The two Cypriot leaders are hours away from having an informal dinner together with the UN Secretary General in Berlin, where they have been invited for an assessment of next steps regarding a possible resumption of talks on the divided island.
Media reports on the meeting ranged from low expectations to a breakthrough on the terms of reference for resuming talks. But a conclusion on the reference terms would be a difficult undertaking, according to Marina Economides, a correspondent for Kathimerini Cyprus.
Econopmides, who is Berlin, cited sources saying the most likely outcome would be an announcement or some kind of consensus from the two sides on the issue of the terms of reference.
Sources in Nicosia indicated expectations over the meeting were low while at the same time downplaying a possible failure
Previous reports in the south said President Nicos Anastasiades was placing the burden of a positive outcome on the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, while at the same time, Akinci’s stated position was that a way forward depended on the Greek Cypriot leader.
Akinci said he was going to Berlin to seek a common road map and “to determine together where we are in the process and what path are we to follow from here.”
But sources in Nicosia indicated that expectations remained low over the meeting while at the same time downplaying the possibility of a diplomatic failure.
Anastasiades, who travelled to the German capital on Sunday, is expected on Monday to dine with Akinci and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The three men will discuss the next steps regarding Cyprus talks behind closed doors while photographers were banned from taking pictures even prior to the dinner.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, Government Spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said Anastasiades believed an agreement on terms of reference was “feasible” while adding that “the objective is to resume negotiations the soonest possible.”
CNA reported that Prodromou said the Greek Cypriot side was in favor of convening an informal five-party conference with the participation of the guarantor powers “soon, even this December” which would include guarantor powers Greece and Turkey.
“Depending on what we have in front of us, we hope that we can decide in Berlin on the next steps and how we proceed regarding the resumption of talks,” he told CNA.
But media in the north also reported on upcoming Turkish Cypriot elections in April 2020, with Ankara not keen on a five-party conference before Turkish Cypriots head to the polls.
Akinci is facing criticism for publicly refusing to consider options other than a federal, bizonal, bicommunal settlement which is backed by the UN. His critics say he failed to inform his people on another option that was allegedly tabled off-the-record by the Greek Cypriot side.
The United Kingdom, also a guarantor power in Cyprus, has taken a back seat in the process. According to a statement to the press by Jonathan Allen, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN, member states welcomed the initiative taken Guterres to meet informally with the two Cypriot leaders.
“If you are asking me about detailed questions of what would happen under new arrangements, well I think we will let those play out around the negotiating table,” Allen said.
Greece, which has expressed support for the Republic of Cyprus and UN-led peace talks, also has not taken publicly an initiave on a possible five-party conference.
Media outlets on the island have focused on the informal nature of Monday’s meeting as well as the terms of reference, which were left inconclusive back in September by UN special envoy Jane Holl Lute.
Lute’s series of visits to the island over the summer, where she went back and forth meeting the two leaders separately in order to draft common terms of reference, did not yield desired results.
Sources in the south said the presence of the UN Secretary-General was deemed necessary following Lute’s failure to clinch an agreement. According to Kathimerini, Lute has checked in at the same hotel where the two Cypriot leaders are staying but it was unclear whether she would be called in at any point during the meeting.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger said the German government was in favour of the resumption of the UN-led process for Cyprus, adding that his country was providing logistical support as a host.
Guterres is taking part in the 14th UN Internet Governance Forum in the German capital, where on Tuesday he is scheduled to join Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Forum’s opening ceremony.
In a written statement earlier this month, German Ambassador to Cyprus Franz Josef Kremp expressed hope that the spirit of November 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, would inspire the informal meeting on Cyprus.
Cyprus is split between the Greek Cypriots in the south, which is recognized as the Republic of Cyprus, and the Turkish Cypriots in the north under a state recognized only by Turkey. Turkish military invaded the island in July 1974 following a short-lived coup engineered by Athens.
A number of peace efforts over the decades have failed to reach a settlement on the divided island, following the collapse of a Cyprus conference in Crans Montana in summer 2017.