Skidding continues in Cyprus

Skidding continues in Cyprus

The Chateau Status rendezvous of the two leaders of the two peoples of Cyprus ended in the way most expected: firm disagreement, the island’s favorite sport. Why did they fail to achieve a breakthrough? According to Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader, they had a nice dinner and a promising brainstorming session, but the differences were so intense that they needed further dining and wining at various levels to iron them out.

For Turkish Cypriot President Dr. Derviş Eroğlu, progress was hijacked once again by the Greek Cypriot obsession of including the prospective end results of the process in the joint communiqué to be issued after the first meeting (which would serve as some sort of a basis for talks).

Following frustrations at previous failed rounds of Cyprus diplomacy, the encounter of the two leaders Monday evening at the Chateau Status restaurant in the Nicosia buffer zone found little place in the news bulletins of Turkey and elsewhere. As elusive as it might be, a Cyprus talks process and a prospective deal have been of existential importance for Turkish Cypriots but, as was demonstrated once again at the latest dinner, not so much for the Greek Cypriots, who unfortunately believe that playing for time will help achieve a resolution through osmosis.

According to a well-placed source with insight of the Cyprus talks process, Anastasiades tried to use tactics of the late Glafkos Clerides on Eroğlu, assuming that he would act very much like the former Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktaş, but his tactic did not work. Boiling down the entire Cyprus talks process to a “single sovereignty,” for example, in the hopes that the Turkish Cypriot left would be sympathetic to the terminology, thus forming a crack between the presidency and the government of the north, cannot be a constructive approach under any situation. What happened? That tactic might have worked 10 or 15 years ago, but no more!

There might be richer gas and perhaps oil finds in Plot 9 compared to Plot 12. The Anastasiades government is apparently looking to avoid engaging in any process before it at least obtains preliminary findings on the Plot 9 reserves. Why? If new gas or oil or both are found in Plot 9 it might have a stronger hand in the talks. Is it aware, however, that the number of Greek Cypriots supporting separate states has already exceeded 20 percent? Why? These people don’t want to share offshore riches with Turkish Cypriots. That is, offshore riches might be the trigger of a permanent division, contrary to the expectation of most of us who thought they could be used to finance a resolution and indeed make it less painful. Still, Anastasiades came out of the dinner insisting that his aim was to discuss the “joint statement” that he hopes would pave the way for meaningful talks to resolve the Cyprus problem. He stressed that it helped both sides to better understand (did anyone say anything new?) their respective positions… And? Unfortunately, according to him, there was a long distance to cover in order to be able to start the talks.

Eroğlu, however, was quite frank. He believed it was nonsense to talk about deciding how to talk or what to decide, as such an approach was not constructive at all. He was ready for talks without any precondition. Thus, what happened? Good guy Anastasiades demonstrated to the world how cute he might be by suggesting talks for talks, but the stubborn Eroğlu insisted on having talks rather than deciding on first what to agree and then to have talks on what was already agreed upon.

In summary, Anastasiades wanted to put cart before the horse, Eroğlu insisted on doing the opposite… The skidding continued. The United Nations perhaps should reconsider whether to extend the mandate of the Cyprus peace force when it reviews the issue in December.