Nicosia.- Cypriot Foreign Minister George Lillikas and his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul will meet the Finnish EU presidency in Finland early this week in a last-ditch bid to reach an agreement on a compromise that would ease Turkey’s accession course.
Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis confirmed that Lillikas would travel to Finland in the framework of the summit of European and Mediterranean foreign ministers at Tampere.
He said, however, that there were currently no plans for a meeting between Gul and Lillikas.
“A positive outcome from the consultations is up to Turkey,” said Pashiardis. “Until now, it has been Turkey’s stance and attitude which has made remote the prospect of success for the Finnish initiative.”
Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs George Lillikas said that he is not optimistic about the results of the Finnish initiative to avert a crisis in EU-Turkish relations, shortly before his departure for Helsinki where he will have consultations with Finnish officials on the Finnish initiative.
“I cannot tell you that I am especially optimistic because the messages we receive from various sources are not optimistic and are not positive on Turkey`s behalf,“ he said.
He noted however that on the Cypriot government`s side “there is the mood and the good will to work for a result.“
In Istanbul, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the object was to achieve a “win-win situation for everyone”.
Turkish media outlet ABHaber reported yesterday that the Finnish Foreign Ministry official responsible for the Cyprus desk, Pekka Orpana, had told them there had been progress and that it would be thrashed out during the Euromed summit.
Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ertugrul Apakan had also been in Helsinki for talks on Finnish proposals, the article said.
It also spoke of new proposals, although Finnish ambassador to Cyprus Risto Piipponen said on Wednesday there had been no changes to the initiative.
ABHaber said that while Orpana remained tight-lipped over the possible changes, he had said that “the new suggestions” would be in the interest of all concerned.
The article said the new suggestions foresee a “step-by-step” movement, aimed at opening Famagusta port to trade in exchange for Turkey opening its ports to Greek Cypriots.
In the next step, Tymbou (Ercan) Airport was expected to be opened to international flights, in exchange for Turkey opening its airports to the Greek Cypriots.
Ankara is obliged to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot traffic under the EUʼs customs union protocol but is refusing to do so.
To avoid a clash with the bloc, the Finnish EU presidency is attempting to work out a compromise. The EU has imposed a December 6 deadline for an agreement in order to avoid a “train crash” during the EU summit in mid-December.
Although the Finnish proposal has not been officially publicised, and is said to be only verbal, it is believed to suggest that Varosha be handed to the UN for work to start so that it can be returned to Greek Cypriots at a future stage.
The Cyprus government, however, wants a fixed timetable for the return of the ghost town. It suggests 18 months. The government has also made it clear that if Varosha is not returned, there can be no deal.
On Thursday, newspapers in Greece had reported that after Turkish lobbying, the Finns had dropped Varosha from the initiative, which prompted Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni to say that if the reports were correct, the whole plan would be at risk.
Pashiaridis repeated Nicosia’s stance on the issue yesterday.
“So far, we have no information or sign which confirms press reports on the removal of the Famagusta issue from the Finnish Presidency’s efforts,” he said.
“On the contrary, we have reasons to believe that it is not possible for the Finnish Presidency to remove it from its initiative, knowing that such a development would be the surest way to secure failure.”
Pashiardis confirmed that the proposal contained two main issues, the operation of Famagusta port and the return of Varosha to its legal inhabitants.
“If the return of Varosha to its legal inhabitants takes place directly or through the UN, there is no essential difference for us, provided that there is a clear time able for its return to its legal inhabitants,” he said.