Cyprus diplomacy is as intriguing as always. Is there a deal on the horizon? Probably, yes; most probably, no. Which is correct? Is a deal really discernible? Or, are the two antagonists of the island of Othello as far apart as ever? It all depends who is asking and how he is asking.
Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Nami Özdil and many Turkish Cypriot friends united saying, “I was wrong in thinking Turkey bypassed Turkish Cypriots and contacted through U.S. good offices,” the Greek Cypriot side. Indeed, they were correct. The Turkish Cypriot side was not left in the dark by Ankara, informed of every move it undertook together with the U.S. Embassy in southern Cyprus. Yet, Turkish Cypriots were bypassed, as Turkey has told the Americans that should they receive a “yes” from the Greek Cypriot side on a modified Turkish offer, Ankara would get the Turkish Cypriot “yes” with no problem.
That is, Ankara has not bypassed Turkish Cypriots, but promised a “yes” to Americans on behalf of the Turkish Cypriot side to a proposal the Americans would develop, based on an earlier proposal crafted by the Turkish foreign minister. Which is better? Being bypassed by Ankara or Ankara giving your “yes” to the U.S. even without consulting you? Well, but at Turkey’s every move, the Turkish Cypriots are “adequately informed” and indeed they know well how the ball is rolling. Still, if they are not the ones in the field kicking the ball, if they are out of the game watching at a distance, does it matter whether they know or not how the ball is rolling? Thanks to a minor Greek Cypriot political party that leaked the details to the media of the latest horse trading details with the Americans playing that go between Ankara and the Nikos Anastasiades regime we now have an idea of the draft joint statement Greek Cypriots wanted. That document, which does not reflect the Turkish Cypriot expectations and falls far short of what is being described in Ankara as Turkey’s “red lines,” does not appear to offer a breakthrough probability. For example, in the draft statement floating around thanks to Greek Cypriots, there was not a single word on the 1960 security arrangements or guarantees, which Ankara has been stressing as a must element of any deal. Yet, pertinent an open intelligence bombardment underlines, “if not today, by tomorrow or at the latest by the end of this weekend” there will be a deal on the joint statement and soon the two leaders will come together and start negotiations. Really? Yes, because even Victoria Nuland, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs said the atmosphere was ripe and stars were in the perfect positioning for Cypriots to agree on a joint statement and kick off the talks. More, she said if a deal can be reached Americans might be very generous in supporting Cyprus peace.
In the meantime, in the north, junior coalition partner Democrat Party re-elected Serdar Denktaş at its convention last weekend and moved on to bickering as to whether to continue the left-right coalition or forge a three-way new coalition with the conservative National Unity and the social democratic Communal Democracy parties. Even though a government crisis might not be imminent, it is very likely a serious one will brew by the summer or at the latest before presidential elections campaign starts in the fall.
Turkish elections looming, war continuing to escalate between the Turkish government and the Islamist Gülen fraternity, a prospective government crisis in north... Time indeed is more precious than ever for Cyprus talks, as tomorrow might bring far more serious complications than how a joint statement should be worded. The problem is whether there is political will to go ahead. Nuland said she saw political will to press ahead on both sides. With all skepticism, let’s hope she was right.