Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides

He told reporters after a meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci that some progress was made but also warned there were still problems on certain issues.

Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis KasoulidesAnastasiades said several important issues have been made clear on core principles involved in the negotiations.

He gave an example saying that joint understanding has been preserved on the issue of the four basic freedoms — freedom of movement of people, freedom of movement of goods and services, freedom of establishment and freedom of business.

“The common understanding is still there, I could say that this tends to become a convergence,” said Anastasiades.

Turning common ground into convergence and how to do it was at the center of the four-hour meeting on Monday.

“We discussed a wide range of issues on which there is a joint understanding to ascertain how to close existing gaps. At the next meeting I or Akinci will raise certain questions to clear things and see how we proceed,” Anastasiades added.

“The effort will continue so as to wipe out differences and improve convergences. The negotiators will intensify their meetings in the first fortnight of April to reach more agreements,” Akinci said in a statement.

The negotiations came close to suspension earlier this week, after Turkey laid claim on part of a Cypriot continental shelf block which was opened along with two other blocks to international bidding for natural gas exploration licensing.

Turkey said it would take all necessary action to protect its interests, a statement reminiscent of the dispatching of Turkish navy ships into the Cypriot continental shelf in 2014 to monitor an exploratory drilling from a distance of 5 km. The Cypriot government called Turkey’s statement destabilizing and threatening but refused to back down from the launching of the licensing process.

Turkey’s move to send warships off the Cypriot shores in late 2014 led to the suspension of the negotiations for several months until Turkey withdrew its ships from the region and Cyprus consented to the resumption of the talks in May 2015.

There was also a serious scare during the recent Brussels European Union (EU) summit at which the EU and Turkey locked their agreement on stemming the flow of migrants into Greece.

Turkey demanded as part of the package the opening of five chapters of its negotiations that had been blocked by Cyprus in 2009, after Turkey refused to fulfill commitments under the Ankara Protocol to recognize all 10 new members which joined EU in 2004.

The Cypriot President to give a warning to his EU peers that he was ready to block the entire EU-Turkey agreement.

Finally, Turkey accepted to open just one chapter which was not among those blocked by Cyprus. It also took delicate diplomatic wording of the final agreement text to be made acceptable by both Cyprus and Turkey.

Though the negotiations survived the latest tension, Turkish Cypriot leader Akinci gave an ominous warning after Monday’s session.

“I raised the issue with Anastasiades. I conveyed to the Greek Cypriot side the position that if drilling starts after the licensing process is over (in about 10 months) tension will be created,” he said.

Anastasiades said he did not give an answer as this was an issue involving the exercise of sovereign rights. Enditem

Source; Xinhua

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