‘Structured talks’ in Cyprus

‘Structured talks’ in Cyprus

Many people have lost faith in the Cyprus negotiations, considering that no substantial progress was achieved since they were “reincarnated” last February. All of a sudden, however, first, Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu and soon after Espen Barth Eide, the former Norwegian foreign minister who was recently appointed as the new Cyprus special advisor of the U.N. secretary-general, declared the two leaders have agreed to move on to the “active talks” stage and intensify the process.

Great news, is it not? Only a day before Eroğlu and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nikos Anastasiades came together for dinner at the residence of U.N. Cyprus envoy Lisa Buttenheim, with Eide playing the facilitator role, there was no such climate on the island. Did not Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on a trip to the island suggest a two-state resolution, should the talks collapse? On another occasion, he offered to have tea with his Greek counterpart on the island. Socializing might help break the impasse in the talks between Eroğlu and Anastasiades. There was a cunning aspect perhaps. What would Davutoğlu hope to achieve if he and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras meet for a spot of tea on both sides of Cyprus?

It is, of course, absurd to be skeptical if the two leaders have indeed decided they have completed submitting their written views on all pending issues. Would it not be great if they really achieved whatever might have been achieved as regards enhancing convergences and the time has come for a structured phase of talks – a give-and-take stage that might usher an end to the over 50-year-old Cyprus problem by creating a new partnership state, the Cyprus federation?

When this article was penned, Anastasiades had not yet disclosed his version of the story. If, indeed, he as well declares that he agreed to move to a give-and-take phase and indeed not news from Nicosia, but also from New York that Cyprus talks might be headed to a successful end, perhaps we finally have some good news from Cyprus to celebrate. However, even if I try not to be skeptical, was Eroğlu fooling Turkish Cypriots when he was complaining that Anastasiades was unwilling to compromise, worse, even rejecting past convergences? Or was Anastasiades mocking the world when he was complaining that talks with Eroğlu were a waste of time and demanding to have talks with Ankara?

In any case, if Anastasiades, who rejected even the past convergences and the negotiating credibility of Turkish Cypriots, and Eroğlu, who has been stressing that, since February, not much progress has been achieved because of Greek Cypriot intransigence, can mutually compromise and decide to proceed to a new phase of “structured talks,” that is a promising sign.

Indeed, the Turkish Cypriot side has repeatedly underlined in statements over the past months that renegotiating what has been negotiated numerous times over the past for more than four decades of Cyprus intercommunal talks would be nonsense. If a result is desired, talks should be taken to a result oriented give-and-take stage. This was an opinion shared by the international community, as well.

Greek Cypriots, however, were reluctant to engage themselves in such a process where the end result of which would either be success and the creation of a new partnership state, or failure and the de facto two-state reality on the island becoming de jure.

The process ahead, if not provided a fast train, however, might fall victim to domestic politics in Turkey and in northern Cyprus, as 2015 will be the year of parliamentary elections in Turkey and mayoral elections in northern Cyprus. If we really have a new window of opportunity, this window may remain open until the year-end, maximum. Will it be grasped this time or will Cypriots let this opportunity die out as well?