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13 June, 2024
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Christodoulides: 'Open and constructive' first meeting

The first informal meeting between Christodoulides and Tatar at Nicosia airport with the Cyprus problem still waiting in the wings

by Yiannis Ioannou

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar arrived at Nicosia airport shortly after 11 a.m., with the necessary delay, to be met by Mr. Colin Stewart, the UN Secretary General's special representative in Cyprus. Earlier, Nicos Christodoulides, the newly elected President, crossed the threshold of the Canadian diplomat's residence, accompanied by the Greek Cypriot negotiator, Menelaos Menelaou, and his associate, Marilena Rauna - who will, barring an unforeseen event, be the head of his diplomatic office.

The meeting, which lasted nearly two hours, was informal and - as expected - did not result in any announcement of a resumption of dialogue, as evidenced by Mr. Stewart's prior individual meetings with the two leaders. Moreover, as those in Jerusalem are aware, the current starting positions of the two sides on the resumption of dialogue on the Cyprus problem after six years of silence make the scenario extremely difficult – with Mr. Tatar insisting on the issue of sovereign equality as a necessary precondition.  According to informed sources, there was a good atmosphere at the meeting, with the two leaders leaving happy about the outcome, exchanging views on a wide range of issues, and having discussions between the two negotiators. The earthquakes in Turkey and Syria were discussed, with both leaders expressing their condolences to the victims and their families. Finally, the meeting points toward getting to know the two better, reading intentions, and maintaining a climate that could lead to future meetings (no such meeting was set for Thursday).

They set the tone

Addressing the meeting, Christodoulides kept his tone low, emphasizing that he would not engage in a blame game, and that he wanted to keep his pre-election commitment to further engage the European Union - under the UN - in the process of breaking the deadlock in the talks, and that the 'confidence building measures' and the work of the technical committees are important but should not be a substitute for a solution. When asked about Mr. Tatar's statement on his proposal for cooperation in the event of an earthquake, Christodoulides stated that he had a position on the matter. "There have already been proposals made within the Technical Committees. There have been previous examples of crisis management within the relevant technical committee.  "We had the fires as an example," he said. "The Republic of Cyprus has the expertise, and the Republic of Cyprus, as an EU member state, has access to relevant European mechanisms," he added. I will listen to Mr. Tatar and prepare a response."

Mr. Tatar also demonstrated his intentions, according to T/C media, by playing the earthquake card in response to the harsh criticism he received from a number of political forces following the tragedy with the Turkish Cypriot students. In any case, the Turkish Cypriot leader appears to remain committed to his position of two states in Cyprus and to the narrative of sovereign equality.

Christodoulides' statements

Following the meeting, the president-elect issued statements from his political office. Among other things, he stated that the meeting was good and that it was the first one, with Mr. Christodoulides responding to Mr. Tatar's proposal for joint actions in the event of an earthquake. Christodoulides emphasized that "there was no negotiation," and that despite the documented disagreements, he insists on breaking the deadlock - always within the framework of UN resolutions. Finally, Christodoulides stated that he had invited Mr. Tatar to a second social meeting and was hopeful for a positive response.  Finally, he said that he asked Mr. Tatar to send, at some point, a joint message on the missing persons.

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