End-game pains

End-game pains

Recent news reports indicate that Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Kotzias sent a letter on April 7 to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in which he sharply criticized Espen Barth Eide, the U.N. chief’s special adviser on Cyprus, accusing him, inter alia, of acting to promote the interests of the Turkish side. This is not the first time that Eide or his predecessors has faced such criticism.

Naturally, anyone who learns a bit about the history of the Cyprus conflict and experiences first-hand the spoiled child-like behavior of the Greek Cypriots, undertakes some effort to facilitate a settlement on the island on the basis of the “political equality” of the “two equal co-owners” of the eastern Mediterranean island. At that point, irrespective of whether the special envoy is a Norwegian, an Australian or an Argentinian, he becomes the target of not only Kotzias and his sort of people suffering from an acute Turkish animosity syndrome, but even by some center-left or center-right politicians who might have very reasonable attitudes vis-à-vis many challenging subjects. Perhaps two cases and one confession might provide sufficient illustration of this serious condition:

In 2008, Alexander Downer, an Australian who served as the secretary-general’s special adviser on Cyprus between 2008 and 2014, was often accused of siding with the Turkish Cypriots. The Greek Cypriot parties DIKO, EDEK, the Greens and EVROKO tried to pass amendments criticizing him. He was accused in the Greek Cypriot parliament of “undermining the Republic of Cyprus” and making “lopsided and damaging statements.” Greek Cypriot parliamentarians called on the secretary-general to “restore Downer’s objectivity and trustworthiness;” one deputy accused him of “working as an ambassador for the Turks,” while another said he never should have been appointed in the first place. In 2009, Downer’s assistant’s email password was obtained by Greek Cypriot intelligence, and over 8,000 pages of documents were stolen and later incrementally leaked to the Greek Cypriot media. In 2012, the Greek Cypriot parliament took a decision, tabled by DIKO, to convey to the secretary-general that Downer had lost his credibility and requested his discharge.

In 2010, when rumors surfaced that Alvaro de Soto, a Peruvian diplomat who served as the special envoy between 1999 and 2004, might be re-appointed, Greek Cypriot political parties adamantly rejected the reinstatement of the envoy. Why? He was held responsible for the “pro-Turkish Cypriot” Annan Plan, which in simultaneous referenda was embraced by Turkish Cypriots but overwhelmingly opposed by Greek Cypriots. Tellingly, when speaking to the press in 2008 about the attacks directed toward Downer, de Soto stated: “One of the things I was told when I started in late 1999 was that eventually this happened to pretty much everyone. I was told that first, the press will start behaving swinishly with an envoy, representative or adviser, and then the rejectionist parties will start to undermine the U.N. chap. I was told this was standard practice. I don’t think anyone was surprised [when it happened].” He went on: “Critics probably don’t want to approach the end game. If they don’t have a substantive plausible argument against coming to terms with that, it’s not surprising politicians will find other ways to undermine the process.”

My old friend, a veteran of Greek Cypriot politics, former “foreign minister” Nicos Rolandis, indeed, underlined in an op-ed published on Dec. 20, 2010, that the Greek Cypriot side considered the five U.N. secretaries-general who served after 1974 to all be “useless” and to have “betrayed us.” Like any reasonable person, Rolandis, of course, disagreed about such an obsessive approach, but he still pointed out that in addition to various Greek Cypriot accusations targeting Kurt Waldheim, Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon, the then-Greek Cypriot leader, Tassos Papadopoulos, himself alleged that Javier Perez de Cuellar had “personal weaknesses” and that Boutros Boutros-Ghali was a “third Atilla.” Rolandis went on to emphasize, with irony, that “the same was the fate of the special representatives of the secretaries-general and of other U.N. officials, as well as representatives of the European Union and some governments. Starting from Galindo Pol (1978) to Downer (2010), almost all of them were enemies of our people.”

As these two most recent cases and witty article by Rolandis clearly demonstrated, disparaging the U.N. chiefs and their special advisers is a well-known Greek Cypriot tactic which they usually employ to draw out negotiations or slow down a process if they feel a settlement might be within reach. This is a ploy the Greek Cypriots consistently resort to whenever a moment of truth is at hand. It is therefore certainly no coincidence that the latest round of verbal attacks against Eide comes at a time when a critical juncture that features the prospect of an end game has once again been reached in the settlement negotiations.