Is US back in Cyprus diplomacy?
A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement a while ago escaped the attention it deserved. That statement was stressing that Turkish and American top diplomats were meeting very frequently. Issues were so intense that, though they had 10 or so telephone talks within a week, there were many issues they did not complete discussing. Thus, they decided to come together in Istanbul for a face to face meeting. It was extraordinary for an American secretary of state to visit a country three times in a few weeks. But, that was what apparently what Secretary of State John Kerry understood from proactive foreign policy. Troubleshooting required concentration and effort; he was ready. Furthermore, managing problems was over for Kerry, it was now time to bring about solutions.
The success of the Israeli “apology” and “resolution” of the “Semitism allergy” of the Islamist government in Ankara helped boost expectations from Kerry. Next in line were the Middle East problem, intra-Palestinian animosities, Iran, Islamist jihadism and such for the Americans; Syria, the separatist Kurdish threat and the opening, hydrocarbon politics, Cyprus and such were for the Turks. So, the proactive Kerry and the proactive Ahmet Davutoğlu continued their intense contact in any way possible.
Greek Cypriots were shocked last week to learn from Washington that, rather than arranging a meeting for Foreign Minister Ioannakis Cassulides with Kerry sometime in late June, the secretary of state was inviting the Greek Cypriot minister for a May 10 meeting. Plus, Cassulides was given appointments by all top executives of the “national security” team in Washington.
Naturally, diplomacy is the art of attaining the best possible result with the probable lowest effort or cost. Turkey’s increasing geostrategic importance; efforts to diversify the energy resources of Europe and preventing Turkey from drifting away from Europe and a Western European understanding of democracy, lie in the background of Kerry’s efforts as much as his deep foreign policy understanding and pro-settlement resolve.
Now, not just a “quick” May 10 appointment for Cassulides but claims that the Obama administration may soon appoint a powerful special Cyrus envoy, like in the George Bush Sr. times, led to evaluations that Washington was getting actively engaged in Cyprus diplomacy once again. This of course should not be solely attributed to the gassy offshore details. Still, the Americans and the British appear to be “understanding” the awful situation the new Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades has been in because of the economic crisis he inherited and his demand for time until September. Yet, they are pressing as well for talks to be agreed to start after September and with a firm schedule. That is, they are also against open-ended talks. At least that’s how developments are seen so far in assessments made in Ankara and northern Cyprus.
In the meantime, according to Greek Cypriot news reports, some pundits have started floating the idea of changing the modality of Cyprus talks which for the past few years have been continuing under the motto of achieving an “accord for Cypriots by Cypriots.” Reportedly the new talks might not be just representatives of the two peoples but the three guarantor powers as well as the EU might find seats reserved for them at the negotiations table. Not a bad idea, is it not?