Will Anastasiades and Akıncı walk the extra mile?

Will Anastasiades and Akıncı walk the extra mile?

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterresis is expected to preside over a key session of the Cyprus conference at the Le Régent Congress Centre in Crans-Montana, Switzerland on June 30, where the answers of the two sides on the island and the three guarantor powers to three questions posed by a senior U.N. executive will be discussed. 

The answers of the sides and the guarantor powers to the questions asked by U.N. Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman on the first day of the Cyprus conference will indeed define what kind of a new Cyprus they envision.

These questions are: 1- What the two sides see the day after a solution? 2- How the concerns of both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots on the issue of security will be addressed? 3- How would the implementation of an accord establishing a Cyprus federal state of Turkish and Greek Cypriots be monitored?

On the first day of the conference, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias verbally delivered statements outlining the positions of their respective countries on the thorny security chapter of the Cyprus problem, while at the second table, delegations of the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides continued discussing the other remaining five headings, including the thorny territorial aspects and property headings.

While the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot sides has been respecting a U.N.-imposed news blackout on the details discussed; as has been a Greek fashion at similar events, speculations were abundant about what the Turkish side indeed proposed. The Turkish Foreign Ministry flatly denied late June 28 night speculations that Çavuşoğlu presented a four-phase plan for the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Cyprus. The statement said neither such a plan nor any percentage or figures regarding troop withdrawal were placed on the table by the minister.

Before Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı and Çavuşoğlu travelled to Switzerland, Akıncı spent two days in Ankara and Istanbul during which the position on the Turkish side was finalized. While at those talks it was underlined that the 1960 guarantee scheme “should remain intact,” apparently Çavuşoğlu revealed, in his speech, on the first day of the conference that while Ankara wanted the preservation of the guarantee system, adaptation of it to today’s conditions might be considered. However, he reportedly stressed that suggestions to limit Turkey’s guarantee to a certain zone of a federal Cyprus was unnegotiable. Turkey has also been stressing that continued attacks on Turkish Cypriots visiting Greek Cypriot areas, impunity accorded to criminals involved in such attacks and hardening ultranationalist sentiments among Greek Cypriots necessitated the continuation of the guarantee scheme for the very survival of a compromised federal settlement.

Though Ankara officially denied, speculations continued that Turkey has suggested the withdrawal of some troops “the day after” a settlement but firmly defended that even if it might be revisited at a later date again, Turkish military presence on Cyprus and the effective Turkish guarantee for the Turkish Cypriot people was fundamental for a deal.

The position of the two sides on the security and guarantees heading were to be put in writing on June 29 so that a comprehensive discussion on the issue might be held from June 30 onwards at sessions chaired by the U.N. secretary-general.

While Greek Cypriots were keeping the cards close to their chest, Kotzias reportedly boldly reiterated that his country had the opinion that in today’s conjecture there was no place for foreign troops on the territory of an EU member country. He also reportedly stressed that the guarantee system was limiting the sovereignty of the Cypriot republic and the new Cyprus federation must have full sovereignty, and that there was no need for external guarantees as EU and U.N. membership would in effect be guarantees for the island’s security, independence and constitutional order. Kotzias reportedly also offered a multinational force (not contributed by Greece and Turkey) be deployed temporarily on Cyprus to monitor the implementation of the accord was being reached.

Turkish and Greek positions remained unbreakable, while U.N. officials continued playing the “time to walk the extra mile” song. Yet, so far, the Greek Cypriot side did not reveal whether it accepted a rotation of presidency, effective participation of Turkish Cypriots in governance, competencies of the constituent states and such issues held high by Turkish Cypriots.

The two leaders are haunted by public opinion pressure as well. Any compromise not appreciated by the people might be disastrous for the political future of either leader. Advising the two leaders to walk the extra mile might be easier said than done. Will Greek Cypriot leader Niko Anastasiades and Akıncı be able to walk that extra mile and survive politically?