Minister of Foreign Affairs Özdil Nami who was in Ankara for a series of official contacts came together with Diplomatic Correspondents Association (DMD) yesterday (10 October 2013).
Stating that an important window of opportunity was opened with regard to the Cyprus issue, Nami said:
“Recently, first months of 2014 have started to be mentioned for the submission of a new comprehensive settlement plan to referenda. Turkish Cypriot side has been doing its utmost for the realizing this. We have a strong will towards a solution and Turkey gives a strong support for reaching a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus. We hope that the Greek Cypriot side will also show the necessary courage and we will put an end to the Cyprus problem as soon as possible.”
Evaluating the agreement of Turkish and Greek Foreign Ministers on the mutual visits of the representatives of the two sides to Turkey and Greece, Foreign Minister Nami said: “This will be for the first time. Although the date of the meeting is not certain yet, we expect this to happen before the end of this month. Studies are being carried out in this respect. These visits will be simultaneous and at equal level. I believe that they are very important symbolically.”
In response to a question asked whether the negotiations to resume in November would achieve sufficient progress until March 2014, which is the date envisaged for referenda, Foreign Minister Nami said: “Negotiations will not start from the scratch. There isn’t any aspect of the Cyprus issue which has not been discussed, while important convergences have been reached in the negotiations until today. We believe that the period until January 2014 is reasonable for the preparation of a new comprehensive settlement plan since these convergences will be maintained in reaching a conclusion.”
Pointing out that although putting a time frame was not a precondition for the Turkish Cypriot side, it was an important goal, Nami said: “Negotiations will start and we do not have any precondition for this. We desire the negotiations to be resumed at leaders’ level from where they were left and to focus on the remaining divergences”. Stressing that the UN had run out of patience discussing the same issues, Nami said: “The negotiations will be resumed from where they were left and the side which drags its feet will pay for it”.
Explaining that during the period between 2008-2010, important convergences were achieved on the issues of governance and power sharing, EU and the economy, Foreign Minister Nami said the property issue, as one of the remaining issues, was not as difficult as before. Noting that on the issue of territory, criteria were determined mutually and the map to be emerged was not expected to be much more different than the one in the Annan plan, Nami said: “We have conveyed to the Greek Cypriot side that on the issue of territory we will not be as concessive as we were during the period of the Annan plan. 10 years have passed since then and except Maraş (Varosha,)additional investments have been made in the regions to be subjected to territorial adjustment. Life goes on. For this reason, it is more difficult to make the same concession today. However, the territorial adjustments will be more or less the same with the map of the Annan plan. These are not issues to be discussed for months. The most complicated issue amongst the remaining divergences is property”.
Nami added that Cyprus problem could be solved with hard work, there was a necessary basis, but the only thing missing was the political courage.
Referring to the time-table he envisaged for the negotiations, Foreign Minister said until the end of the year, they could focus on the remaining divergences and at the end of the year they could prepare a new comprehensive settlement plan. He added that the plan could be explained to peoples until March 2014 and simultaneous referenda on both sides could be held in the same month. Nami added that however, the Greek Cypriot side has not yet responded positively.
Upon being asked whether a new step is being expected from the Turkish side during TR Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s TRNC visit which is being planned, Nami stressed that all the steps about Cyprus were based on the principle of reciprocity. Nami said: “If his Greek counterpart crosses to the North, Davutoglu may go to the South or they may come together at the buffer zone. Why not? ”
Adding that a time has not been set yet for Davutoglu’s TRNC visit, Nami stated that Davutoglu would like to give messages to the world during his visit and reminded that the 4th November was uttered for the negotiations between the two sides. Nami continued as: “A visit is being considered as a support for the process before this”.
Upon being asked whether the Greek Church took a positive step for the process, Nami replied as: “We do not expect anything from the church. You are aware of their past approaches and these are not possible to change in the following months. We do not have any mission to put the church into the right path”.
Answering the question related to the UK’s possible positive contributions to the process, Nami recorded that contributions of the UK might have a positive effect, the whole world had an increasing interest in the Cyprus issue and this was welcomed with content. Stating also that if positive developments were not realized in the following a few months, the world’s interest would decrease, Nami said that in such a case TRNC would ask termination of the current injustice through her representative offices and with the support of Turkey.
Nami said: “Our agenda right now is to put forward all kinds of efforts with a good intention and to spend all these efforts. At this point, either there will be a federal solution or the world will make a new decision regarding these age long negotiations.
Upon being asked about the closed Varosha (Maraş), Nami expressed that the UN Security Council had a decision regarding Varosha and the TRNC had no intention like opening Varosha.
When he was asked about his evaluation regarding the European Union’s taking a role in the negotiation process, Nami said: “The negotiations are continuing within the framework of the UN Secretary General’s mission of good intention. The sides at the negotiation table are certain. The Turkish side does not allow the EU to sit at the table as a side”.
Evaluating also the possible contribution of a solution in the island to the Greek Cypriot side who has economical problems, Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that a solution would bring great economic advantages to both sides, the Greek Cypriot side experienced revenue loss as their merchant navy was not able to use the Turkish ports and highlighted that transfer of natural gas with the lowest risk and the highest profit to Europe was possible via Turkey.
Touching upon the approaching elections and the target of March 2014, Nami pointed out the difficulty of making political decisions during the election periods and said that the territory issue was a delicate subject, but this challenge should be taken up in order to promote peace.
Repeating that it is difficult for politicians to take such steps during the election atmosphere, Nami continued as: “At present there is a narrow window of opportunity in front of us. We have to put forward a formula of consensus before the election time”.
Expressing that the new peace plan could be named as ‘The plan of Cypriots’, Nami said: “The new comprehensive solution plan which will come out, is being constituted by the Turkish and Greek Cypriots. This will be a Cyprus solution plan. In this respect, neither the Turkish Cypriots nor the Greek Cypriots can put the responsibility on somebody’s shoulders. If it is positive it will be our success, if not it will be our failure”.
Being asked whether any change have been experienced in the Greek Cypriot public opinion with regard to solution oriented approaches, Nami stated that the Greek Cypriot side intended to use the EU membership as a bargaining chip against Turkey, but this could not be realized. Nami used the expression as: “The biggest change regarding the Greek Cypriot people is that; they acknowledged that they cannot use the EU membership against us, they missed the opportunity.”