Foreign Minister Emine Çolak stated there had not been such an intensified negotiation process in Cyprus since the Annan Plan, adding “There has never been an atmosphere where the two Leaders have been so compatible and with so many confidence building initiatives. Therefore an opportunity which we have not seen since the Annan Plan has risen. We hope that this opportunity will materialize”.
Minister Çolak answered the questions of AA journalists, expressing that relevant people from all levels, including from the highest level, are participating in the negotiation process and that the continuation of a substantive, comprehensive and result-oriented process is an important development.
Minister Çolak reminded that the Turkish Cypriots accepted the Annan Plan in the 2004 referendum, which was prepared by the then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and which aimed to reunite the two communities which had been separated since 1963 under a single bi-communal bi-zonal state. She also reminded that despite the Turkish Cypriots’ acceptance of the Plan, the Greek Cypriots rejected it. Minister Çolak emphasized that regardless of their rejection, the Greek Cypriots succeeded in becoming members of the European Union (EU), but that they have not been able to establish the relations they hoped for with the EU due to their current economic hardships. Çolak stated “If by rejecting this Plan the Greek Cypriots had the expectation of a better settlement plan, this did not occur”.
Minister Çolak expressed her view that “The Greek Cypriot side may be thinking it will be more difficult to achieve their demands as time passes by” and mentioned that many factors have been effective in bringing the two sides to this positive point. Minister Çolak listed these factors as follows:
“One of the most significant factors is leadership. Nicos Anastasiadis had said “yes” to the Annan Plan and is now demonstrating leadership to his community by working adamantly towards a settlement. Our President Mustafa Akıncı has put his views forward very clearly in this regard. The new Turkish Cypriot leadership was elected with outstanding support. The Special Advisor of the UN Secretary General to Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, has won the trust of the two sides by demonstrating a very positive and conciliatory approach throughout this process”.
On the other hand, crossings commenced between the sides of the Island in 2003. Perhaps the two sides began to understand each other better. According to recent statistical studies, the Greek Cypriots appear to consider a settlement more favorably today compared to 2004 and this gives us hope. We hope that the Turkish Cypriot people will again support a settlement this time as they did back then. We are hopeful that a settlement which entails the utmost gains will be developed”.
Expressing that much can be understood by the statements of the leaders regarding the progress of the negotiations, Minister Çolak stated “There are many convergences and overlapping in areas such as power-sharing, for example. By making incremental progress on this issue, it is possible to then move on to more difficult issues. We hear that there are convergences on economic matters as well”.
Stating that there are agreements on various general principles and criteria of the property issue as well, Minister Çolak expressed that international law and human rights principles will be guiding factors on the positions of the two sides on this matter. Minister Çolak emphasized that this issue will be discussed in greater detail at the Leaders’ meeting scheduled to take place on 1 September 2015, stating “The issues of territory and guarantees will be discussed at the end of the process because they are both political and emotional issues which both sides have great sensitivities towards. Furthermore, they are not issues which are only up to the two sides. They require negotiations between the three guarantor countries”.
Minister Çolak referred to the most important principle of the negotiation process as “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.
Minister Emine Çolak pointed out that one of the most important factors which has allowed the Turkish Cypriots to feel safe is Turkey and that a majority of the population would like to see the continuation of various elements of its guarantorship. Indicating that the Greek Cypriots are seriously concerned about Turkey’s guarantorship, Minister Çolak stated “We need to find a formula which strikes a balance between both these concerns and needs. I believe that this is possible but it should also be considered that it other guarantee mechanisms such as the EU cannot provide the same feeling of security to the Turkish Cypriots. Therefore I believe that Turkey will have a special status in the final settlement. The details of what this will look like will not only be up to the Turkish and Greek Cypriots, but will be formulated with the say of the guarantor countries of Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom as well.”
Pointing to the positive and constructive atmosphere created by many aspects of the negotiation process, Minister Çolak underlined that this opportunity should not be wasted. Minister Çolak stated “I would like to make a call on both sides of the Island. The constructive atmosphere should be escalated even further and we need to overcome the issues that we face with a culture of reconciliation”.
Expressing that there had not been such intensified negotiations since the Annan Plan, Minister Çolak stated “There has never been an atmosphere where the two Leaders have been so compatible and with so many confidence building initiatives. Therefore an opportunity which we have not seen since the Annan Plan has risen. We hope that this opportunity will materialize”.
Pointing to the role of Turkey in the negotiation process, Minister Çolak reminded that President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan clearly reiterated his strong support of the process during his visit to the Island on 20 July.
Foreign Minister Çolak mentioned that the investments and support of Turkey on Cyprus are continuing and expressed her belief that the projects that will be realized will contribute significantly to peace on the Island.