Is a Cyprus settlement discernible?
Luncheons and dinners were thrown, toasts were exchanged, leaders and their representatives held many hours of long deliberations regarding every minute detail. In the latest search for a Cyprus settlement, the time has come for the fifth summit of the United Nations secretary-general with the two Cypriot communal leaders.
Even though it might require the optimism of the ignorant to expect a quick fix on the island, no one can ignore the ground covered in these talks during which, for the first time in the almost half-century history of the Cyprus problem, the two sides have put their viewpoints and demands on paper – pertaining to every aspect of the Cyprus problem – and recorded their convergences.
Yet, can we say after following almost a half-century of deliberations that left no stone unturned on the island and, most recently, almost four-year intense direct talks for a “settlement for Cypriots by Cypriots,” that a resolution to the Cyprus quagmire has become discernible?
Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay was together at breakfast with diplomacy reporters. As he is currently also the minister in charge of Cyprus, I asked him, “Are you optimistic about the success of the process?” Atalay said he wanted to be optimistic and still believed a surprise might emerge from the scheduled Jan. 22 to 24 trilateral Greentree, New York, summit between the two communal leaders and the U.N. secretary-general.
What surprise? A decision to carry the direct talks process to a higher-level international meeting or conference, very much like the Burgenstock stage of the failed Annan Plan process of 2004. That is, a meeting drawing the active participation of Turkey and Greece – and if it wants a third guarantor country, Britain as well – with the EU and some other countries making contributions while sitting in the back as observers.
To do what? To sort out the remaining differences of the sides, particularly on property, territory, refugees (or settlers), the last touches to the power-sharing scheme and, naturally, the guarantee system.
Does Turkey think a settlement is within reach? Why not? But irrespective of the outcome, Turkey will continue standing firm politically and economically supporting the Turkish Cypriot people and consolidate the Turkish Cypriot state, which reached a per capita income of $15,000 in 2010 and around a 4.5 percent growth rate last year.
In a letter sent to the two leaders last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reminded the two sides in a rather pessimistic tone that only a few days were left until the Greentree summit between Jan. 22 and 24 which he has declared an “end-game” to the current process. For the success of the upcoming summit, Ban asked the leaders to utilize well the remaining few days and increase their convergences on the “domestic aspects” of the problem so that they can come to New York prepared to carry the process to a higher, Burgenstock-style level.
The Greek Cypriot side? Still talking with a triple tongue, Demetris Christofias is saying, “Naturally, we will come” during the talks, “What’s the point of going there?” to the Turkish media and “I say we should go if we are going to obtain a result” to the Greek Cypriot media.
You answer, is Cyprus close to a deal?