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13 June, 2024
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''It's up to the two leaders to show courage and boldness''

''I was surprised that Tatar rejected my tripartite proposal,'' the envoy of the UN secretary-general tells ''K'' in an exclusive interview

Marina Economides

Marina Economides

In an interview with "K", the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy, Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar, expresses hope that the two leaders will listen to civil society. Following her visit to the island, she states that the decision lies with the leaders, who must show courage and boldness. She believes there is an opportunity to move forward with strong support from the international community. Regarding incentives, Ms. Olguin notes that the Christodoulides government has a clear understanding of what could unlock the process. At the same time, she expresses surprise at the move by Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar to reject her proposal for a trilateral meeting.

Q: Although you described your meeting with the two leaders as constructive, we have not seen any progress. In fact, TC leader Ersin Tatar even rejected the proposal for a trilateral meeting. How do you think the process should proceed? The Turkish side insists on a two-state solution. How can we convince it to come back to the negotiating table and discuss the agreed framework?

I am convinced that there is an opportunity to move forward with the strong support of the international community.

A: My hope is that the two leaders will listen to the voices and wishes of the people. However, they face the following dilemma at the moment: either to maintain the status quo, which is the easiest alternative or to take the decision to promote medium- and long-term measures for the island that will in turn create stronger opportunities for sustained economic growth. After 60 years of division, progress cannot be seen in just four months. I must admit, however, that I was surprised by Mr. Tatar's public rejection of my proposal for a trilateral meeting because our aim should have been to give diplomacy a chance. I have requested a direct meeting to present the current situation on the ground and to assess the measures that can be taken. I believe that once the two sides have exchanged their positions and proposals then they will be able to find a way forward for the benefit of all the citizens of this island. For this to happen, however, they must be willing to sit at the table.  In terms of incentives, the government has a very clear picture and knows what could unlock the process.

Q: Nikos Christodoulides has said he is ready to start negotiations tomorrow if necessary. Has he done everything in his power to restart the talks? It is already being said in various circles that the Greek side should give incentives to the Turkish side so that they return to the negotiating table. Have you made a specific proposal to Nikos Christodoulides? Should we expect any initiative on your part, for example, an informal document or informal proposals?

A: I have to admit that in Cyprus we faced the challenge of requiring reciprocity with any measures taken. To build trust in negotiations it is useful to be willing to take measures to start a process. Lack of trust is too deep in the island and this prevents all stakeholders from seeing the multiple economic opportunities in Cyprus and the possibility to live in a more normal environment. Every previous failure makes it harder to start a new process. Regarding the incentives to return to a negotiation, the government has a clear picture and knows what could unblock the process.

I must admit that in Cyprus we faced the challenge of the prerequisite of reciprocity for any measures taken

The trip to Ankara and Athens

Q: What did you take away from your trip to Ankara and Athens? Is the Turkish position in full alignment with that of Tatar?

A: During my meetings, I felt encouraged by the support for my mission to find a common point of contact in order to move the process forward. Greece showed willingness and commitment to work towards finding a solution. In my meetings with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, I must say that he was willing to listen to me with an open mind.

Q: Given the deadlock that resulted from your last meeting, is there a possibility that your appointment will not be renewed? What will be the next steps on the Cyprus problem?

A: Having my mandate extended has never been my priority. I undertook this task hoping that I could contribute to restoring trust to allow both sides to renew their efforts towards a sustainable solution in Cyprus. I want to reiterate that I have listened to many actors and I am convinced that there is an opportunity to move forward with strong support from the international community. The decision is in the hands of the leaders who need to be courageous. They also need to answer the call from grassroots voices across the island who are the essence of democracy.

Q: You are saying that Cypriot society is ready to move forward. How can this be done in practice?

A: A solution to the Cyprus issue is not easy to build because of the heavy weight of the past in people’s memories and identity. Although I acknowledge the profound suffering through history, and knowing that I could sound naïve, I think that the Cypriot people can dare to imagine life without the spin of constant confrontations that prevent them from considering a bright future. I understand that fear of the unknown is overwhelming. However, as years go by, opportunities are lost. The willingness to move forward requires leaving the past behind and turning the page on history to believe in a future for the benefit of the Cypriot people.




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