Meeting with Kotzias focused on security aspects, conference on Cyprus in March, Eide says

In statements after meeting Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias in Athens on Friday, the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide said their discussion had focused on security aspects of the Cyprus issue and a conference on Cyprus to be held in early March in Geneva, as recently agreed by Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.

“We do not think it will be the last meeting, we think it’s important to have at least one intermediate meeting, but it will be convened at a political level,” the UN envoy said.

Eide also commented on “some complicated tensions in the relationship between Turkey and Greece” at the present time, noting that this was “a background setting that I would rather be without” but which should not be allowed to negatively affect the talks.

“I do think that if we all play our cards well we might actually see Cyprus as an arena for cooperation – not only between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots but also between Greece, Turkey and the other interested parties. So, rather than letting the talks be negatively affected by other surrounding issues we might actually see that it is a positive in broader regional developments. This is, at least, my ambition,” he said.

Eide said he will be visiting Turkey next week and was in contact with the United Kingdom and the European Union in order to discuss the “modalities for the next convening of the conference.”

He said his meeting with Kotzias had also provided an “opportunity to go through in detail some of the ideas we are developing on how to think about a new security framework for Cyprus, one which can be accepted and supported both by the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities but also by the guarantor powers, so that they can be part of the necessary change from what we have today to what we will have tomorrow.”

While unable to share what had been discussed in detail, in order to preserve the confidentiality of the talks at this stage, Eide said he was encouraged, “particularly by the second session of the conference on Cyprus, which happened at the high civil servant level at Mont Pelerin a few weeks ago, which showed that there was a certain space for further discussions which we are elaborating in this particular visit.”

Diplomatic sources in Greece said the specific level at which the conference will be held was not made clear during the meeting, though it would likely be held on the level of foreign ministers. They said the talks focused on security issues and guarantees, especially the four chapters, with emphasis on the fourth and most crucial. Talks were also held on the issue of the four freedoms.

Kotzias put particular emphasis on procedural aspects of the conference, the sources added, expressing his displeasure at “organisational failures” during the previous conference that had allowed Turkey to launch a “blame game” after its departure from the second day of talks in Geneva, and wrongfully accuse Athens of interrupting the negotiation.