Turkey believes the visit to be paid by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to Cyprus this week is a very positive and important development and can lead to momentum in the ongoing reunification talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriots.
“Other members of the international community should follow this step [Joe Biden’s visit] and visit the island to meet both parties to encourage negotiations. This would lend huge momentum to the process,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters during a joint press conference with Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu on May 17.
Davutoğlu’s one-day trip to the island took place just days before Biden is set to visit Cyprus, marking Washington’s attention and interest over accomplishing the ongoing peace process between the two parts. Davutoğlu held meetings with Eroğlu, Foreign Minister Nami Özdil and other high-level officials to align the positions of Ankara and Nicosia before Biden’s trip, the first since 1962.
There are three important recent developments concerning the Cyprus problem, Davutoğlu said, citing them as providing the agreement on the negotiation framework document, launching official talks and growing international interest to the solution. Biden’s trip to Cyprus is a clear example of growing international interest, according to Davutoğlu, who said the vice president’s decision to liaise equally with both sides was also very significant. Davutoğlu touched on the need of hastening the process, saying “It’s time to end this half-a-century long problem. We declare to the entire world that we’ll give all sorts of contribution for a lasting solution.”
Eroğlu, for his part, hailed the visit by Biden to the island and expressed his optimism that the vice president’s meetings on the island will bring about a new impetus to the talks.
Although the two parties launched talks earlier this year, progress has been slow due to the special envoys meeting once a week and the community leaders once a month. The Turkish part is asking for more frequent encounters at both levels while the GreekCypriots are trying to bring the return of Varosha to the fore of the talks, although the issue is a part of substantial agreement.
While the Greek Cypriots intend to press Biden on the return of Varosha as part of confidence building measures, the Turkish side urges Biden for the acceleration of the negotiation in order not to postpone the process.
Varosha not a confidence building measure
Davutoğlu said the Turkish part was ready to discuss any pragmatic proposal, but that the issue of Varosha was not part of the confidence building measures. “Once you go along with individual solutions, then at some stage you create a new status quo, which can prevent a comprehensive solution,” he said. Recalling that he met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on May 16 in London, where they also discussed the Cyprus issue, Davutoğlu stressed that Washington’s interest in resolving the Cyprus problem will continue during Biden’s visit. Davutoğlu said Kerry was also planning a visit to the island.
The broader region already faces destabilization due to the crises in Syria and Ukraine. Davutoğlu added reaching a solution in Cyprus will lend positive contributions for stability in the entire eastern Mediterranean.
Delaying talks yields no solution
Recalling that the Cyprus problem has lasted more than 50 years and its solution has already been delayed, Davutoğlu said, “It’s impossible to resolve this problem through delaying talks and running the clock out. Nothing can be imposed on Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus through such moves.”
In a press conference with Özdil, Davutoğlu repeated Ankara’s determination for an agreement on the island, but that in any case, they were continuing their efforts for world recognition of the TRNC.