A game of chess

A game of chess

No, I am not writing about the “game of chess” in the spectacular poem “Wasteland” by Thomas Stearns Elliot. At issue is the game of chess continuing between the two sides on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, with the U.N. playing the role of facilitator, and unwilling to play the role of the referee.

In the latest episode of the game, the Turkish Cypriot side walked the extra mile it has been under pressure to do for the past many weeks. President Derviş Eroğlu wrote to the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that organized an international conference to discuss the pending aspects of the Cyprus problem and said the Turkish Cypriot side would accept as “basis for talks” two non-papers presented by U.N. experts to the sides. One of those so-called “food for thought” papers was on the governance issues and the other was related to property matters.

Eroğlu confirmed in remarks to the media Thursday, after the last meeting of the Cypriot leaders before the secretary-general’s special envoy Alexander Downer writes his report to the secretary-general on the progress in the talks, that he had written the letter to Ban. He also implied that reports that he wrote to the secretary-general that he would accept the Greek Cypriot side’s demand for cross-voting, with no strings attached, should Ban call for a multilateral conference, are true.

Yesterday, after the two leaders met, the teams of the two sides and the U.N. experts continued deliberations to provide a “common report” on the property aspect of the problem. When this article was written yesterday there was still optimism in northern Cyprus that perhaps with some backstage politics by the Americans, the British and the secretary-general the Greek Cypriot side might agree to go the extra mile as well and accept, for example, the “property vs. number of refugees returning to pre-1974 homes” idea, or at least come somewhere near what Perez de Cuellar had suggested back in 1986 regarding overall territory-sharing between the two founding states of the future federation.

Yet, as the teams were meeting, Greek Cypriot presidential sources told this writer that under no conditions would Demetris Christofias accept the convening of an international conference. “Such a development would mean committing political suicide and killing his own prospects for reelection, as well as those of any other candidate of his AKEL party,” a very high-level source said. That of course underscores the bitter reality of the unpreparedness and unwillingness of the Greek Cypriot side to compromise for a solution on the island, which will require political will and courage.

As the Turkish Cypriot side has accepted as the “basis for talks” both of the two non-papers or “food for thought” presented by the U.N. experts, provided the secretary-general calls for an international conference, and the Greek Cypriot side in the last two meetings categorically declared “Oxi” (“no”) to a multilateral conference, the ball is obviously now in the court of Downer and Ban. Will they be able to say what has marred the prospect of a settlement and point bluntly at the chubby Christofias, or will they play around with words, and try to find a formula that will place the Cyprus issue in a deep freeze, only to be rehashed in the spring of 2013, as Greek Cyprus has been demanding?