WEDNESDAY evening’s Erdogan-Akinci meeting and the subsequent comments made by the two must have disappointed the Greek Cypriot parties and media because they did not offer much ammunition for the normal fighting talk. They were not even able to use the traditional adjectives, such as “provocative” and “unacceptable” to describe the Ankara comments, focusing instead on interpretations and repeating their well-known positions about a settlement.
Even the media had difficulty putting the normal negative spin on the meeting, one anti-settlement newspaper choosing to highlight the coldness between the Turkish president and Turkish Cypriot leader and another claiming they had “indirectly” supported the Turkish guarantee of a settlement. But if they were so keen on a Turkish guarantee of a settlement, as the paper suggested, why had they not said openly and directly?
It is understandable that Erdogan’s comments after the meeting took the Greek Cypriots by surprise, because they were positive, forward-looking and supportive of the settlement efforts. He said: “The aim of these efforts is that this year a new partnership would be established in which both sides would be able to live within the framework of UN parameters. It is a condition to find a Cyprus settlement that would ensure the rights and security of the Turkish Cypriots.” Could anyone find fault with these views? EDEK felt that it was the Greek Cypriot’s security that was of concern.
Erdogan also touched on the potential for regional co-operation post-settlement. “After a possible settlement the real dynamic of Cyprus would emerge and the programme of works of regional dimensions, which has not been evaluated, would be put into practice.” DIKO saw this as an attempt to deprive the Cyprus Republic of its sovereign right to exploit its hydrocarbons, conveniently ignoring the huge potential this exploitation would have in conditions of stability and regional co-operation, with Turkey as a market for Cyprus’ natural gas.
Some could say that Erdogan stuck to generalities about the future, not wanting to reveal Turkey’s position in the talks. While nobody could rule out this possibility, if he really wanted to undermine the negotiations, which enter an intensive round of meetings next week, he could have made a couple of remarks, calculated to antagonise the Cyprus government and the parties, but he did not. He even avoided mentioning the supposed necessity for Turkish guarantees, thus allowing room for some compromise to be reached on the matter at the talks.
While the Turkish side’s plans and intentions will become clear at the negotiations that resume next week, the fact that Erdogan’s message was positive could only be described as a good sign for the procedure.