Swiss talks ‘crucial’ to Cyprus deal: President

Progress must be achieved in crucial UN-brokered Cyprus talks in Switzerland next week if the peace process is to succeed, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Friday.

Swiss talks 'crucial' to Cyprus deal: President
Cyrpus President Nicos Anastasiades prepares to give a televised speech on Saturday. Photo: Yiannis Kourtoglou/POOL / AFP
He underlined the need for real progress in reunification talks during a live television address ahead of crunch week-long talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in Mont Pelerin near Geneva from Monday.
The summit will focus on the key issue of territorial adjustments.
“There is no way I will accept a multi-party conference if there is no progress on territory and convergences in the adjustments to be made. Agreement on criteria means the submission of maps,” Anastasiades said.
Such progress will allow for a multi-party conference on security involving Greece, Turkey and Britain as “guarantor powers” of Cyprus's sovereignty.
“I hope the negotiations… will make such progress it creates the potential to move on to substantive discussions on security and guarantees,” he said.
Because of the make-or-break nature of the territory issue, the leaders agreed to hold talks outside Cyprus. It will be the first time that maps are brought to the table since the negotiations began.
The two leaders will seek to agree on the internal boundary between two future constituent states, allowing for the return of some areas in Turkish-held northern Cyprus to the Greek Cypriots.
Without agreement on territory there can be no decision on how many refugees can return to their former homes or how the plans for restoration, exchange or compensation for property will work.
Territorial adjustments are essential for any peace deal for the EU member state.
Anastasiades said that “for the first time” discussions on what will happen on the first day of a solution are at an “advanced stage”.
This would include the fenced-off “ghost town” of Varosha returned to its lawful inhabitants and a “significant number” of Turkish troops leaving the island, Anastasiades said.
After 17 months of negotiations, strong disagreement remains on the thorny issues of territory, security and guarantees which have yet to be discussed in detail.
“These are crucial to the end result,” said Anastasiades.
He said the aim was still to achieve a Cyprus solution this year.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon will launch the talks in Switzerland. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini has said a Cyprus settlement would be a “game changer” for the region at large.
The long-stalled peace talks — in what is seen as the last best chance to reunify Cyprus after four decades of division — began in May 2015.
Any agreement reached will be put to simultaneous referendums on both sides. Previous talks have failed over property compensation, territorial adjustments and security in a post-settlement Cyprus.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
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Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence

Swiss government has devised three contingency plans that could be implemented to fight a new outbreak. What are they?

Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence
Authorities want to prevent overcrowded hospitals if new wave comes. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Although Switzerland relaxed a number of coronavirus rules from June 26th and 28th, “the pandemic is not over”, as Health Minister Alain Berset said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Berset said Switzerland should not become complacent, with last summer a warning against feeling that the battle is won. 

He added, however, that the new wave is unlikely to be as large as the previous ones due to the country’s vaccination campaign.

This situation leaves a degree of uncertainty for which the government wants to be prepared as well as possible, Berset noted.

The Federal Council established a “just-in-case” procedure on Wednesday for three possible scenarios that could take place in the autumn and winter. 

These plans focus mainly on the rapid detection of variants and the continuation of vaccination, testing, and tracing.

The best-case scenario: status quo

In this scenario, the number of cases remains at a low level, though small outbreaks are still possible.

The number of infections may increase slightly due to seasonal factors — the virus is known to spread slower in summer and faster in autumn and winter—  but does not place a significant burden on the health system.

If this happens, no measures beyond those already in place would be necessary.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Is Switzerland lifting its Covid-19 restrictions too quickly?

Not so good: more contaminations

In this second scenario, there is an increase in the number of cases in autumn or winter.

There may be several reasons for this, for example the large proportion of unvaccinated people, seasonal effects — people tend to stay indoors together in cold weather, and contaminations are easier — or the appearance of new, more infectious variants.

This situation could overburden the health system and require the reintroduction of certain measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask outdoors.

Booster vaccinations may also be necessary.

The worst: new virus mutations

In scenario three, one or more new variants appear, against which the vaccine or the post-recovery immunity are less effective or no longer effective.

A new wave of pandemic emerges, requiring strong intervention by the public authorities and a new vaccination.

Which of the three scenarios is most likely to happen?

The government hasn’t said, but judging by the comments of health officials, the latter two are the strongest contenders.

Firstly, because the highly contagious Delta mutation, which is spreading quickly through many countries, is expected to be dominant in Switzerland within a few weeks.

It is expected that the virus will spread mostly to those who are not vaccinated and, to a lesser degree, to people who have only had one shot of the vaccine, according to Andreas Cerny, epidemiologist at the University of Bern

READ MORE: How Switzerland plans to contain the Delta variant

Another concern is related to the appearance of the new variants which could be as or possibly even more contagious than Delta and not as responsive to the current vaccines.

The government said the best chance of avoiding the second or third scenarios is to ensure people are vaccinated. 

“Widespread vaccination of the population is crucial to relieve the burden on the healthcare system and to manage the epidemic. A possible increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the autumn will largely depend on the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated,” the government wrote in a press statement.

The government has also indicating it is preparing for booster vaccinations to take place in 2022 and are encouraging cantons to keep their vaccine infrastructures in place.