9th March 2015 London, UK
Cyprus: a time for fresh thinking?
I’d like to congratulate Cyprus Academic Dialogue and USAK on the conference “Turkey and Cyprus Regional Peace & Stability” last weekend, at which Mr George Papandreou and Mr Hikmet Çetin spoke. It was fascinating and inspiring to hear Mr Papandreou describe how Greece and Turkey were able, in the late 1990s, to rise above the pain of the past and create a different future.
It was also great to see Cypriots in Turkey. And initiatives like this – and the Cyprus Chambers of Commerce event that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office hosted in London on Monday – play a vital role in bringing the communities together and building trust through cooperation.
I first struggled to get to grips with the Cyprus issue when I came to Turkey as a junior diplomat 25 years ago. Since then, many things have moved on. But, sadly, others haven’t. Finding a sustainable resolution to the Cyprus issue will require vision and fresh, creative thinking.
A settlement matters to the UK, as a friend of Cyprus, strong supporter of the settlement process and guarantor power. And I know it matters to Turkey. It was evident to me when I was in Brussels a few weeks ago that a solution would unlock so much for Turkey’s EU accession process.
From an EU perspective, it just doesn’t feel right that we should continue to have this issue in our midst. And a lasting settlement would help to ensure regional stability and security.
But, of course, it matters most to the people of Cyprus – people who lived together for hundreds of years before the tragic events that separated them. A settlement would enable a generation to find closure. Furthermore, it would have real economic benefits for all Cypriots.
We all know it’s not easy. It will take trust, political will and courage. But the bones of a mutually acceptable settlement are there in the Joint Declaration of February 2014. The leaders of the communities gave a clear statement that they want to be reunited.
I remain hopeful that this can be achieved, despite the current suspension of the talks. Once talks resume, the two sides can make progress. When I visited the island last year, I really did get the strong sense that this was the best chance we’d had of finding a solution.
In any discussion of Cyprus, history looms large. The problem is that the past few decades have seen a tangle of positions, proposals, concessions and compromises, which have become intertwined and inter-dependent. This complexity can get in the way of fresh thinking.
My main message is that, with fresh thinking and political will – and a willingness on both sides to rise above the detail of historical negotiating interdependencies – I think a deal can be struck. My colleagues in London and Nicosia and I are determined to support Mr Eide (the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser) and the UN, in any way we can, in their ongoing efforts to facilitate a solution.