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End-game for Cyprus settlement in Switzerland

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres will be taking over proceedings in Crans-Montana on Thursday morning, determined to get a deal (a framework agreement) on the package he reconfirmed with the five parties involved in the Cyprus problem on Tuesday night, the Cyprus Weekly has learned.

In the best case scenario, the UN plans to bring the prime ministers of the guarantor powers to Geneva to seal a framework deal on Monday July 10 at the Palais de Nations, the UN’s European headquarters. It is a tentative plan depending mainly on whether the UNSG can repeat last Friday’s breakthrough.

The objective

Guterres aims to help the Conference’s heads of delegation from the two Cyprus sides, the three guarantors, Turkey, Greece and UN, as well as EU representatives, to connect and bridge outstanding differences on most core issues of the political problem.

Diplomatic sources told the Cyprus Weekly that trade-offs on five basic issues will determine the outcome of Conference.

In the main cluster there will be issues such as:

– A ‘sunset clause’ (a firm date for full troop withdrawal)
– Rotating presidency of a Federal Cyprus
– Effective participation of Turkish Cypriots in the central government
– Return of the Morphou area to Greek Cypriot control
– Equal treatment of Turks with Greeks living in Cyprus.

The initiative

Ahead of Guterres’ arrival, RoC President Nicos Anastasiades made a proposal “to break the impasse”, as he put it, and announced it at ‘Table 1’ – the first table on security – on Wednesday night.

In general terms he offered:

– To discuss rotating presidency.
– A Turkish Cypriot vote in federal bodies on certain defined subjects as long as there are also deadlock-breaking mechanisms.
– A number of Turkish policemen to be part of the international force, under EU command, that would take over the security of a Federal Cyprus.
– He toned down Greek Cypriot positions on property and is prepared to respect the ‘emotional connection’, the principle of one-third reinstatement for certain types of property, and mechanisms to deal with significant improvement of property. [this I slightly adapted from the Phil report]
– He accepted full equal EU rights for Turkish students, tourists and labourers, but for Turkish permanent residence in Cyprus he asked for a ratio of 4:1 to be agreed.

In return, Anastasiades requests:

– The abolition of guarantees and intervention rights and drastic reduction of troops from day 1, and the full withdrawal of troops according to an agreed, short timetable.
– The return of Morphou and other areas in ways to facilitate the return of nearly two-thirds of dispossessed Greek Cypriots to areas under Greek Cypriot control.
– To protect certain Turkish Cypriot products from Turkish competition for a limited period.

The Cyprus Weekly has learned that in the previous days the Roc President was under immense pressure to make a move on the ‘internal’ aspects of the problem, in anticipation of ensuring gains on security, troops and guarantees.

We also understand that the above are negotiable terms and Greek Cypriots are bracing themselves for a fierce give and take session under Guterres’ guidance on Thursday.

The reaction

The Greek Cypriot proposal didn’t exactly get thumbs up from the Turkish side. The Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, said Anastasiades’ proposal was ‘just for a show’.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticised Anastasiades for leaking his proposal before it was officially tabled at the Conference. He also said that he did not see anything new in it.

Anastasiades himself said his objective was to make progress and underlined that he could not address all the Turkish Cypriot concerns and put aside the concerns of Greek Cypriots.

The Greek Foreign Minister, Nicos Kotzias, said they have lost time all this period and “that is why the Prime Ministers are not coming tomorrow”.

Insiders say Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots believe that the ‘sunset clause’ for the withdrawal of troops remains the main difference between the sides. They expect to get a framework agreement, albeit with some gaps, on Thursday, and indicated that Ankara is prepared to back down on the question of its intervention rights in Cyprus.

The showdown

Thursday’s talks at Crans-Montana in the presence of Guterres and EU High Representative on Foreign Affairs and Security, Federica Mogherini are going to be as tough as they get.

In essence, the UNSG’s framework for negotiations goes to the core of the Cyprus problem, trying to achieve a compromise where all sides will gain at the same time as relinquishing something.

It will come down to a give and take session on guarantees, territory, equal rights between Greek and Turks as well effective participation in the executive and the federal government.