Özdil Nami: Eroğlu complained – but he still supported us

Turkish Cypriot foreign minister reveals differences with president over last year’s landmark Cyprus joint statement
Özdil Namil
Özdil Namil

By Michael Daventry

Turkish Cyprus’s government went through a “very difficult period” last year over disagreements on how to conduct peace talks on the island.

The admission came from Özdil Nami, the Turkish Cypriot foreign minister, during a talk at the London School of Economics. He said he had personally lobbied to restart peace talks with the Greek Cypriots but that Derviş Eroğlu, the Turkish Cypriot president, had complained about being circumvented.

Mr Nami told how he met the chief Greek negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis at the home of a journalist in the south of the island where they created the “backbone of the joint statement” that was eventually announced on 11 February 2014.

He continued: “Mr Eroğlu personally was informed about these things. He was not very happy that this was taking place, but we did it anyway and the government in Ankara gave its full support for this process.

HE STILL DELIVERED

“Did Mr Eroğlu complain that he was being side-stepped? He did.”

But, Mr Nami added, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’s president nonetheless delivered on his pledge to restart peace talks and a joint statement was duly made. He urged the Greek Cypriot leadership to adopt a similar spirit of unity in their approach to the talks, insisting that he did not “want to score points by being here” and that he simply wanted to share his analysis of the situation.

The Turkish Cypriot foreign minister insisted there was “every reason” to believe the Cyprus problem could be settled because they had already reached convergence on three of the six negotiation subjects and made significant progress on a fourth.

‘EVERY REASON’ FOR PEACE

There was “a lot of convergence” on Turkish and Greek Cypriot positions on the Government, European Union and Economy headings, while “convergence papers exist” for the fourth heading, property. The two remaining headings, which he referred to as “territorial adjustments” and “the technical detail of property guarantees”, where were they needed to make progress.

But he said Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot president of the Republic of Cyprus, was on a campaign platform that claimed the convergences gave too many compromises to the Turkish Cypriots and had wanted to start negotiating all over again.

The negotiations that emerged from last February’s joint statement was called off by Mr Anastasiades in November in response to a Turkish ship being sent to search for oil and gas in waters off the island’s southern coast.

PROTESTS OUTSIDE

In a decision made public only hours before Mr Nami spoke, the London School of Economics changed the venue and announced only LSE students and staff would be permitted to hear Mr Nami speak. A large group of Turkish Cypriots hoping to watch the event were forced to wait in the foyer of the building in central London as they waited for the event to finish.

Dr James Ker-Lindsay, the chair of the event, said they had received information that there may have been serious disruption and that the School’s security department had taken the decision to restrict attendance.

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