An analogy of UN’s last Cyprus push
After six rounds of separate consultations and an informal joint reception with Turkish and Greek Cypriot communal leaders, the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy Jane Holl Lute conceded on Sept. 6 that two leaders were unable to agree on the terms of reference that would form the basis of new talks for a resolution of the Cyprus problem. What indeed happened before and during the latest Cyprus shuttle diplomacy of Lute?
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı was aware that he would have no chance of reelection at the scheduled April presidential vote in North Cyprus. Time was running fast and prospects of a mental change in the Greek Cypriot side was nil. On the contrary, the statements of Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades were demonstrating that, headed by his refusal to accept Turkish Cypriot effective political equality, he further hardened his position. Still, he so badly needed to give the impression as if settlement-oriented talks were underway or would get underway soon, he agreed at an informal dinner with Anastasiades to invite Lute to Cyprus. The assumption that he and Anastasiades had agreed on the reference points to be consisted of: The Feb. 11, 2014 declaration of the two sides on the resumption of the Cyprus talks based on bi-zonality, bi-communality and political equality of the two sides as prescribed by the U.N. Security Council resolutions; all the convergences that led to Crans Montana in 2017 (where the talks collapsed), and thirdly, the Guterres framework as the secretary-general presented to them on June 30, 2017 (which among other issues called for a replacement of the 1960 guarantee system).
As there was an accord between the two leaders – Anastasiades later complained that they were in agreement but Ankara made the effort fail and Lute, they expected, would write down the reference points in a day or two, report to the secretary-general and with a trilateral summit in New York and an informal five-party conference – with the participation of guarantor powers Turkey, Greece and Britiain – the process would resume from where it collapsed in Crans Montana at a later date.
Akıncı did not report to the two-way coalition government in North Cyprus neither the understanding he developed with Anastasiades nor the subsequent draft reference points Lute wrote after the first four rounds of talks. But when he sent the draft document to Ankara, and Ankara shared and asked the opinion of the Turkish Cypriot government, a major crisis mushroomed. The reference points, among many unacceptable points included a provision that for the talks to start Turkey would stop all hydrocarbon activity around Cyprus and Greek Cypriots would consider providing a share to Turkish Cypriots from hydrocarbon revenues in accordance with their population ratio.
Prime Minister Ersin Tatar and Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay examined the draft and concluded that as 1 - The Greek Cypriot hydrocarbon offer was nothing less than imposing its sovereignty over the Turkish Cypriot state and thus was insincere; 2- As the draft was deficient of political equality and effective participation in governance, a time frame and deadline; 3- As it opened to bargain once again the guarantee issue, it was unacceptable. The government said if those issues were not included in the reference points paper even if started, the new round of Cyprus talks would be doomed to be futile and unproductive. These views of the government were presented to Turkey on paper. Thus, in a reply letter to Akıncı, Ankara wrote that the reference points should include political equality, effective participation, a schedule and deadline, acceptance that all ideas for a resolution would be on the table (together with the federation option), Turkey would not accept to negotiate the guarantee issue and lastly it was impossible to accept the hydrocarbon offer of Anastasiades.
In the subsequent two rounds, Lute tried to bridge the differences Anastasiades agreed for the inclusion in the paper political equality, effective participation and a timetable as “agreed issues” if Turkey accepted to terminate its guarantor status and pledge to withdraw all its troops.
Thus, the process collapsed.
Now Lute has sent new letters to two leaders, appreciating their commitment for a resolution. Good luck next time.
As is said, insisting on doing the same failed formula cannot be anything but insanity.
*This article should have been written last week, but my apologies, I was mourning the very sad passing of my beloved mother, Şerife, on Sept. 10. May she rest in peace.