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19 May 2015
Akinci-UN Secretary General meeting on the cards

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited newly-elected Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to New York for a meeting, Turkish Cypriot media reported on Monday.

According to a statement issued by Akinci’s office, Ban telephoned him and invited him to meet face to face. No date has been set however.

During the telephone conversation, Ban – who also spoke with President Nicos Anastasiades after the leaders met last Friday – said he was pleased that talks had resumed and that the leaders had discussed implementing a series of low-level confidence building measures (CBM).

On Sunday Akinci, addressing a bi-communal social event for young people in the north, and greeting some of the participants in Greek, said a tough negotiations process lay ahead. But his tone was conciliatory.

The leaders are due to meet twice a month with the second meeting slated for late next week. Their respective negotiators are set to meet more often.

“The approach should not be seeing the person sitting before you as your enemy. Our view is to see the person sitting before you as a ‘future partner’ and this is extremely important,” Akinci said.

“Our generations and the generations before us shared pain, blood, tears and suffering on these lands.

Let the future generations share the peace, the blessings and the beauties of this island. I believe that with this mentality our future will be better.”

“This will not be easy, I have to say,” he said at a separate event on Monday. “There are great expectations and I will do it my utmost to respond to them. However, it is a process we must walk together. I won’t use the classical expression about taking two to tango because this gives the message that I am a good dancer. But if your partner steps on your foot, it will not make for a good rhythm.”

Akinci expressed the hope that “with determination and political will”, within a framework of a concrete road map, the necessary progress would be made in the coming months. He also spoke of the CBMs he and Anastasiades would be discussing, and said the leaders had also agreed to set up a joint committee on culture.

Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Sunday that Anastasiades and Akinci had asked their negotiators to prepare a joint list of `low politics` CBMs.

CBMs already implemented include paperless ‘visas’ at crossing points since last Saturday, and the handing over of a map with the location of minefields in the Pentadactylos mountains by the Greek Cypriot side. There are also likely to be more crossing points opened, and there is talk of connecting the mobile networks on both sides.

Christodoulides said the agreement by both leaders to proceed with CBMs was important. “They understand the added value such a process will have in parallel to the negotiating process in support of the talks’ overall aim,” the spokesman was quoted as saying by the Cyprus News Agency. The issue would also be discussed at next week’s meeting, he said. “All will be determined at the negotiating table,” he said.

Akinci’s election was a positive development, the spokesman said, but Turkey was also a factor in the negotiations and it would have to be fully on board in order to create real optimism.

Reports said, the two sides’ negotiators will meet on Wednesday to prepare an outline of the state of affairs for the two leaders ahead of substantive negotiations.

They will also look at CBMs that would be submitted to the leaders.

Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides expressed some optimism about prospects.

In an interview with London Greek Radio (LGR) he said that during the upcoming phase, the two sides would focus on minimising their differences on core issues such as property, territory and governance.

He dismissed suggestions that the US and UK were exercising pressure on Cyprus for a timetable. “This would not be productive or helpful,” he said. Commenting on reports of a settlement by the end of the year and a referendum early in 2016, he said: “why not?” if there was enough progress. But he said the quality of a solution was more important than how fast it was reached.

Kasoulides also said it was clear from Akinci’s comments that Turkish Cypriots wished to be free of Turkey and wanted “a Cypriot future”.