Rendezvous at Chateau Status
It would have been great if Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades did not demand to have an opening speech outlining the agreement yet to be hopefully made and that the past nine months had not been wasted to the ever-typical Cypriot obstinacy. Is there any meaning in conducting further talks if there is already an agreement at hand? Agreeing on the modality and the frame of talks is a need for a productive process, but that was not what Anastasiades was demanding before talks could get underway.
According to the Greek Cypriot leader, as if a give-and-take process would not be held and as if the leaders would not discuss a painful compromise deal, the two sides should commit themselves to an agreement in an opening statement. Thus talks between the special envoys of the two leaders on the opening statement were apparently sent spinning.
Not only was he one of the instigators of the Cyprus problem as a politician and one of the founders of the bloody EOKA gang but Glafkos Clerides was also someone who spent a life trying to fix the Cyprus quagmire until he passed away on Nov. 15. His death provided an opportunity for telephone diplomacy.
Expressing condolences to his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Anastasiades, on the phone, Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu touched on his frustration with the “opening statement” spinning of the special envoys and offered to come together when convenient. Anastasiades responded in a letter, accepting the offer without difficult preconditions. The aides of the two leaders worked out the details and finally a rendezvous was fixed at the Chateau Status restaurant in the Nicosia buffer zone.
It was of course great news for everyone wishing to see an end to the Cyprus stalemate. From Ankara to Washington and from London and Paris to Moscow, the news of the two leaders coming together even to share a cup of coffee and probably some famous oven-baked potatoes of Cyprus, barbeque steak and (doctor’s advice) steam-boiled assorted vegetables.
Joking aside, Eroğlu will be sitting at that table this afternoon with a loaded agenda and will try to convince Anastasiades that the time is over for wishy-washy statements and time-wasting. He will tell the Greek Cypriot leader that he is ready for bitter, perhaps very painful compromises with the intention of putting a mutually acceptable full stop to the Cyprus problem and carrying that accord to simultaneous separate referenda among the two peoples by April next year at the latest. He will explain to Anastasiades the oddity in insisting on a “comprehensive opening statement” as the Turkish side is ready for uninterrupted talks day and night, until the Cyprus problem becomes history. In those talks, the two leaders and their aides may focus on all aspects, even the most trivial aspects of the Cyprus problem and if there is political will to compromise on both sides, they could indeed close this tormented file for ever.
Indeed, there has never ever been – including former President Mehmet Ali Talat who had an international pro-settlement reputation – a Turkish Cypriot president to talk this firmly with Greek Cypriots: “Let’s proceed together to finish off the Cyprus problem within the next three months. We have the will, do you have it?”
Anastasiades, like his predecessors, wants a deal of his own, not one based on compromise and built on the principle of “mutual acceptability.” I hope I am wrong and the Chateau Status rendezvous serve as the beginning of a new and promising era for all Cypriots.