The proposal for the appointment of a special envoy from the EU for the Cyprus issue is a modern European proposal that can change the EU's relations with Turkey and solve a longstanding problem, but it will not be on the table forever, Government Spokesman, Konstantinos Letymbiotis told CNA, clarifying that the goal is a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions.
"The agreed framework, which no one wishes to deviate from, and the message we are sending is that this is the solution we are discussing and we want a resumption of negotiations from where they were left off in Crans Montana", he said.
We want to persuade Turkey and our Turkish Cypriot compatriots that a mutually beneficial situation can and must be achieved for all parties.
In an interview with CNA, Letymbiotis said that the time available before the elections in Greece and Turkey was utilized with significant bilateral and other contacts, as well as at the European Council, to enable the Government to present the proposal for more active and substantial involvement of the EU in resolving the deadlock. "The President of the Republic, through public statements and bilateral contacts, is trying to communicate the readiness and determination of the Greek Cypriot side to restart negotiations as soon as possible", he added.
The EU can contribute in a catalytic and effective manner to strengthen the efforts of the UN through the incentives and tools it possesses towards Turkey and our Turkish Cypriot compatriots, in order to achieve a mutually beneficial situation and restart negotiations from where they were left off in Crans Montana, with the goal of a definitive and viable resolution of the Cyprus issue, Letymbiotis remarked.
He said that the President of the Republic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the diplomatic missions are working to convey this message of readiness from the Greek Cypriot side, which foreign leaders acknowledge.
When asked whether the only pressure lever or tool towards Turkey to convince them to restart negotiations are the EU-Turkey issues or if energy issues could also serve as an equivalent, the Government Spokesperson said that the connection of EU-Turkey issues with progress on the Cyprus issue is acknowledged by the leaders of member states, who see that this can move forward not only to the benefit of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots but also to the benefit of the EU itself, as the current situation has developed.
"This effort is not one-dimensional. We cannot say it's black or white. All tools that can be utilized in our effort to restart negotiations and ultimately resolve the Cyprus issue will be utilized. What we see at the moment, however, what is apparent from the contacts we are making, is that indeed the EU today possesses those tools, those incentives, towards Turkey. It is not a pressure lever; it is not the pressure that we want to exert on Turkey. We want to persuade Turkey and our Turkish Cypriot compatriots that a mutually beneficial situation can and must be achieved for all parties", he said.
Invited to specify what these tools or incentives are, Letymbiotis said that Turkey itself pursues specific incentives from the EU, and our position changes to some extent the way these issues will be approached, referring to "incentives related to economic nature" and others.
When asked if there would be any future developments in the energy sector and to what extent the Government would discuss it as an incentive, the Spokesman replied that they do not see it in a one-dimensional way, noting that the connection of EU-Turkey issues is a holistic approach, "it concerns all this issue, even to some extent the energy sector. You understand that energy plans are very different with the Cyprus issue resolved."
He further noted that whatever actions and plans the Government makes in the energy sector include the Turkish Cypriots as well.
We cannot follow only one approach or claim that energy alone is sufficient for the resolution of the Cyprus issue, and we do not want Europe, he added. The Government, he explained, is willing to discuss all the open issues that Turkey has with the EU, which for years did not accept to discuss, provided we see, through Turkey's concrete actions, that there is a sincere willingness to restart negotiations based on the agreed framework. “This is non-negotiable, and we cannot discuss any other solution”, he remarked.
This prospect will be available through a new era in EU-Turkey relations, to have Turkey sit again at the negotiating table and solve the Cyprus issue, he stated. The message of the "new era," he said, is derived from the Government's own proposal, stating that even in the EU, they understand that it is better to have Turkey closer to the EU than to Russia and China.
Regarding the fenced-off area of Famagusta and possible sales of Greek Cypriot properties, the Spokesman said the only way to stop this danger is to achieve an overall Cyprus settlement. He also said that after the reports in the Turkish Cypriot press about such sales, “we reacted and worked very quickly".
In diplomacy, he added, many times moves are made that do not become public and are “both substantial and beneficial. Actions and initiatives are taken towards all interested parties, he added, in order to address any emerging issue promptly and in the best possible way".
Invited to say whether Erdogan's re-election could lead to further progress in opening up another section of the fenced-off area, Letymbiotis said it is something that cannot be ruled out, and no one can safely predict Ankara's policy. "One thing we can say about Ankara's policy is that regardless of who is in power, it remains consistent in its approach towards Cyprus", he said.
Regarding German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s remarks about political courage from all participants and increased trust between them, including the Turkish Cypriot side, the Spokesman noted that there was an updated statement from the Chancellor, and Scholz acknowledged the political courage shown by President Christodoulides and the Greek Cypriot side. This is evident to our interlocutors, he added. To develop more trust, Letymbiotis expressed the view that the Special Envoy will initially take on the role of persuading Turkey that it has something to gain through its involvement with the EU.
"When the talks begin in earnest," he said, "the technical support of the EU will also be necessary," something that President himself saw as having played a crucial role in the Crans Montana talks.
Asked to comment on the discussion about names for the Special Envoy, he said that specific names were discussed with the French President and the German Chancellor. When you reach the point of discussing names with the leader of a state, "this proposal is not a priori rejected", he said. As for the person for this position, he said that "a list of names will not be presented from us to the French President or from the French President to us". This exchange of names, he stated, will also happen with other EU leaders and if this proposal is implemented, the opinions of our European partners will be taken into account.
Asked if there is a timeline for this proposal, the Government Spokesman said that it will not be on the “table forever." At the same time, he emphasized the President's statement that the current status quo is not an acceptable solution. "Time is definitely working against us," said Letymbiotis, adding that the government will continue the effort to implement this proposal, saying that we should wait for things to settle after the Turkish elections. The President, he said, is in constant communication with leaders he has contacted, as well as European institutions. "The effort does not stop, and it is time to let diplomacy work”, he remarked.
Asked if the issue of German investments in the Turkish-occupied areas was discussed in Berlin, Letymbiotis said that it was discussed in a private meeting between the President and the German Chancellor. It is something that concerns not only us, he mentioned, stating that these issues will be resolved through the final settlement of the Cyprus problem.