Welcoming Colin Stewart
Is it good news? We had an Australian, an American… There was a time when we had a Norwegian as well as an Argentinian. Now it’s time for a Canadian special Cyprus envoy for the United Nations secretary-general. The Turkish side has already said, “Yes, we agreed,” and so said the Greeks, reportedly. Yet, there’s still a glitch in the definition of his mission, and the appointment of Colin Stewart, a much appreciated Canadian diplomat, is almost certain.
He will be replacing Jane Holl Lute, who has been trying in futile for past many months, to achieve a common ground so that Cyprus talks might start. Her term ended on the ground that there might be a conflict of interest. A highly experienced “problem solver” diplomat Stewart will replace her.
The disparity is very important. As we have seen in recent statements, the Greek Cypriot leadership demands that the new special representative should not have a “limited” mandate, such as the interim special representative Lute, and that he should be adorned with the authority to report to the U.N. Security Council. This means ensuring that the special representative works for a new process with the goal of complying with the bicommunal, bizonal federation goal as set by Security Council resolutions, even though achieving that goal proved repeatedly impossible over the past so many decades because of the Greek Cypriots’ refusal to share power with the Turkish Cypriots based on political equality. The problem is now even more intractable as the Turkish Cypriots raised their demands, moving from political equality to preconditioning Greek and U.N. acceptance of “sovereign equality” of the two sides on the island as a must to start any new process. The Turkish side wants the new representative to be working like Lute, who was only reporting to the secretary-general. Thus the Turkish side has been demanding that the U.N. envoy should not have the right to offer “bridging ideas” but only report to the secretary-general who might take action himself.
During the recent New York talks, the U.N. secretary-general also said that the two sides did not have a common ground for a new process and that starting a new process would be doomed to be yet another major failure, so it was appropriate to explore confidence-building measures on the island first. In short, the secretary-general told Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades that the doors were closed to a process that would fail again while telling the Turkish side that a two-state solution was not on the cards.
When the appointment of Stewart is completed, it will not be an easy task. The genie that the Greek leader, behind closed doors, pulled out of the bottle with the proposal of a decentralized federation, and as a consequence, the Turkish Cypriot side’s proposal for a two-state solution did not allow the hopes of federal Cyprus to be raised once again. The two, albeit informally, have made it clear that they are nowhere near a common ground for a new round of talks as they have a full disagreement on what should be the Cyprus resolution. That’s anyhow what the secretary-general expressed to their face.
At this stage, a new process will be a waste of resources and time. If anyone can say that a process under current circumstances means anything, he should be given a medal of romance.
Maybe we should look into Stewart’s résumé for what’s going to happen in the next period. Let me make no big deal out of it; his last official post is as the representative of the U.N. secretary-general for the Western Sahara Referendum. In short, a successful, problem-solving and conciliatory senior diplomat.
Whatever the compromise is in the mandate, we will soon meet a special representative of the secretary-general who will insist on confidence-building steps to ensure the rapprochement between the parties.