United Nations.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
No member of the Security Council asked – during the briefing with Special Advisor Espen Barth Eide – for anything more regarding the participation at the Cyprus Conference. This is what Mr Eide said in an exclusive interview with CNA’s correspondent in the UN Headquarters, following the UNSC’s consultations.
Replying to a series of questions on this issue, Eide described the role of the SC on Cyprus as “extremely important”, because it is the one that mandates the Mission and for this reason its members are constantly been kept informed.
“They are relevant and they will be relevant when there is a deal. But there is no tradition of having the Security Council as member of a Conference. There is no precedent for asking the Security Council to any Conference of this sort, because it will lose its status. Their status is here, in this room, acting like the Security Council, not hanging in other peoples conferences.”
The Secretary General’s Special Advisor didn’t exclude the possibility the SC to invite the two leaders to get a briefing from them.
“Absolutely! They can do that and maybe at some stage it may be a good idea.”
Asked why the Council wasn’t invited to be present as observer, like the EU, he said:
“Where is the precedent for that? It doesn’t happen. There is no tradition in any conference of this sort that the Security Council – as the Council – to be present. Of course as Council members, like the UK as a guarantor and Russia in Astana….”
The Norwegian former Foreign Minister insisted that all participants have agreed to this format, thinking it’s the right one.
“It wasn’t me deciding it; it was agreed between all the participants. All the field participants think this is the right format.”
During the briefing of the Council members behind closed doors and at his public statements following the consultations, Eide expressed optimism about the prospects of the Conference. Asked by CNA what makes him think that the Conference will unlock the process all the way down to a settlement, he said:
“The fact that we are there; the sides in Cyprus agreed that the time was ripe to open-up for the guarantor powers and the fact that guarantor powers agreed to that and all decided to come; and that we established this Conference.”
The UN official stressed that the act of establishing the Conference was what they wanted from the 12th of January.
“On the first day, the Conference decided that it will now continue for some time at senior civil servants level, at the level of Undersecretaries, in order to unpack these issues and present them in a way that is ripe for negotiations. Both in that meeting on the 12th and the subsequent meeting and the meetings we had around, while I do recognize that it will be challenging, I feel that that there is a will by everybody – Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Turkey, Greece and the U.K., supported by the EU – to look for solutions, rather than looking for problems.”
Eide repeated his view that the security issue is complex because the two sides want different things; one seeks the removal of the troops and the guarantees and other for them to remain.
“We need to think outside the box and find other formulas that entail enough change for this to be perceived as real positive movement forward for the Greek Cypriots, while at the same time reassuring the Turkish Cypriots that the implementation will happen and it will be safe and secure for them.”
The Special Advisor rejected the notion that Turkey regretted the acceptance of the format of an open ended Conference and now wants to rush things to a close.
“I don’t have this sense at all. I think all players would like to close it when time is ripe. But it’s currently not necessarily Turkey that is mostly eager to rush it. Because they also have some questions they have to answer. It’s not my sense that they are rushing. Not at all and it’s a qualifying statement. I’ve been in those meetings and it’s not my sense.”
He underlined that all sides have the same view on this issue, to solve it as soon as we can but not sooner.
“We have to do it properly”, he added
On when the Conference will convene at principles level, Eide said that there is no date, but it will be after few weeks, rather than months.
“We had a successful second session in Mont Pelerin and they agreed to go back and report to the principles at home. Then we will be consulting with them in the coming days and we will hopefully get the date out of that. We are talking about weeks, not months, but we don’t have the date.”
He also clarified that when speaking after the Council’s briefing he said “everything is on the table”, he really meant to say “tables”.
“I meant the tables. There is still a table that is for the leaders and the negotiators. The guarantors are in agreement that those issues concerning only Cyprus should be dealt by the Cypriots. Then you have the bigger table of the five-party Conference and the two are related.”
Espen Barth Eide explained that while there are different issues on the different tables, you cannot solve any of them completely without knowing what is happening on the other table.
“For example, security has to do with international issues, troop removals or not and guarantees removal or not, but there are also the issues of the domestic legal system, the domestic police system, the credibility of the political deal itself, where the political equality is involved etc. So, there is an interrelationship between the tables. But they are not the same table.”
He has further clarified that the internal issues are not negotiated at the Conference and the Guarantors don’t want to negotiate anything from the five chapters.
“But they need to know certain things, because of the interrelated nature. (It is) not negotiation, but there is a relationship between the issues at the two levels.”
The Cyprus Special Advisor is returning to the island to preside the next meeting between President Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot Leader Mustafa Akinci on January 26. Asked if the 50 or so still open issues across the five chapters were left behind, Mr Eide said that only a handful of these open issues are really of strategic importance.
“You can count as many details as you want. Any number is wrong, because you can divide them in many ways. There are a couple of issues on governance, some definition issues on property and there is of course the final agreement on the maps, even if they come far on territory. The rest is either detail or the security and guarantees. They are not many, but I agree, they are important.”
On the issues that have to be implemented on the first day of the solution, Eide confirmed that he raised it with the Council members during the briefing.
“We are behind. I have been pushing the sides for a long time to be more forthcoming in the implementation. We are getting there, but we could have done more.”
He said that he is eager to meet with the new U.S. administration and he passed on the request with a US official he met.
“I have just met with a representative of the U.S., suggesting that we should meet with the new leaders as soon as they are in. Of course they must first pass through Congress, but I am ready to see them.”