Speaking at a press conference at the Palace of the Nations in Geneva, where Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci hold talks on the Cyprus problem from January 9th to 11th, Eide said that the 9th to 11th discussions also very much depend on the expectation of a successful international Conference on Cyprus "which begins on Thursday with the added participation of the other players, under the auspices of the UN Secretary General."
He said that the international Conference on Cyprus will take place "with the added participation of the guarantor powers – Greece, Turkey and the UK – and the EU in a special observer role," adding that together with the delegations from Cyprus they will “try to solve the large and challenging issues pertaining to the Securities and Guarantees chapter.”
"The 12th will only be effective if we are successful between the 9th and 11th. So we have a clear agreed structure on how to organize the hours we have on all of these issues because in every single chapter there is one or more issues that still has to be solved," Eide noted, adding that "we are now in the final moment, we are now really at the moment of truth."
He said that the process is open-ended as the Conference starts on the 12th of January but they haven't said when it will end.
"The 12th will happen, there is not a question whether the 12th will happen but the quality of the 12th very much depends on the 9th-11th discussions," Eide pointed out.
He noted that in the past 19 months, during which Anastasiades and Akinci have been engaged in UN-led negotiations, there has been significant progress on all of the five chapters that can eventually be solved by Cypriots themselves.
He said that his very strong sense is that this is going to be difficult, but it is possible. "It is going to be difficult because obviously even if the majority of issues have been solved in all chapters, it is not the easiest questions that we have left till the end. As normal, it is some of the most complicated or most emotional issues that we have left to the end," he added.
He noted that the leaders are showing a lot of courage, a lot of will and leadership. He added however that even if they want a solution, it is not easy to make these final agreements that they are trying to achieve during these days.
At the same time he said that he does not know any issue in these negotiations that really cannot be solved, if sufficient will is available.
He reiterated that these talks are fully led by and owned by the Cypriots. "It is the leaders in Cyprus who are responsible for every single sentence, every single word in the talks. There is no kind of UN arbitration and there will not be," he said.
He noted that if it succeeds, this is historic for the Cypriots. "But I also think it will send a very strong signal to the world and a region in which we see many wars and many things breaking apart,” he added.
Replying to a question, Eide said that they are not in the business of arbitrating even the chapter of Security and Guarantees and they will not be. “However because this involves several players and not only the two sides in Cyprus, it has a somewhat different nature, and that is why I spent much of my own time in travels and discussions with Turkey, Greece and the UK over the past weeks in order to ensure that our preparations are as best as they can for the 12th. And there is still work to do on this front," he noted.
Asked about the representation of the EU at the international Conference, Eide said that participants of the Conference are Anastasiades and Akinci and the guarantor powers, adding that they agreed that "because the EU is an interested party since the united Cyprus will be a member of the EU and the EU has a role to play and has also been constructively engaged throughout, they will be present and helpful of course now on a much higher level but in principle as they have been throughout the process through their representation in Cyprus."
"So when we need advice, inputs, we invite the EU in which does not mean that they are in a decision making role, but they are in a supportive role," he added.
Invited to say if the Republic of Cyprus was invited to the international Conference on Cyprus, the UN diplomat said it was Anastasiades and Akinci who decided to hold these meetings, who are here and are the sides, the parties to this Conference".
“There are alternative interpretations of what that means”, adding that “we know exactly who they are and we know exactly what they mean”. He said that Anastasiades and Akinci did not invite themselves and he was not invited either. “Anastasiades and Akinci decided together with me to hold the conference, so we of course invite all the people,” he added.
Asked about the level of participation of guarantor powers at the international Conference, the UN diplomat said that “there are conversations between us and the guarantor powers” and between the guarantor powers themselves about this issue, adding that they will be represented at the Conference at the highest or the second highest level.
That decision is still to be finally made and of course they will also look to each other when they make their decision, he added, stressing that the level of participation on the first day “is not necessarily the level on the last day” and that normally negotiations start at a lower level and escalate to the top whether when something is either ready to be signed or where some kind of final top-level agreement has to happen.
He said that all of them and particularly Turkey and Greece are both saying that they are watching what is happening between the 9th and the 11th of January because they want to know “that most of the other issues are behind us or in the way to a final settlement because they are not interested in being part to discussions that should and will be left to the Cypriots.”
Replying to another question, Eide noted that "the ambition is to develop a 21st century security arrangement which will have to cater to the security concerns of each community, without, by doing so, creating security concern for the other side."
Answering a question about the property issue discussed this morning, Eide said that this is a large and complicated chapter in which there has been a broad outline of an agreement for a long time but they' ve been stuck on some issues "which are large and small depending on how you see them and particularly the issue of how to define the concept of emotional link and a couple of other big issues."
The UN diplomat said they we are going to work hard to solve these issues and that there was a good start today and they had a good conversation during which the leaders decided to set up a small working group to try to solve some issues, with the ambition to find mutually agreeable outcomes.
Asked on which chapters they are close to reach a conclusion, Eide said that on Economy and the EU there isn't anything dramatic to be done.
He also underlined the importance of the issue regarding the implementation of the agreement, which they are also discussing in parallel with a political agreement.
Asked if the number of convergences is the same as before the negotiations in Mont Pelerin, that took place between Anastasiades and Akinci in November 2016, Eide said that there was a number of new convergences as in policing and other aspects of internal security and there was progress on the implementation discussion and the Economy chapter.
He added that there are certain issues that "will not be solved before you are in this kind of environment", adding that “you sometimes need a clock to tick”.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. UN-led peace talks aim at reuniting Cyprus under a federal roof.