The terse UN statement announcing the failure of the second round of the Mont Pelerin talks, for which there had been high hopes, passed the responsibility of breaking the deadlock to the two sides. “The two sides have decided to return to Cyprus and reflect on the way forward,” the brief statement, free of the usual positive spin, concluded.
Is there a way forward? There could be, but this would depend on the two leaders rediscover-ing their spirit of goodwill, which appeared to have been lost in Switzerland. The trust they had built over 16 months of positive negotiations suffered a blow in Mont Pelerin as they de-cided to play hard-ball. It would be criminal to waste 16 months of hard work, marked by an unprecedented spirit of cooperation between the two leaders, which brought the two sides within reach of an agreement.
The reality is that if President Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci do not find a way to break the deadlock over the next few days the best ever opportunity for a settlement would be lost for good. The situation can still be salvaged but it may require Ana-stasiades crossing some of the red lines he had drawn. For instance, it beggars belief that he was willing to wreck the procedure over the return of one village – Morphou. Now he may have to agree to go to a five-party conference without the territorial readjustments being final-ised and a range of other open issues in order to save the procedure.
This may be the only way of salvaging the situation and not wasting what could be the last opportunity for a negotiated settlement. He has nothing to lose, except face, from agreeing to a five-party conference because if he does not the peace procedure would be halted. If he goes and does not secure a deal that would satisfy the majority of Greek Cypriots it would be rejected in the referendum but at least he would not have given up when a deal was so close.
First, however, he would need to speak to the Greek government and demand that it adopts a more helpful stance instead of setting conditions for attending a multi-party conference. Un-fortunately even on Tuesday Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias reportedly repeated Greece’s condition for the abolition of guarantees in a telephone conversation with Espen Barth Eide. There have also been reports about a meeting on the Cyprus talks between Greek Prime Minis-ter Tsipras and Turkish President Erdogan but these have not been officially confirmed.
But regardless of what happens if Tsipras and Erdogan meet in 10 days’ time, Anastasiades needs to take the initiative before then if he wants to salvage the process in which he has in-vested so much time and effort, achieving so much. The UN will not do this for him and we doubt Akinci would make a move. It is up to the president save the process even if there is no face-saving way of doing this.