Cypriot Foreign Minister Advises Low-Key Unity Talks Hopes

Nikos Christodoulides takes the oath of office as Cyprus' new foreign minister during a ceremony at the Presidential Palace on Thursday, March 1, 2018. Christodoulides, a career diplomat and former government spokesman assumes the post in a cabinet reshuffle following Anastasiades' re-election to a second, five-year term. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA –  Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said hopes of resuming collapsed unity talks depend in large part on the Turkish-Cypriot side not making any strong demands that could scuttle any potential new round.

That call came ahead of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades’ scheduled dinner next week with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci who had already warned if more negotiations were scheduled that there would have to be new procedures.

Talks between the leaders fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said an army on the northern third that’s been occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion would never be removed and that they wanted the right to militarily intervene when they wanted.

Christodoulides, speaking to state broadcaster CyBC radio, said too many statements by either side ahead of the dinner could spoil it.

Akinci said he didn’t want to pick up from where the talks left off and that he didn’t want any new negotiations to follow the same methods.

“That process ended. Fifty years have passed since that framework was first adopted. It is clear that such open-ended and long processes will not take us anywhere. We shall be assessing the situation, looking to see where there is any intention to build or shape a common future, whether or not we can work on a basic vision and whether or not we can agree on the modalities. We want to understand and at the same time share our own views. This is the framework of the social dinner,” Akinci said, the Cyprus Mail reported.

The April 16 dinner will be hosted by Elizabeth Spehar, the United Nation’s Cyprus envoy, taking over from a long line of diplomats, politicians and brokers who have failed to make any progress with the Cyprus problem for more than four decades.

Christodoulides said he wouldn’t comment on what Anastasiades said but that, “If we truly want a positive result, a prospect for the resumption of the talks, it would be best to say less publicly,” an approach he said his side should take as well.

The Turkish-based Dogan news agency, which used to be critical of Erdogan before being forced to sell to his allies, said it was told by diplomatic sources it didn’t identify that Akinci wants Anastasiades not to insist on Turkey removing its army, for political equality for Turkish-Cypriots and to let his side share in ongoing energy exploration.

Turkish warships are trying to block foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas and Dogan reported Akinci wants Cyprus to stop the energy hunt until, or if, there’s finally an agreement on reunification, and that the Turkish-Cypriot leader will not relent.

That’s likely to either prevent the resumption of talks or bring them to a screeching halt as Anastasiades has already said those conditions are non-starters for them unless he gives in and makes the concessions now that he’s easily won re-election.