The government said on Wednesday that the decision of whether Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will attend Thursday’s scheduled international conference in Geneva regarding Cyprus will not hinge on the participation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but on the progress made in the reunification talks between rival leaders on the island, President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.
“If we assume that the groundwork prepared during the negotiations between President Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci has created a framework with good prospects for a total agreement, then the prime minister will go to Geneva,” aides said.
Athens appears to be shifting away from its position on Saturday when the government announced that it was ready to “respond positively” and attend the Geneva conference with the highest possible representation if Turkey decided to do the same.
Tsipras contacted European leaders on Wednesday and spoke on the phone with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, who will be present on Thursday in Geneva.
Observers said that Athens’s shift in position could be linked to contacts made this week with senior European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.
Up until a few days ago, diplomatic sources said they believed that if Erdogan did not attend the Geneva conference then that would be a clear indication that Ankara was not keen on working toward a solution, since he is, they said, the only Turkish leader that can conduct meaningful negotiations.
However, the narrative changed on Wednesday, with the prime minister’s aides saying that a no-show by Erdogan in Geneva on Thursday doesn’t necessarily mean the rival Cypriot leaders have not made any progress or that a deal isn’t within reach.
“Obviously, if [Erdogan] is not present [in Geneva] it does mean something. But, even if Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim goes in his stead, he will definitely have the power to negotiate,” an aide said.
For the first time on Wednesday, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots submitted maps with their proposed territorial boundaries between the two constituent states under a federal umbrella.
Anastasiades tweeted late on Wednesday that the submission of maps was a “historic moment” in the island’s history, while the UN’s special adviser on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, said that the talks were on track.
“We have dealt with some of the most difficult issues. We have touched upon almost all of them, we have solved many of them and we are close to resolving some other issues,” Eide said, adding that “the very final map [will be] the later outcome of the overall process.”