UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide has said that the stars are perfectly well aligned on Cyprus and in the neighbourhood for a solution, something, which, as he said, has not been seen in a long time.
Addressing a public event hosted by the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation in the walled city of Nicosia, on Tuesday evening, Eide spoke of the difficulties referenda present and of the implementation of a solution.
However he struck an optimistic note, telling everyone that the two leaders trust each other and are ready to work hard to deliver an outcome expressing the point of view that there is a “very real possibility” that within reasonable time there will be a political settlement.”
Referring to the Stelios Bi-Communal Entrepreneurship Award scheme which takes place for the 7th year running he said “it is highly valuable and very important that people are encouraged in this kind of practical co-operation between entrepreneurs, between people with ideas, people who would like not only progress the bi-communal co-operation but also the economy of the island.”
Because, he added, “as I believe we are moving towards a political solution there is also a need to start thinking what that means in practice, what that means for the economy.”
Eide acknowledged that a solution will have a cost but said he is “strongly convinced” that the net benefit would be “much – much higher than the cost, the opportunities in the island for working across, for creating new economic partnerships but also the opportunity to bring people to the island, investors looking for a safe, stable, friendly place to invest in would be remarkably higher”.
He explained that this view is made in his capacity as member of the managing board of the World Economic Forum. “I know there is a lot of interest on the global level, among people who tell me that if this progresses politically, this place is very interesting, to base operations in, to invest in, once the political issue is solved and we have stable lasting institutions”, he stressed.
Referring to the good climate which has been created since the resumption of talks in May he said that “if it looks too good to be true, I would like to tell you that it is actually for real.” It is a remarkably different climate, he added.
He expressed the point of view that it is an opportunity that all Cypriots have to contribute to and take seriously.
Either you reap the benefits of this climate, this opportunity, or you will lose it again for a very long time, he pointed out.
Referring to his meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci he said Akinci is “very optimistic, very dedicated, very eager to move forward” and that he had a rich discussion basically on the open issues and how we start dealing with them already tomorrow.
On his meeting with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, he said there was “exactly the same tone, optimistic, positive.”
“The two leaders, I can share with you, they trust each other, they like to work together, they believe that the other one is serious, that the other one is ready to work hard to deliver an outcome”, Eide stressed.
This, he added, has trickle down to the rest of the system and a similar attitude is present between the two negotiators. Referring to the work of Andreas Mavroyiannis and Ozdil Nami, he said they have been meeting at least three times a week and “are finishing their work on establishing what is their base- line so that we can really move into the substantive phase of the talks.”
He reiterated his position that “it is very important that this is a leader – led process.”I am here with my team to help and support but I am not here to lead the process, he noted, adding that “that is something we are learning in the international community: If we try to do it for people it will not work, if we try to support it when people want to do it themselves then it might work.”
The UN SG`s Special Adviser stressed however that the leaders will need support “not principally from the outside world but from people in Cyprus, in the Greek Cypriot community and in the Turkish Cypriot community.”
“I think it is highly important now that people start relating to the very real possibility that within reasonable time there is a political settlement”, he said, adding that when you have a political settlement, which I think you will, that has to be presented to referenda.
At the same time he recalled that “the outcome of referenda is not guaranteed.” You know it here, he said, adding that he know it as a Norwegian because “we tried to join the EU twice and failed”.
“I want to be very open in saying that even with a political settlement, even with successful referenda the issue has not been finally solved before implementation has been successful”, he continued.
The aim, he said, is to move from a reasonably stable non-solution to a future stable solution through a complicated phase of transition. Transitions, he warned, can be difficult, adding that both the leaders and their teams need to remember the implementation phase.
“Solutions have to be practical, they have to be doable, they have to be understandable and they have to be acceptable”, he stressed.
Eide struck an optimistic note expressing the point of view that “this is the opportunity”. The stars, he added, “are perfectly well aligned on the island, in the neighborhood and that is something we haven`t seen in a long time”.
He also stressed the need to engage young people in the effort. Young people should really engage in what it actually means, including the difficult questions, he noted.
At the same time he said he was very heartened when in the first meeting he had with all religious leaders they all stressed that this is not a religious conflict and that they will not allow it to become one.
Referring to the positions of Greece and Turkey he expressed the point of view that both countries strongly support the work that is going on now and I haven`t seen anything that suggests that that is changing in either country.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The leaders of the two communities in Cyprus resumed UN – backed talks in May aiming to reunite the island under a federal roof.