Can we cook an omelet?
Forget about forging a compromise settlement that might bring an end to the almost half-century old Cyprus quagmire. A full one week of contacts in southern (Greek, definitely) Cyprus demonstrated to me in all clarity that it was indeed difficult - if not impossible - to cooperate in cooking even an omelet together.
Men in the street are of course very important. How do they perceive developments? Who is “the other” for them? What do they think about “the other”? Well, not only the men but also the women in the street in southern Cyprus are fed up with the Cyprus problem. They are fed up with the economic crisis. They are frustrated with the current socialist Demetris Christofias-led coalition. They want to see light at the end of the tunnel, but so far they have not been able to find a candidate that they believe might carry them to a bright future…
The Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL) of Christofias is very much aware of how seriously it has failed over the past five years. The party’s strongman, secretary-general Andros Kyprianou conceded without hesitation that they needed the skill and performance of world soccer star Lionel Messi to make a comeback to the presidency and government. AKEL’s presidential candidate, Stavros Malas, appears to be willing to make a compromise settlement, provided that compromise is on his own terms, like the current president Christofias. It seems that nothing would change on the socialist front if he emerged from the polls as the successor to Christofias. Furthermore, in contrast to the pledge by Christofias that with or without a settlement Turkish Cypriots would get their chare of the island’s natural gas riches, Malas was no different from conservative candidates: If Turkish Cypriots want a share in the gas revenues, they should abandon their state and join as individuals in the Cyprus Republic. Thus, with no communal rights, they would have all individual rights, including the right to benefit from gas revenues.
The Democratic Rally (DISI) and its presidential candidate, Nicos Anastasiades, was confident that he would win until very recently. Indeed, in public opinion polls he was in the lead with some 45 percent of the vote. Then he made a gaffe to a European Green politician that he favored a loose federation settlement and that there might be even be a two-state solution. That Green politician did not grasp how explosive the issue was, passed the remark on to a Turkish journalist, and then bang…
Anastasiades is now suffering a fast drop in popularity, and his political allies are demanding that he sign a pledge not to accept an Annan-plan like settlement and will not agree to a loose federation. Anastasiades was so scared that he turned down my demand for an on-the-record interview. Can someone zigzagging so frantically be an honest negotiating partner and indeed deliver a difficult compromise settlement?
George Lilikas, the candidate of the so-called Democratic Party (DIKO), was the sole candidate before which I just could not control myself, frankly telling him after our interview that as a Turkish Cypriot I hope he lost the upcoming polls, because with him as Greek Cypriot leader there would be no possibility of any sort of settlement. Listening to him was very painful. It was as if there was no Cyprus problem. No killings on the island before the 1974 Turkish intervention. It was Turkish Cypriots who voluntarily kicked themselves out of the Cypriot Republic. What a masochist mentality.
Perhaps Archbishop Chrysostomos was right in his assessment: “Alas, neither a settlement nor a divorce is possible on Cyprus!”
After all, forget about forging a Cyprus settlement, could we go into the kitchen and cooperate in cooking even an omelet with people of this mentality?