Espen Barth Eide, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor, has been unable to conceal his frustration, verging on despair, over the stalled talks caused by the refusal of the two leaders to budge from their respective positions. The frustration is evident in the interviews he has given in the last few days in which he has been urging people and organised groups to put pressure on the leaders to resume negotiations.
He has not completely run out of ideas, as he is scheduled to meet the leaders separately today, in what must be another attempt to persuade them to start talking again. He has made it very clear that a resumption of the talks is up to the leaders, rejecting the idea that the referendum in Turkey is in any way to blame for the impasse as the Anastasiades government has been claiming. He told CNA last week, “there is no external force behind the absence of meetings; this specific crisis was made in Cyprus and can be resolved in Cyprus, it is a Cypriot crisis.”
It all stems back to the enosis referendum amendment approved by the legislature last month. Mustafa Akinci said he would not return to the negotiating table until this was repealed while President Anastasiades, although repeatedly taking a public stand against the decision, has stopped short of the action needed to scrap it. A bill prepared by Disy that would have allowed the education ministry to overrule the legislature’s decision has not been tabled in the House, presumably on the instructions of Anastasiades, who does not want to be seen as giving in to Akinci.
This, however, is not the only problem, as Eide admitted. Even if the two leaders agreed to return to the talks, there would have to be a change of “methodology” because the existing procedure had stalled before the enosis rift, said the Norwegian who claimed he was more worried about this. “There are some things on which one side could respond but would do so only if the other side responded first.” Such behaviour suggests there is an unwillingness to negotiate constructively and it might be a bit optimistic to believe a new methodology would change anything. Is the methodology the problem or the unwillingness of the leaders to engage?
Eide has decided it is the latter which is why he has been appealing to people from the two sides to apply pressure on their leaders. In his interview to the Turkish Cypriot news agency he called on people to take the initiative. “Cypriots must now undertake initiatives as if they were united and make steps. Taking into account that there will not be a settlement soon, different strategies must be developed.”
The sad thing is that most Cypriots do not seem too bothered there will not be a settlement soon and we suspect Eide has realised this.