PRESIDENT Anastasiades made a valid point at Monday evening’s meeting with Dervis Eroglu when he said that “instead of trying to discuss terms of re-unification, we cannot be discussing the terms of a future divorce.” By persisting with his ‘two sovereign states’ theory, Eroglu, in effect, wants to keep an escape route open which he or one of his successors could take when they chose to do so.
It certainly does not show a full commitment to re-unification which would supposedly be the objective of the peace talks. Eroglu had spoken about the two sovereign states in statements before the meeting and stuck to his mantra despite several proposals made by Anastasiades. As the Greek Cypriot negotiator said, the Turkish Cypriot leader insisted that “we have two sovereign states that will decide one day to join together and share in common a small number of powers while maintaining their sovereignty, citizens and all characteristics of a sovereign state.”
It is an audacious position to take when we consider that the north is not a sovereign state and is unlikely to ever be one. If the two sides stick to their respective positions, there is no joint declaration – Anastasiades’ pre-requisite for the start of talks – and the status quo remains, would Eroglu be the president of a sovereign state? Certainly not, while in the long term the north is much more likely to become a province of Turkey, which would be much more economical to run, than a sovereign state.
Most Greek Cypriot politicians believe that Eroglu is voicing Turkey’s position, because it is very difficult to believe he would take such a hard line, without Ankara’s backing. Then again, this may just be a tactical ploy designed to blame Anastasiades’s insistence on a joint declaration for the non-resumption of talks. The Turkish Cypriot leader has been calling for the start of talks without any joint declaration about the form the settlement would take.
With Monday’s meeting having failed to produce a compromise, it is difficult to predict what would happen next. Will the negotiators of the two sides keep meeting in the futile hope they would find a face-saving formula for the two leaders or will one of them be forced to back down? Anastasiades scored a small moral victory yesterday by securing the support of the President of the European Commission for the joint declaration, but this is unlikely to make any difference.
The reality is that the future of the talks is in the hands of the Turkish government. It has the power to order Eroglu to modify his position, assuming that it wants a settlement. But this remains unclear.