We are going to Geneva to assert what we are seeking
Interview with Toumazos Tsielepis, “HARAVAGI” daily newspaper
The draft document prepared by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide on security and guarantees contains several positive elements, as well as some negative ones, but the bottom line is that this document is not an agreement for a solution of the Cyprus problem, the Head of the Cyprus Problem Office of AKEL, International Law expert, member of the Political Bureau of AKEL and member of the Support Team to the Negotiating Team Toumazos Tsielepis stated to “Haravgi” newspaper in a long interview published in two parts 25-26/6/2017.
Was the Eide document’s content what was expected, according to the information that existed?
TT: To some extent, yes, not altogether however. That is, the impression we had was that this document would begin from the negative experience of the first Geneva conference. What did this show? That everyone was unprepared for such an undertaking and in the end this conference ended up being more than one hundred people in a room with no fixed agenda, without a clear subject of discussion and as you would expect the conference didn’t yield results.
That is why it was decided to convene the conference in Mont Peleran III at the level of technocrats, solely to prepare for the continuation of the conference at a political level. The conference of technocrats took place and the two side’s concerns were registered in relation to the core issue of security. Also recorded were what they called tools with which each side was looking to meet its concerns, questions were put and replies were also given.
This was the basis to continue the conference and for it to have a specific subject: that is there should be a guide as to what we will be discussing and not in the sense that we will go there and agreed substantive issues would be agreed, but what issues we would be discussing. The subsequent well-known incidents took place, and the second conference will be held after a long delay. We anticipated that we would have had the materials of Mont Peleran III in Eide’s document.
Are they included in the annex given by Mr. Eide?
TT: Yes. But let me say that the document naturally doesn’t take a position on hot topics, that is to say it doesn’t tell us whether the Treaties of Guarantee and Alliance will be abolished, modified or will continue.
Neither could the Eide document tell us so because there are diametrically opposed positions of the two sides and all of this must be solved at the negotiating table. The positive thing is that there is a guide as to what will be discussed there, and naturally the document also includes elements that are not to the liking of one or the other side. Each side is free to express its position on the document and its views. It was agreed that this can be done.
What binds us?
TT: What must bind us both is the convergences agreed so far and what we will say in relation to the document. Therefore we have to go there to see how things will evolve.
I don’t know whether Mr. Eide will try to reconcile the positions of the two sides into a new document. I consider such a development to be very ambitious. But there, each side will have its own positions as its shield and not what is mentioned in the document.
Of course, the document will serve as a guide for the discussion, in order to know the subject of the debate, but from then on, each side will seek to promote its own positions. Developments will unfold in the Swiss resort, without me stating that the document doesn’t matter.
At first you said that we weren’t prepared for the first Geneva conference on Cyprus. Do you consider we are prepared now?
TT: To be fair, it was our side that put forth a proposal at the first Geneva conference. It is the President’s well-known proposal on security and guarantees. However, a conference isn’t prepared in this way only.
There must be an agenda, its subject must be defined and one should try to prepare the ground, so that the conference does not break down on the first day. You won’t solve the issues before going there.
You can’t say, for example, that if the other doesn’t accept that the guarantees are going to be abolished or that the troops are not withdrawing then I won’t be coming to the conference. We went there without a guide for the discussion. This must not be repeated.
In the document, according to information, there is a reference to the creation of a new Treaty on guarantees. Is that true? And if it does exists, does the Greek Cypriot side or you as AKEL have a position?
TT: There is a confusion on this issue. I hear that the Treaty of Establishment is again to be abolished, that we will have a new Treaty with the establishment of a new state, etc. No such thing.
The fuss created with regards the 1960 Treaty of Establishment and that supposedly the new Treaty replaces it is not justified. The Treaty of Establishment is and will remain there. Nobody has questioned it, not even the Turkish side.
It is one of the three Treaties of 1960. This Treaty in particular is not part of the Constitution, while the other two Treaties are. It regulates the status of the Bases. The legal basis for the presence of the Bases in Cyprus is in this Treaty. This is the negative point.
However, every cloud has a silver lining. The Treaty of Establishment supposedly – the wording supposedly is not accidental but I will not go into that into more depth right now – established the Republic of Cyprus. You cannot claim that a Treaty that has established a state remains in force, but that this state no longer exists.
It is also a matter of common sense. It is tangible proof of the continuity of the Republic of Cyprus. There is more evidence. The issue of the abolition of the Bases is not part of the solution of the Cyprus problem, but an ultimate goal. In order not to open up this front neither by us, nor any others, nor by Britain, the issue of this Treaty hasn’t been raised. Its only amendment was in the Annan plan simply to regulate the return of approximately half of the territory of the Bases to the Federal Republic of Cyprus. It did not concern the status of the Bases. It did not concern the essence and content of the Treaty, but only the scope of the British Bases.
The Treaty proposed now has to do with the implementation of the solution. It has nothing to do with the Treaty of Establishment, it does not abolish it. It is an additional Treaty. It has problems, but it’s definitely not what’s being portrayed or reported in the press.
Concerning the Eide draft document, are there any negative elements with regards the Greek Cypriot side’s positions?
TT: I can’t and don’t want to go into the very essence of this document. By judging things on the scales, I can say that it’s not a document barring us from going there and asserting what we are seeking. This is the essence.
Having previously made one’s comments on the document too.
TT: Of course, comments must be made on the document, because if no comment is made, it will be a kind of informal type of commitment that you agree with what it writes.
Given the situation that we have before us and bearing in mind the recent statements made by Mr. Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu (Note: so-called “Foreign Minister” of the illegal regime in the occupied areas) that the Turkish army will not leave and other statements, and given the official Turkish statements on the issue, is there any prospect for the conference to succeed in Switzerland? Is there also the possibility that we may find ourselves taken by surprise?
TT: To find yourself taken by surprise, means you go unprepared. If you are prepared with positions and goals, as well as the methodology of asserting them, you will not find yourself taken by surprise, provided of course that the goals are realistic. They can’t be goals of the type included in the joint statement issued by the three parties of the so-called “intermediate spectrum”. That is to say, as these parties propose, not just to return to the situation that existed before 1974, but to seek to even improve the Zurich agreements and then to subsequently hold referenda.
You have to go to the conference and think about how you will achieve your goals and put forth alternatives if something goes wrong. Beyond that, what Ertugruloglu says does not have to be taken so seriously because we know what he will say before he says it.
What we expect to see is what Turkey itself will do. This is where Turkey will find itself facing up to its responsibilities with regards the issues of security and guarantees. There is no particular international understanding of Turkey’s positions. Therefore if Turkey means what it says about a solution, it mustn’t just talk but prove it in deeds, here and now. And if it does take even one step forward, this is what paves the way for the issues on the other table.
Given the confusion among the people, how will the two tables work?
TT: I do not know if they both will both start at the same time. We will at one table be with the guarantor powers and the EU as an observer. At this table the issue of security and guarantees in both of its dimensions, external security and application, will be discussed exclusively. That is where Turkey needs to make a tangible move if it really wants a solution. I’m not saying Turkey will open all its cards in one day when there is also the other table. We are talking about a move that will demonstrate that it is willing to discuss the issues seriously, that it will also take into consideration our side’s concerns and not just those of the Turkish Cypriot side. This would help the other table too.
It has been stressed by both Turkey, but also by Eide, that even if we get reach a result in Switzerland, that will not be the end.
TT: There is no way we can arrive at an overall solution in Switzerland. Even in the best possible scenario, there will be a number of outstanding issues. The goal here is to take the decisive step forward, rendering the path towards the solution irreversible. That is what we have to seek. From there on it will take some time to reach a solution. Unless there is a step forward, there is a danger that the procedure will collapse as we know it over the last ten years.
What are the dangers stemming from the collapse of the procedure? Many say, for example, that it is better not to go to Switzerland.
TT: If you don’t go to the conference in Switzerland how will you test Turkey at the negotiating table? Will you do so by saying that we won’t go unless Turkey accepts our positions in advance? It is one thing for the effort to break down – a development which we abhor – because Turkey refuses to withdraw its troops and abandon rights of intervention and it’s another thing for the effort to collapse because of the Enosis referendum issue or because we can’t agree on what should be discussed first or second. If it were to break down, let it be the fault of the other side. It should and indeed appear to be the responsibility of Turkey. This is what matters. Some circles and forces are mocking, but the question is what will subsequently follow if the procedure does collapses due to our fault as well.
You’re therefore saying that a possible break down of the procedure due to our own fault as well will not be the best development.
TT: I would say it will be a nightmare scenario. The collapse of the procedure with responsibilities apportioned on our side would be the worst possible scenario. And you give me the opportunity to come back to the joint proposal put forth by the three parties of the so-called “intermediate spectrum”. There is no better recipe for the procedure to collapse and for the blame to be apportioned entirely on our side.
Is the proposal submitted by DIKO President and presidential candidate Nicolas Papadopoulos so unrealistic?
TT: When you say that you want the Zurich agreements to be improved first and then you’ll discuss whether you’ll accept a solution, you are of course living in a world of your own. I have not seen a more unfeasible proposal, not even in the most glorious times of the policy of “protaxis” (Note: the policy of setting “preconditions” that predetermine the results of negotiations).
“The continuity of the Republic of Cyprus is ensured through the content of the solution”
Another important given fact that came out of the first Geneva conference and is again being raised now is the presence there of the Republic of Cyprus. What have to say on this issue?
TT: This issue has been settled. We are the only ones bringing back the issue of the abolition of the Republic of Cyprus. The continuity of the Republic of Cyprus will be ensured through the content of the solution. And we have repeatedly said what we should first of all be careful of. The participation of the Republic of Cyprus in the UN, the EU, the Council of Europe and in all the international transnational organizations which it is a member of will continue. Secondly, all international treaties of the Republic of Cyprus signed since 1960 until today will be in force as an annex to the agreement. An additional safeguard is the prohibition of secession, as well as Enosis (Note: union of Cyprus with Greece).
If we insist on an explicit reference to the Republic of Cyprus being incorporated in the first article of the Constitution this sounds quite appealing, but what will actually happen? The other side will raise the issue that two states are talking, not the Republic of Cyprus. There will be a collapse of the procedure and the United Nations will prepare a report stating that for the first time in the history of the intercommunal talks the Greek Cypriot side has raised the issue of the status of the two sides. They will say that the Greek Cypriot side raised this issue. As a reply, the Turkish Cypriot side would turn the issue on its head and the matter ends there.
Anastasiades and Akinci agreed on the procedure that is being pursued now. It was not the procedure AKEL had wanted. But this was the one that was agreed, it is the one before us and we must deal with it. What is our primary concern? It is that the Republic of Cyprus should not be disputed by anyone, as a result of this conference. The President of the Republic, acting correctly, has received opinions which basically say that the best way to safeguard the Republic of Cyprus was through the proposal AKEL put forth, that is to say, the two tables of talks as it is the case right now. No one has disputed the Republic of Cyprus when we left the first Geneva conference
It is the same procedure which we will follow now. If the Republic of Cyprus was going to disappear, it would have happened immediately after the first Geneva conference. But, of course, this didn’t happen.
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