The United Nations will be participating in the Geneva talks on Cyprus with the ambition of solving the issue now, the UN’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, told journalists in Athens, after his meeting with Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.
“We go there [to Geneva] with the ambition of solving it now, and then we will see how things develop when we are there. Sometimes people can be positively surprised, and maybe things come up, when the key players are there, that we have not been able to fully achieve in the preparations. So that is exactly why we need an international conference at this stage,” he said.
Eide noted that important issues remain unresolved, such as security and the guarantees, and noted that there is a “strong feeling” that if it was up to the Cypriots alone, they would have been resolved.
“As I told some of you a month ago, while there are still outstanding issues in Cyprus, and the leaders met today, and the negotiators meet on a daily basis, we have the strong feeling that if it was only up to the Cypriots now, this problem will be solved,” he said.
“The key questions that are outstanding are those pertaining to security and guarantees. And this will be the main focus of the conference next week, in Geneva. It is open-ended, in the sense that it starts on the twelfth. We have deliberately not said when it ends, because we need to take the time we need. But we go there with the ambition of finding solutions, or at least a framework for a solution, that can bring us to a final settlement.”
The UN envoy recognized that talks will not be easy and that there’s a lot of work to be done, but noted that chances are better now than they have been in a long time.
“So, while it will be difficult, I don’t think it has ever looked better than it does right now, and the more I work on this, the more I get the reconfirmation of that sense,” he said.
Concerning the chances of success in the crucial Geneva meeting, Eide said the UN is “only planning for success”, but all sides have to be frank about the fact that “an inability to solve it this time will not mean that we have another chance in three months or six months or one year or five years”, and urged all sides to use the current opportunity to resolve the problems.
“My principal interest is to help Cyprus to reunify itself. But I also think that, in a volatile region, the story of people coming together again and rebuilding a togetherness, one state in one island, will send a signal way beyond, to the Middle East, to Europe, that fragmentation is not the only option, that reunification and coming together is also an option in a very difficult and volatile world,’ he said.
Asked about plans for a meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Cyprus, Eide said he’s in favour. He also said the Security Council will be present in Geneva, while the newly-elected Secretary-General of the UN, Antonio Guterres will join talks when the international conference starts on January 12.