AFTER the elections, whenever he spoke about the Cyprus problem in public, President Anastasiades expressed his full support for resuming the talks, underlining his readiness to return to the negotiating table immediately. He also set certain other conditions, apart from demanding an end to Turkey’s interference, which included the continuation of the talks from the point they stopped in Crans-Montana; for the talks to remain within the Guterres framework.
Given this eagerness to return to the talks, we thought he would have welcomed Mustafa Akinci’s tweet suggesting that the Guterres framework could be announced as “a strategic package agreement”. In a subsequent statement, posted on his office’s website, Akinci explained that with acceptance of the Guterres framework, a new round of talks would have more meaning when it came to filling the gaps for an agreement. He also set a condition for the resumption of the talks – he wanted a result-oriented process, in contrast to Anastasiades who wanted it open-ended.
Anastasiades did not seize this opportunity despite his professed commitment to resuming the talks. Instead, he issued a written statement on Wednesday demanding that Akinci and Turkey, “take a clear position on whether they accept or not the parameters of the UNSG so that misinterpretations and sensationalist announcements can be avoided”. He then rather sneakily asked whether Akinci accepted the framework, “as it was finalised on July 4, 2017”.
But was the original framework, submitted by the secretary-general in Crans-Montana, amended and finalised? Who amended it? Anastasiades was referring to changes to the framework suggested by himself on July 4, but not accepted by the Turkish side or adopted by the UN secretary-general. Perhaps this was why Akinci made a point of demanding acceptance of the framework without changes. The original framework is a one-page document giving a succinct outline of how five topics – territory, political equality, property, equivalent treatment and security and guarantees – would be dealt with.
Does Anastasiades seriously believe that the Turkish side will accept the Guterres framework with the changes proposed by the Greek Cypriot side? Perhaps his objective now is to spark a new disagreement with Akinci over the actual content of the Guterres framework. Such rows are the bread and butter of the Cyprus problem discourse, Anastasiades now resorting to the old method of using procedural disagreements to avoid the resumption of talks he is supposedly so keen on.
We do not know what the motive behind Akinci’s suggestion is. Perhaps it was a “sensationalist announcement”, as Anastasiades claimed, or perhaps he decided to call our president’s bluff about his readiness to return to the negotiations. If it was the latter, it worked.