IN THE END, all the fuss and political grandstanding that preceded the dinner for the two leaders and their spouses, hosted at the residence of the UN Special Representative Lisa Buttenheim, was much ado about nothing.
President Anastasiades’ fears that the host, Alexander Downer, would have attempted to turn Thursday’s dinner into a political event, using it to kick-start the peace process, proved totally unfounded.
The social character of the dinner was maintained and good time was reportedly had by all.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did not respond to the indignant letter from Anastasiades, seeking his assurances that the social character of the dinner would be maintained, but the director of his office discussed the matter with Cyprus permanent representative at the UN.
What was said at the New York meeting was deemed satisfactory by the president, who was looking for a face-saving solution after his impulsive letter he had unwisely made public.
Another condition, reportedly set by the government, appeared to have been satisfied – Downer briefed the UN Security Council about Cyprus before the dinner.
Concerns had been voiced about the possibility of Downer briefing the UNSC after the dinner, the media speculating that he would spring a ‘political’ surprise at the event, announcing the start of a new peace process.
By scheduling the briefing before the dinner, the fears of a surprise were allayed. Both leaders left the social dinner content, having repeated their commitment to the peace process and a settlement, allowing a smiling Downer to announce that “the dinner went very well.”
Had Anastasiades’ angry letter, slamming Downer, ensured that the dinner went very well or had he caused a public stir over nothing? Perhaps he decided to do what all our leaders, with the support of the media, have always done – made a major issue out of procedural details.
Focusing on the procedural details and attributing to them importance they do not have is something of a national sport which all politicians and journalists love to engage in, as it spares them having to deal with the substance.
It is no coincidence that in the build-up to the dinner, the main theme in the media, endorsed by the politicians, was the fear of a ‘speedy closure of the Cyprus problem’. How anyone could seriously talk about a ‘speedy closure’ after almost 50 years of peace talks, is beyond belief.
Then again, closure would deprive our opinion-formers and leaders of their favourite subject – the procedure, which is an end in itself, inspiring lively debate over whether a dinner between the two leaders would be a strictly social event or a carefully plotted trap.