BY FAR the best opportunity to solve the Cyprus problem, the culmination of two years of constructive talks that brought the two sides within reach of an agreement, was finally killed in the idyllic setting of Crans-Montana after midnight on Thursday. A diplomat at the conference claimed the two sides came “so, so close” to succeeding, but in the end the traditional lack of trust prevailed with neither prepared to take the extra step needed to reach a deal.
It did not take long after the dejected UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, declared the end of the conference and with it the last hope of a settlement, for blame game to begin. Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides issued a written statement in the morning saying there was no agreement “because of the insistence of the Turkish side for the continuation of the Treaty of Guarantee, the right of intervention by Turkey in Cyprus, as well as the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus.”
Speaking a little later, Mustafa Akinci blamed the collapse of the conference on the Greek Cypriot side’s insistence on zero troops and zero guarantees. “The conference started with it and finished with it,” he said, noting that the Greek Cypriots turned down the proposal for the arrival of the prime ministers of guarantor powers that could have helped the process move forward.
Each side has presented its version of what went wrong that puts the other in a negative light. The politicians and political parties subsequently engaged in the mindless blame-game that is an integral part of the Cyprus problem. It is a very simplistic political discourse, based on a zero-sum game and the premise that ‘my side was exclusively in the right and the other completely in the wrong’. Inevitably, nobody really knows what exactly happened in Switzerland and why, as Espen Barth Eide tweeted, we were “close but not close enough.” What went wrong, why had the prime ministers not joined the conference, which side’s positions were outside Guterres’ framework?
Guterres, understandably, avoided apportioning blame or going into the reasons for the failure when he announced the end of the conference at 3.15am on Friday. It suffices to say the Greek Cypriot side criticised him for this, Diko saying his “neutral statement absolves Turkey’s unacceptable attitude.” Perhaps this is the case, but it would be very helpful if the UN could give its own version of events at the conference and the reasons for which it failed to produce a result. The people of Cyprus deserve an objective account of what happened because they will not get one from their respective leaders.
We hope Eide’s report to the UN Security Council, which will be submitted later this month, will clearly explain why the best ever opportunity for a settlement was wasted.