President Christodoulides urges Turkish Cypriot leader “to sit down and talk”

President of the Republic Nikos Christodoulides has conveyed a message to the Turkish Cypriot leader to meet, talk, and discuss their concerns in order to start a dialogue.

In an hour-long interview on Turkish Cypriot channel Genc TV, recorded earlier this week and aired on Friday night, the President emphasized that undoubtedly the framework for the resolution of the Cyprus issue is the UN resolutions and expressed his readiness for a dialogue process focused on results and with a timeframe.

President Christodoulides was asked about the Cyprus issue, Crans Montana, the issue of citizenship for children of mixed marriages, measures for Turkish Cypriots, crossings at checkpoints, and more.

He repeated his wish to meet the Secretary General together with the Turkish Cypriot leader in New York and defended his wish for a more active EU involvement in the negotiations.

Replying to a question about the Crans Montana talks in 2017, President Christodoulides said it was the first time we came so close to a solution. For the first time, he said, there were many convergences on the table which we need to protect and exploit. This happened, he added, because the EU was participating and was providing solutions to issues where needed. 'From my side, I will do whatever is possible, whatever is necessary. The EU is a safety net both for countries and its citizens,' he added.

'We need to resume negotiations from the point they were stopped at and take advantage of the important convergences that were reached during those negotiations,' President Christodoulides said.

Since taking office, he said, he has been seeking to restart negotiations from where they left off in Crans Montana, and emphasised that if the Cyprus issue is not resolved, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will pay the price. "From my side, I will do whatever is possible, whatever is necessary for the resumption of negotiations', the President of the Republic underlined.

He explained his position on the more active involvement of the EU in the process, saying that the Union has the tools to lead us to a "win-win" situation for everyone, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, our homeland Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, the region. 'That is why I am insisting on the much more enlarged role from the EU,' he added.

When asked about the Guterres framework and whether he accepts the rotating presidency, he replied that there are points in the framework that he agrees with and points he would like to discuss. He accepts the bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality as clearly described in the UN Security Council resolutions. What's important, he added, is not the rotating president, the number of ministers in the Cabinet but 'what is important, in case there is a disagreement, always to have a mechanism on how we solve problems'.

Regarding the rotating Presidents, he asked whether the president will have a ceremonial or executive role and whether there will be a Prime Minister or not.

The President also said he fully respects Ersin Tatar as the elected leader of the Turkish Cypriot community and would like to discuss his concerns and the concerns of the Turkish Cypriot community, as well as his own, to find solutions. 'I am here to work with the leader my compatriots have chosen in order to solve the Cyprus problem. Let's sit together and discuss his concerns. I also have concerns', the President said, adding through a discussion, 'he may find a way to solve my concerns. If we don't discuss there is no way we find a solution to the Cyprus problem', adding 'Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will pay the price of a non-solution'.

Regarding Turkey, the President of the Republic said that he considers the country to be the most critical factor to solve the Cyprus problem, and personally believes that Turkey will agree to solve the Cyprus problem only if it feels the benefits from the solution are much more important from the benefits of the status quo. He explained that he supports closer EU-Turkey relations and, in response to a question from the Turkish Cypriot journalist about whether he also supports Turkey's full accession to the Union, he answered, "of course". We are ready to support Turkey coming closer to the EU. We want Turkey to come closer to the EU.'

Asked if there are any alternatives for Turkish Cypriots if a new effort fails, President Christodoulides said serious mistakes happened before 1974'. However, he explained, "I have four children, and I want to create a future for this island, a positive future for all, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Armenians, Maronites, Latins, everybody that is residing legally on this island. And I really believe that my generation... we can do it; we are not related in anyway with what happened in the past in Cyprus. We are interested much more about the future of this country. If it wasn't possible, I wouldn't invest so much time on the Cyprus problem,' he remarked.

We have a responsibility to solve the Cyprus problem, the President said. I am here to unite Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. We have something different now. Both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots we think we are the centre of the world. Unfortunately, we are not the centre of the world and we have to take into consideration what is happening on an international level'.

He also expressed the view that there will not be recognition of the illegal regime in the north.

When asked about the challenges the Turkish Cypriots are facing, the President replied these are because of the Turkish occupation in Cyprus. 'You are paying the consequences of the economy in Turkey. If the Cyprus problem was solved and we were together, Euro would have been the currency', he added.

When asked about the issue of hydrocarbons, he said that he would like to explore cooperation with Turkey but wondered how it can be done. 'We are talking about a country that doesn't recognize the Republic of Cyprus. How is it possible to discuss? It is a country that is illegally occupying 37% of the territory of a member state. We don't have any allergy with Turkey, it is the situation as it is', he remarked.

Right now, in our discussions, Turkey is not part of the equation because Turkey as it is the situation now, is illegally in Cyprus... Turkish Cypriots, when I am discussing about the internal market, of course Turkish Cypriots are under my consideration and I have some very concrete ideas'. He said as it is the situation today, it is not an option.

In response to the Turkish Cypriot journalist's question about whether he has contacts with Turkish diplomats, the President of the Republic smiled and replied, "As Nikos, yes".

Asked about measures for the Turkish Cypriots, the President of the Republic said they will help the everyday lives of the Turkish Cypriots. These, he said, are the result of his contacts with Turkish Cypriots, and that he has also used some elements from the proposals of left wing AKEL party. He said he will announce them when he himself deems it useful, within the next few weeks.

On the issue of citizenship for children of mixed marriages between Turkish Cypriots and citizens of third countries, the President of the Republic said that there are different categories, and he knows how important it is for Turkish Cypriots. He has discussed this with the Minister of Interior.

He concluded the interview with Genc TV sending a message to the Turkish Cypriot leader and said that he does not expect Tatar to agree to everything, nor does he believe Tatar expects him to agree to everything. However, President Christodoulides urged Tatar to 'sit down, talk, address our concerns' adding he truly believes they can do it, create a "win-win" situation. If there is political will, he added, we will find a way.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

In a move to resume stalled peace talks from where they were left-off in Crans Montana, President of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides introduced an initiative, aiming for a more active EU role, always under UN auspices.

The Turkish Cypriot side insists on conditions before engaging in any new round of negotiations, which, contrary to UN resolutions, point to a two-state solution on the island.

In his latest report on his Good Offices mission in Cyprus, the UN Secretary-General notes that an important step forward would be an agreement with the sides on an appointment of a United Nations envoy, who could explore ways to reach common ground towards resuming negotiations for a lasting settlement in Cyprus.

In its conclusions, last June, the European Council says it remains fully committed to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, within the UN framework, while noting that the EU is ready to play an active role in supporting all stages of the UN-led peace process, with all appropriate means at its disposal.

Source: Cyprus News Agency