UN buffer zone in Cyprus on May 28 under the auspices of the organisation.
Eide said, “Akinci and Anastasiades underlined once again their shared will and determination to reach a comprehensive settlement,” speaking to reporters following a meeting with the leaders.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously declared that he hopes the road map of negotiations goes to a resolution. He said, “If a positive result emerges from these negotiations, the Cyprus issue could no longer be recognised as a political problem.”
Erdogan has also emphasised the significance of a joint declaration by the two sides on February 11, 2014. He said Anastasiadis looked positively on the joint declaration at the time but stepped back later.
The February 11 declaration said, “The status quo is unacceptable and its prolongation will have negative consequences for the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.” It also stated that there should be a settlement based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation along with political equality.
Eide reported that the two leaders have decided to work towards the opening of more crossing points, starting with Lefka-Aplici in the more isolated northwest and Deryneia in the southeast close to the abandoned resort city of Varosha.
“In addition, they referred to a number of other proposed crossing points for further examination to the committee on crossings,” the UN adviser added.
Both sides have opened seven checkpoints connecting Turkish and Greek Cypriots since 2003.
Eide also stated that the leaders have “agreed to interconnect electricity grids, and to start taking the practical steps towards this goal.”
“In the same vein, the leaders agreed on the desirability of mobile telephone interoperability. The two leaders want this issue to be solved. The leaders will therefore instruct the technical committee on economic and commercial matters, as well as their respective experts, to discuss and propose how this important issue can be solved,” he added.
Akinci, following the elections, spoke about his desire to restart negotiations with the Greek Cypriots.
Peace talks between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots were stalled when President Anastasiades withdrew from the negotiations after Turkey sent its Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa seismic vessel to the island responding to the Greek Cypriot government’s drilling of the gas fields around the island of Cyprus on its own initiative.
Akinci and Anastasiades toured Nicosia’s historical sites together on May 23, in what was called an unprecedented move.
Both leaders have also decided in the renewed talks to begin preventing incidents of radio frequency interference in the island.
The UN envoy also mentioned the leaders’ agreement “to establish a committee on gender equality.”
The last major effort to break the deadlock and settle the Cyprus dispute was the Annan Plan, the UN proposal for the federation and consequent accession of a united Cyprus to the EU in 2004 initiated by then Secretary General Kofi Annan. While the Turkish Cypriots approved the plan, the Greek Cypriots rejected it overwhelmingly and entered the EU alone.
The island became independent in 1960 as the Republic of Cyprus and three countries, Turkey, Greece, and Britain, were made its guarantor states, according to the Zürich and London Agreements. Having a diverse population of both Greeks and Turks, following the establishment of the Republic many disagreements emerged between the ethnic groups on the island which failed to resolve their differences.
In 1974, the Turkish government militarily intervened the northern part of the island with the intention of protecting the Turkish population after a short-lived Greek-orchestrated coup on the island aimed at union with Greece (a concept known in Greek as Enosis).
Since 1974, the island has been divided into two spheres of government, the south being governed by the Greek Cypriot government and the north being governed by the Turkish Cypriots.