NICOSIA - Substantive UN-brokered negotiations aiming to reunite Cyprus began in Nicosia on Tuesday focusing on federal public service, federal competences and property, according to an UNFICYP statement.
But even though Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Ergolu sent the very optimistic message that an overall settlement could be achieved within 2014, the Greek Cypriot side is a lot more cautious.
A leading member of the Greek Cypriot side’s negotiating team and former attorney general Alecos Markides told state radio: “Our side’s good-will is there but, so far, the distance separating the two sides is big.”
Markides was a strong supporter of the Annan plan under whose provisions the island would have been reunited back in 2004, if the Greek Cypriots voted in favour of the blueprint in a referendum.
His statement was in total contradiction with that by Erolgu who said Turkish Cypriots are more than ever before ready for a settlement -- insinuating that the Greek Cypriot side is dragging its feet.
An UNFICYP statement said that the two appointed negotiators agreed to continue talks on the issues discussed at their next meeting on Tuesday.
“In the meantime, a meeting of the property experts of the two sides will take place. The UN will also meet bilaterally with the two negotiators to prepare for their next joint meeting,” it added.
The two negotiators are Andreas Mavroyiannis for the Greek Cypriot side and Kudret Ozersay for the Turkish Cypriots.
Informed sources said there is a difference of opinion between the two sides over the methodology of the peace process.
The Turkish Cypriot side apparently wants the thorny territorial issue to be discussed last, while the Greek Cypriot side insists that this should be discussed in parallel with other linked chapters, such as that of property.
The first phase of the negotiations focused on screening processes but the substantive talks will be getting a more hands-on assistance from representative of the President of the European Commission on the Cyprus problem Van Nuffel.
Insiders say his presence will shed light – up to a degree - on the way the EU intends to get involved in the peace process.
President Anastasiades has made it crystal clear that he wants the EU to get a lot more involved in the process so as to ensure that whatever settlement is agreed coincides with the EU acquis.
On Monday, visiting UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said the international organisation remains committed to working with the leaders to achieve a comprehensive Cyprus settlement.