“The solution to the Cyprus problem cannot come from outside” and “the responsibility for finding a solution lies first and foremost with the Cypriots themselves”, EU High Representative Josep Borrell reiterated in a post on his personal blog, after the completion of his visit to Cyprus last week.
The EU High Representative states that “with the President of the European Council, the President of the Commission and my colleagues in the Council on Foreign Affairs, we will extend in the coming weeks and beyond, to the full EU support for the forthcoming Cyprus talks”. noting that “the sooner the EU is fully involved in the new settlement talks, the better”.
He warns again that “the current effort to resume peace talks does not start from scratch”, noting that “we can build on a legal framework and convergences from previous negotiations”.
For the High Representative, “the Cyprus issue is clearly an EU problem” and as he explains “Cyprus is a member state of the Union now and will be after reunification, regional stability and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean is closely linked to a solution to the Cyprus problem”.
Specifically on his blog, the High Representative states that “last Friday I visited Nicosia to reiterate the strong support of the EU for the resumption of talks on resolving the Cyprus issue.”
“We are at a critical juncture: UN Secretary-General Guterres will convene an informal meeting in Geneva on April 27-29 in the hope of finding common ground to negotiate a lasting solution to the issue,” he said.
He notes that “I began my visit by meeting with Elizabeth Spehar, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Colonel Neil Wright, Head of the military component of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). They informed me about the situation on the ground. “
“It was a reminder of the crucial role of United Nations peacekeeping operations and I pay tribute to the women and men who dedicate their careers, sometimes at the cost of their lives, to world peace. “Somehow, 186 UNFICYP members have died on a mission since 1964.”
“Fortunately, no members or citizens' lives have been lost for years. However, it is a disappointing reality that, with 802 troops on the ground at present, UNFICYP is one of the oldest of all the UN peacekeeping missions: it has been operating on the island since 1964. 57 years later, the Cyprus issue remains one of the most difficult problems and one of the longest-running conflicts in Europe “, he states
The High Representative recalls that “in 2007, I went to Cyprus as President of the European Parliament and I was heartbroken to learn that 14 years later the situation has not changed.”
However, he points out, “the current effort to restart peace talks does not start from scratch. We can build on a legal framework and convergences from previous negotiations. “
The UN, says Borrell, “was very clear about the parameters for a lasting peace: UN Security Council Resolution 2561 of 29 January 2021 recalls the importance of achieving a comprehensive settlement based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality “.
The EU, he notes, “fully supports the UN line”.
However, he continues, “the solution to the Cyprus problem cannot come from outside.”
“The responsibility for finding a solution lies primarily with the Cypriots,” he said.
“We know this is going to be a complicated process, but during my meetings, I was encouraged by the readiness of both President Anastasiadis and Turkish Cypriot leader Tatar to contact the UN to find common ground on the way forward. He adds.
He shares that he “felt a positive determination to return to the talks and seek a solution.”
“The EU stands ready to provide any assistance that both leaders and the United Nations will find more useful,” he said.
The Cyprus issue, he says, “is clearly an EU problem: Cyprus is a member state of the Union, now and after reunification.”
According to Mr. Borrell, “regional stability and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean is closely linked to the settlement of the Cyprus issue.”
“A future settlement must in particular comply with the EU acquis and safeguards, the integrity and responsibilities and decision-making processes of the EU,” he said.
He reminds that “the EU is an observer of the official conference on Cyprus”.
“For the reasons mentioned above, the sooner the EU is fully involved in the renewed settlement talks, the better,” he added.
In addition, the High Representative states that “the Turkish Cypriots are EU citizens and the EU has always been clear: the accession of Cyprus to the EU is for the benefit of all Cypriots”.
According to him, EU direct assistance reflects this: since 2006, the EU has spent 600m euros in aid to the Turkish Cypriot community. 1600 young Turkish Cypriots have received scholarships to study in the EU. The EU has contributed to the connection of GSM network between the two Cypriot communities. The cultural heritage of the Turkish Cypriot community has been restored with EU funds and there are many more examples.
“After years, we are going to solve the issue of the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for Halloumi / Helim cheese,” he says.
Finally, he adds, in the fight against COVID-19, the vaccines purchased through the EU mechanisms will be shared fairly with all Cypriots regardless of where they live on the island, in proportions based on population data.
Of course, as mentioned, the Cyprus issue is also important for the wider relations between Turkey and the European Union.
These relations, he notes, “are equally approaching a turning point after a particularly difficult year 2020: The relative calm we are currently experiencing at sea in the Eastern Mediterranean and on settlement-related issues is weak.”
“Progress in the Cypriot talks is more important than ever,” he said.
Success, he says, “is vital to regional stability and overall world peace.”
“After 57 years, being able to begin to look at a satisfactory end to UNFICYP will bring hope: Conflict can be resolved and communities can find reconciliation and reap its benefits,” he added.
The EU itself, he says, “is a real model in this respect.”
“For all these reasons, in cooperation with the President of the European Council, the President of the Commission and my colleagues in the Council on Foreign Affairs, we will extend in the coming weeks and beyond, the full support of the EU for the forthcoming Cyprus talks” , concludes Mr. Borrell.