KKTC pushing for Cyprus deal before end of this year

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) Foreign Minister Özdil Nami has said that Greek Cyprus’ refusal to meet more often to negotiate on a comprehensive solution on the long-divided island of Cyprus is discouraging, especially as Turkish Cypriots are pushing for a solution before the end of this year.

Speaking to members of the Diplomatic Correspondents Association (DMD) in Ankara on Thursday, Nami said there is a positive atmosphere at this time for a solution in Cyprus, and that Turkish and Greek Cypriots should take this chance to reunify the island.

yprus is divided into a Turkish north and an internationally recognized Greek south. The KKTC is recognized only by Turkey, which does not recognize the Greek Cypriot administration.

The leaders of Turkish and Greek Cyprus met in Nicosia in early February and resumed peace talks with the aim of reunifying the island.

Nami said Turkish Cypriots have offered to meet more often than the current arrangement. The chief negotiators from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides meet once a week, according to the current deal, and Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders meet once a month to discuss issues on the table. The offer to meet more often was rejected by the Greek Cypriots, Nami said.

The KKTC foreign minister complained about the Greek Cypriots’ lack of support on increasing the frequency of the talks on the island, as well as a lack of respect for the achievements in the negotiation process, without elaborating the latter much.

“We [Turkish Cypriots] are focusing only on [developing] a comprehensive solution at this point. That is our only goal, based on two equal states in a federal structure,” said Nami. When asked about reports of whether Turkish Cypriots will ask for two separate, independent states on the island as reported last week in the media, if this recent attempt to find a solution collapses, Nami said: “We don’t have time to spare with such discussions of ‘what if.’ There is only one plan on which we are focusing at this point: a comprehensive solution.”

Stressing the importance of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s involvement in the Cyprus negotiation process, Nami said the Turkish side is not keen on the idea of a new name being appointed as the UN special envoy for Cyprus, after Alexander Downer left the position in March to take the post of Australian high commissioner to London. Nami said the Turkish side does not want to waste time with debates over determining a new name for the UN envoy instead, he argued, the UN secretary-general could weigh in personally to help speed up the process.

Speaking about disputed territories on the island of Cyprus, Nami stressed that this issue had not yet been discussed between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders. Nami mentioned his visit to Washington last month, noting that US officials brought up the issue of natural gas around Cyprus, and that Israel may turn into an incentive for the Cyprus peace talks and help to restore security in the region.

Peace talks concerning the island of Cyprus started on Feb. 11 after a push by the US government, in a sign of the changing political environment in the region. Experts say that one of the most important incentives to restart the Cyprus negotiations is the natural gas in the area and the billions of dollars that a gas deal would bring to those involved in possible pipeline projects. The US administration backs an energy partnership between Israel, Cyprus and Turkey, so that the mutual energy dependency helps to restore and maintain peace in the east Mediterranean.

According to experts, a pipeline from Cyprus to Turkey, transporting Israeli and Greek Cypriot natural gas, will be cost efficient with a price tag of $2-3 billion. The alternative figure, involving the building of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility, liquefying the natural gas and shipping it to Europe, would cost $10-15 billion.

Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, in an interview with The Associated Press in February, said that a deal would allow Turkey to be supplied with newly found Greek Cypriot and Israeli natural gas and further contribute to improving relations between Turkey and Israel.

Invitation to Deep Purple concert

Nami was asked whether he would extend an invitation to Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Yoannis Kasulidis to attend the English rock band Deep Purple’s May 24 concert in LefkoIa.

KKTC President DerviI EroIlu, according to the Turkish press, has invited Anastasiades to attend the concert together.

Nami said: “Yes, of course. This is my invitation to him.”

Deep Purple front man Ian Gillan has issued a statement defending the band’s decision to perform in northern Cyprus, saying that the group isn’t taking any sides and that Deep Purple has performed in many troubled regions in their touring history, following reports that the Greek Cypriot side tried to prevent the concert from taking place in the north of the island. Deep Purple is set to perform in LefkoIa at Cyprus Near East University (NEU). The university invited the group as part of their 25th anniversary celebrations.

(CihanToday’s Zaman)