“Alas, if there is a Cypriot politician that would have secured the termination of the Treaty of Guarantee and the intervention rights of Turkey and would not have accepted such an arrangement,” said government spokesman, Nicos Christodoulides, on Monday, after President Anastasiades’ meeting with UN Special Advisor Espen Barth Eide. There “would be no bigger success with regard to the Cyprus problem, had a Cypriot politician achieved such a result,” he added in order to stress the point.
Ever since Saturday’s publication of Eide’s interview with the Cyprus News Agency about what happened at the Conference on Cyprus – an equally revealing one appeared on Sunday in Politis – Christodoulides has been issuing announcements and making public comments, insisting that the government’s version of events was the only correct one. Eide was in effect a liar, because he had challenged the government’s version that Turkish intransigence was 100 per cent to blame for the failure of the conference. This was the official line and anyone who challenged it was labelled a fool or a traitor, serving Turkish interests.
In his interviews, Eide said very clearly that in testing the limits and red lines of each participant, the UN Seceretary-General Antonio Guterres established that Turkey, in the event of an overall agreement, would consent to an end to guarantees and right of intervention from day one. Contrary to what the government spokesman said yesterday, Anastasiades did not consider this a big success and insisted on a sunset clause for the troops, which Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, did not accept. Turkey proposed that a small number of troops (the strength of the Turkish contingent of 1960) would remain and its presence reviewed rather than terminated after 15 years.
Having 650 Turkish troops, instead of 40,000, was a small compromise for an end to guarantees and the right of intervention, but Anastasiades insisted on his condition for zero troops which meant there could not an overall deal. This was the gist of what Eide said in his interviews and in his briefing of the UN Security Council last week, indicating that the government’s version of what happened was not entirely accurate.
Aware that the government version would eventually be challenged, Anastasiades and Christodoulides took pre-emptive action, attempting to discredit both Guterres and Eide. We were told that Guterres misunderstood what Cavusoglu told him in their private meetings, that Eide was not prepared for the conference and he refused to acknowledge the big differences separating the sides, deluding himself that these could be bridged. The government message was that being so naïve and gullible, the UNSG and his special advisor were bound to give an incorrect version of what happened.
This was nothing compared to what the Greek foreign ministry said in response to Eide’s interviews. In a statement on Sunday it said Eide spoke like “someone who intends to resign from his post as UN mediator in view of the more satisfactory position of press spokesman of the Turkish government”.
Only people and governments that have no arguments to defend their position resort to insults.