Countdown for Cyprus

Countdown for Cyprus

According to the timetable presented by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the end of the Greentree II summit, the Cyprus peacemaking process has entered its final five weeks. That is, in a report at the end of March, the U.N.’s Special Cyprus Representative Alexander Downer will define the fate of the latest round of peacemaking that started in 2008. In an effort to write an affirmative report, Downer has sped up his contacts, not only with the leaders of the two communities but also with other political parties and labor groups in both.

It is, of course, not in the interest of anyone to engage in “Downer Bashing.” It is no secret, however, that Downer has been rather smooth-tongued in face-to-face meetings, speaking in a tone his counterparts would appreciate, even if what he says might contradict what he has said to other people just moments ago. That may even be understandable, since he has probably been trying to feel the pulse of the people he meets on the one hand, while on the other trying to encourage them to take action and “walk the extra mile” in the process, in the fear of reaching a deadlock. Since his task has been to work for the success of the process, no one should perhaps consider his flip-floppy or smooth-tongued remarks inappropriate.

Yet, is difficult to understand why on the one hand he has been stressing how happy he and his team have been with the efforts of the Turkish Cypriot side, while on the other hand complaining to some domestic opponents that if the Turkish Cypriot side did not deliver the contentious “cross voting” without any strings attached, the process would probably collapse in five weeks, and Turkish Cypriots would be held responsible for the failure.

Why? Is it honest diplomacy - or compatible at all with the goodwill mission - to ignore the intransigence of one side with the assumption that he has no popular backing, the political climate is not suitable for compromise, and the Turkish Cypriots should therefore kill all possible Greek Cypriot excuses by walking the extra mile and “at least” unconditionally delivering the “cross voting” much demanded by the Greek Cypriot leadership?

Downer is indeed right. That is how the Cyprus peace talks have been constructed right from the beginning. “The Greek Cypriots cannot compromise, for success the Turkish Cypriots should compromise” philosophy, along with the “sole legitimate government” status provided to the Greek Cypriot government have both marred peace prospects.

Did not the Turkish Cypriot side accept the cross-voting proposal as modified by the U.N. secretariat at Greentree II? Would the Greek Cypriots move an inch in any area should the Turks accept the cross-voting paragraph and discard the remaining seven articles of the Jan. 4 package? No. What would happen? The next round of Cyprus diplomacy would probably resume in March-April 2013, with cross voting added to other U.N. parameters of a resolution.

If anyone - further than putting surprise packages on the table - assures Turkish Cypriots that walking the bitter road will bring about a resolution and hopes that a settlement will not be postponed to yet another spring, who knows, perhaps they may walk that extra mile…