Turkey Ready For Any Comprehensive Solution Package To Cyprus Problem
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu remains optimistic about a possible lasting solution to the Cyprus problem on the island and vows Ankara ready to back any solutions the sides to the conflict agree to.
Responding to questions about what Turkey can and should do on the Cyprus issue, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu blamed the Greek Cypriots for the failure to tackle the problem. Cavusoglu believes that the steps being taken are adequate and the focus must be on a comprehensive solution.
Turkey is open to all types of solutions that are put on the table, ranging from the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation to two separate states, the Turkish foreign minister added. Cavusoglu also admitted that the concerns and fears of all on the security issue must be met if a solution plan is to be approved by both communities. He did not divulge details of Turkish position on security.
The Turkish foreign minister insisted that what is important now is to specify "reference terms," or the type of the solution we are discussing, and this is the issue being discussed at the informal consultation with President Nikos Anastasiadis. In other words, Turkey has no intention at the moment, and no reason, to open its cards on the guarantees issue.
Asked about the Turkish Cypriot leader's disagreement with a possible deviation from the federation, Cavusoglu noted that Akinci may have different views but the Turkish Cypriot parties and the government also have a say.
In an interview the Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu shed light on a number of issues of interests for our readers and he is what he said on questions asked:
[Correspondent] There is bad history between our countries but since then the Greek Cypriot side has taken many steps with regard to the acceptance of the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation and steps toward cohabitation. However, the fear of Turkey remains, even among progressive Greek Cypriots, because of what has happened. You, as a bigger country, how can you deal with it and minimize this fear?
[Cavusoglu] First of all, I must disagree with you. I have been an active politician since 2001 and since the establishment of the Justice and Development Party, the resolution of the Cyprus issue has been a priority for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and for our government. In 2004, at Burgenstock, when Greece and the Greek Cypriot side wanted to leave the table of negotiations but we did not do it, we signed an agreement and we were led to referenda at both sides. The Turkish Cypriot side accepted the plan with 65 percent but the Greek Cypriot side rejected it. In that case, it was the Greek Cypriot side that did not want.
[Correspondent] But was this not the outcome of the Greek Cypriot fears and lack of trust toward Turkey?
[Cavusoglu] This was my response to your initial comments. Now, with regard to the problem that exists today, the reason the island is divided and the question as to who fears who; the Turkish Cypriots have fears, too. There is possibly fear on your side because of our intervention in 1974. But why did this happen? Because of everything that had happened to the Turkish Cypriots. I discussed this with fellow Greek Cypriots students in London. They ultimately admitted that Turks were killed but not many as they were saying.
[Correspondent] So the Turkish Cypriots have fears today. Hence, they consider the guarantees very important for security. What is the best way to leave these feelings behind?
[Cavusoglu] First of all we must realize that the two sides must live in peace next to each other. Second, this must take place through confidence-building measures and through a lasting and a fair solution. This is the best way to leave behind fears and bad feelings between the two sides. It is mutual. I have never rejected the feelings of one or the other side. But we are trying to bring the two sides closer so that they can live together. We are very honest and we have supported all the efforts. Therefore, a settlement is the best way to bring back the culture of living together.
[Correspondent] In the path toward a solution, we, the Greek Cypriots, are trying to implement confidence-building measures and deal with the fears of the Turkish Cypriots. How can you, as Turkey, contribute specifically in alleviating the fears of the Greek Cypriots?
[Cavusoglu] We are already contributing significantly, we have supported all of the convergences and we have supported all of the confidence-building measures. But even on issues such as mobile telephone and the connection of the electricity grids, even your religious leaders make statements that it is better to die from lack of electricity rather than buy electricity from the Turkish side.
Such messages are not coming from Turkey, such messages are not coming from the Turkish Cypriots. We have stressed that the water that reaches the Turkish side from Turkey and the electricity that we are working to bring can be shared with the Greek Cypriots. And even though we have supported some of the confidence-building measures - such as the cooperation of the mobile telephone companies or the implementation of roaming - they have not been implemented. We work for the return of the minorities to the north. We support confidence-building measures with no hesitation.
[Correspondent] Let us go to the issue of the Guterres framework. The UN secretary general recorded the mutually formulated view that the current security and guarantees system is outdated and not viable. What is Turkey’s take on ways of replacing it?
[Cavusoglu] At Crans-Montana Turkey was the only flexible country about security and the guarantees. From the outset, we clarified that the position for zero troops and guarantees is a non-starter. The guarantor powers made various proposals to support the process. However, zero guarantees cannot be accepted today, because of the fear that exists in the north. This does not concern only Turkey but also the Turkish Cypriots because of everything that happened up to 1974.
[Correspondent] But you have indicated that you were ready to abandon the right of unilateral intervention.
[Cavusoglu] Who is saying these? We did not give anything. To be precise there was a four-stage plan with regard to this issue (i.e. at Crans-Montana), but, unfortunately, after the second stage UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had to end the conference. The goal of the conference was not just to discuss security and the guarantees. The goal was to discuss all issues. But, at the other table, there were retreats by the Greek Cypriots from the convergences achieved between the two sides at Crans-Montana with regard to governance and the rotating presidency. Guterres realized that only Turkey took steps forward and was flexible, but nothing happened and he ended it. His framework did not work either. And they told us that it was the last conference.
We took back these forward steps and the proposals at Crans-Montana when the process failed. First, the Greek Cypriots did it and then we did as well. This is why it is meaningless to go back to these discussions. When we have consultations, we can then bring our proposals back to the table.
[Correspondent] Was the change of the way the guarantor powers are involved and the restriction of the troops to small numbers, which was foreseen in the Republic of Cyprus's establishment, a proposal?
[Cavusoglu] This is not right. It was a negotiation. It failed and things stayed there. This is why it is meaningless to discuss what happened. But everyone admitted, and the rest of the guarantor powers and the EU, that only Turkey was flexible.
[Correspondent] A discussion started on the Greek Cypriot side with regard to the possibility of a federal Cyprus joining NATO as a way to resolve the security issues. What is Turkey's position?
[Cavusoglu] When a solution is found and the Turkish side is in the EU thoughts will certainly be made with regard to the island's participation in other organizations. When a solution is found we will have a positive atmosphere and all of these goals will be examined by the other allies and certainly by Turkey as a member state.
[Correspondent] You discussed with President Anastasiadis the options and we are being informed that you raised an issue of two states. What was his response?
[Cavusoglu] Since Crans-Montana Turkey has not rejected any option and we do not insist on any choice. What we are saying is, look, there are various alternatives. Let us put them all on the table and be open to other ideas from the island and from the guarantor powers. And we must discuss and agree beforehand on what we will negotiate.
This is my message. I do not insist on any of the solutions when I am talking with anyone. And that goes for the Turkish Cypriots, Anastasiadis, Kyprianou, Greece, and the United Kingdom. The three guarantor powers met in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting. What we are trying to say is crystal clear. Because we cannot, we do not have the luxury, of another failure. There is no room for failure. This is why we must agree beforehand among us, without wasting time and energy, without using elections, without using this or that. We have already wasted many years. It is time for a lasting solution, a mutually acceptable solution. At the end of the day, every solution must be supported by the people on both sides at referenda. Otherwise, we will fail again.
[Correspondent] Have you received the message from our side that we are not negative with regard to solutions outside the framework of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation?
[Cavusoglu] Anastasiadis was very clear with his position and said publicly, as I have read in your press, what he discussed with me with regard to a looser federation and new ideas. We said that we do not rule it out, that we do not reject it. And this is why I met with Andros Kyprianou who is a good friend of mine since my time at the Council of Europe. And when I went to the Turkish Cypriot side we all met together; the president, the prime minister, the foreign minister, and the leaders of all the political parties in the coalition government and the opposition. Everyone on the Turkish side, even at Crans-Montana, were on the same page.
[Correspondent] Currently, however, it is well-known that Mustafa Akinci has disagreed with alternative solutions other than the federation.
[Cavusoglu] This may be his personal view.
[Correspondent] But the view of the elected leader of the Turkish Cypriot community cannot be a personal view.
[Cavusoglu] This may be so, but the Turkish Cypriot government and the Turkish Cypriots also have a say. But it is certain that at Crans-Montana, Geneva, the Annan Plan, all the efforts for a federation failed. The federal solution failed. Hence, as Turkey we do not rule out this solution. It could be the federation. But my personal opinion is that all together we must examine all other options because of the experience we had all of these years.
[Correspondent] But is it safe to discuss other solutions outside the UN auspices?
[Cavusoglu] At the end of the day, whatever we discuss will certainly be under the UN auspices. It will be a process with UN mediation. What we did today were unofficial discussions on our ideas and positions with regard to the choices available and the solution. In the end, it will be a UN process as it must be credible.
[Correspondent] But does the Turkish Cypriot side participate in today's informal consultation? Since we see the Turkish foreign minister talking directly with the Cypriot president on issues related to the constitution and domestic governance.
[Cavusoglu] This is not a consultation but an exchange of views. And when I went to the Turkish Cypriot side, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, I raised all the issues and the entire leadership - together with the opposition - agreed that I can and must have informal meetings with Anastasiadis and Kyprianou. There is no contradiction to what we have agreed with the Turkish Cypriot leadership. At the same time I believe that the Greek side must also meet with the Turkish Cypriot side just like I do not have any problem to meet with Greek Cypriots.
[Correspondent] Does Turkey accept the gradual withdrawal of all troops - apart from a small number - within the framework of a solution?
[Cavusoglu] You know it is not right to discuss the issue of security in advance. There are many other issues and the problem is not just the troops. With the Annan Plan we would have proven how flexible Turkey could have been if it was successful. It did not succeed.
Before all of these we must agree on what we are negotiating. What type of a solution? Is it a federation, a confederation, two states, a fourth or a fifth choice? But we must first discuss among us and unofficially agree on the framework of negotiations, the reference terms of a consultation. And all other elements will then be included.
[Correspondent] Can you not think of bigger moves, such as the opening of the fenced-off city of Varosha?
[Cavusoglu] All of these are part of a package that we had at Crans-Montana but it did not succeed. We can resolve all of the issues together, the territorial, the property, the rotating presidency... This is why both sides negotiated for many months, even years after 2014, but, unfortunately, we failed closing the issues at Crans-Montana.
[Correspondent] But the Varosha issue can, because of decisions made by the UN Security Council and the international community, constitute a separate issue.
[Cavusoglu] Your side may have some priorities but the Turkish side also has some priorities that would like to see resolved immediately. But the best way is to resolve all of these issues and reach a package deal. This is why we worked for the Annan Plan or for a new plan that we did not name. But we reached the Guterres framework. What is in both sides' interest is a comprehensive solution instead of choosing separate issues and going step-by-step. In such a case, we may never succeed or it might take us much longer.
[Correspondent] With regard to the natural gas, the Greek Cypriot side has made a public commitment on the convergence at the table that the natural resources fall under federal jurisdiction and the Turkish Cypriots will not lose their share. Therefore, why this confrontation?
[Cavusoglu] Where is the guarantee for that? If a solution is not found over the next few years and exploitation continues, how are the rights of the Turkish Cypriots guaranteed? No, this is merely talk. And there is lack of trust. If you admit that there is lack of trust why do you not find a solution now in order to safeguard them? Because you do not mean what you say.
This is why, we, as a guarantor power, must guarantee the rights of the Turkish Cypriots. I am not simply reacting. I proceed with action. We will start drilling now. We do not oppose drillings, exploration, and exploitation. But we oppose the unilateral actions of the Greek Cypriot side. If the Greek Cypriot side and the Turkish Cypriot side agree, whether through companies or the EU, we will not have a problem with these activities. But, we do not see the rights of the Turkish Cypriots being safeguarded. Why do you not guarantee the rights of the Turkish Cypriots now? You say "I will do it if I sell."
[Correspondent] If we are on the path for a solution soon, why can this concern not be answered only through the creation of a hydrocarbons fund that will safeguard the share from the revenues?
[Cavusoglu] But if this is so, then this agreement for which I am talking about could be part of the comprehensive solution. But is there a guarantee that a solution will be found soon? No. This is why they must be safeguarded.
[Correspondent] Have you discussed this with President Anastasiadis?
[Cavusoglu] We have certainly discussed it. He says the same thing that the revenues will be guaranteed when the sale begins. And when I ask why he cannot do it from now, the answer is that he cannot do it now. This means that he will never do it.
[Correspondent] He also says that he is ready to sell to Turkey when the time comes.
[Cavusoglu] But selling to Turkey does not constitute a guarantee for the rights of the Turkish Cypriots.