Another Cyprus summit

Another Cyprus summit

The two sides on Cyprus have different expectations from the trilateral Long Island rendezvous with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that started yesterday.

The Turkish side, which traveled to New York with some artificial optimistic messages, has some high hopes. These hopes include the secretary-general declaring after a second day of trilateral summitry today that sufficient convergence was achieved in the Cyprus talks. Thus, time has come for convening an international conference in December to finish off the security and guarantees chapters, as well as some remaining hitches. The alternative, for Turkish Cypriots should be the U.N. placing responsibility for failure squarely on Greek Cypriots and declaring that the two sides should go their separate ways.

Greek Cypriots as well have some high hopes. In any case Greek Cypriots do not believe that the secretary-general has the “courage” to declare an end to Cyprus peacemaking efforts. While the trilateral summit, which will end today, will not succeed to provide a resolution to the Cyprus problem, Greek Cypriots believe that with the U.S. and the British prompting in the background the secretary-general will announce another trilateral summit for the first half of next year; a low-gear direct talks process throughout 2012; another summit after the Greek Cypriot presidential elections in February 2013; and following that summit a rehashed and concentrated last ditch effort for a resolution. Turkish Cypriots are totally against this particularly because of the gas drilling in Mediterranean by Greek Cypriots. If Greek Cypriots find a rich gas bed, probably with the prospect of getting far richer as a result, Greek Cypriots will stop seeking any sort of settlement other than division.

As someone who have been following (and indeed living with) the Cyprus problem for the past 40 years or so, I must admit that the Greek Cypriot expectations appear to be more in tune with the climate of the day while Turkish Cypriot hopes appear to be rather romantic. There are many reasons that make me believe that even if a settlement on Cyprus is ready to be served on a golden plate, for simple conjectural reasons valid on the Mediterranean island this is not an appropriate time for Cyprus peacemaking.

First of all, while the only success he may achieve might be a Cyprus settlement, since the naval base blast the Greek Cypriot leader is a “walking dead politician.” Put aside a compromise and painful settlement accord, he cannot deliver anything. Though the constitutional framework does not allow his impeachment (other than charges of treason or some petty sexual offenses) many people doubt whether he can stay in office for another 15 months or so until the Feb. 2013 elections.

Secondly, neither of the two peoples are prepared for a simultaneous referendum on a settlement plan. In 2004 only the Turkish Cypriot side was “prepared” with the assumption the Greek Cypriots would want a settlement anyhow, the end result was a Turkish Cypriot overwhelming “Yes” vote and a devastating 75 percent “No” vote from Greek Cypriots. Now, it is still believed Turkish Cypriots would vote overwhelmingly in favor of a settlement plan. Is there any guarantee for that? No. Greek Cypriots, on the other hand, demonstrated in many public opinion polls over the past year that at least 65 percent would vote no to any settlement. It is probable to have a double “No” this time if an accord is taken to public vote without proper marketing techniques applied.