By Stefanos Evripidou
THE PEACE talks have reached an impasse over the words ‘single sovereignty’, with all sides seemingly unclear as to where to go from here.
UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer is due to leave Cyprus this evening after spending a week shuttling back and forth between the two sides to close a deal on the text of a joint declaration that would open the door to fully-fledged negotiations.
As part of scheduled visits, he met yesterday with the leaders of ruling DISY and opposition AKEL, to the dismay of new DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos, who accused Downer of going beyond the terms of his mandate by selectively choosing which party leaders to meet, instead of meeting them all.
Whereas reports earlier in the week had the two sides an inch from the finish line, by the end of the week, resignation was in the air as sources close to the talks confirmed that the entire effort has hit a brick wall over the last piece of the puzzle.
Both sides exchanged draft proposals on the joint declaration, working towards safeguarding their interests while trying to meet the concerns of the other but the whole effort has got stuck on the words ‘single sovereignty’.
The Greek Cypriots won’t consider a joint declaration without them and the Turkish Cypriots refuse to include them, each for their own reasons.
President Nicos Anastasiades has made it clear he won’t enter into talks for the sake of talks if the desired aim of the other side is to ensure the possibility of a divorce post-reunification.
Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, on the other hand, says he’s ready for a deal based on political equality but not the kind that lets the Greek Cypriots ‘lord it’ over the Turkish Cypriots post-solution.
Earlier in the week, in a rather atypical development, US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague called Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to ask him to agree to ‘single sovereignty’ and overcome the last hurdle before talks could start.
Davutoglu simply said no to both, providing cover for the Turkish Cypriot leader, and leaving the process in the air.
Despite a few further efforts by the UN team here, by Wednesday afternoon, the talks had reached an impasse.
Now, one source close to the talks said there was little hope of reversing the situation as it is, with no clear direction forwards at this point. Even if the two sides want to keep trying it is unclear how they can as the joint declaration has become a key component of the peace talks, agreement of which could be used as a measure of the potential for success.
For the Greek Cypriots, “starting negotiations without a joint declaration is not an option when you know how serious the problems are and it is very clear they will break down in a few weeks”, said a source.
They added: “The differences are fundamental. None of the problems will be solved by restarting the talks. One side is saying we have one state, let’s live in it together. The other says we have two states and should live apart.”
It remains to be seen what will come out of today’s meeting in Athens, requested by the Turkish FM, between Davutoglu and his Greek counterpart Evangelos Venizelos. Tomorrow, Davutoglu flies to the occupied areas for meetings with the Turkish Cypriot leadership after which they will hold a joint press conference.
He could enter into the usual blame game, highlighting that the Turkish Cypriots are ready to start talks right away, that they are unfairly kept in isolation due to the Greek Cypriot stance. Or he could take steps to overcome the deadlock.
As one analyst put it, “If he was going to make an announcement that could be seen as a concession, he would have taken the opportunity to do that when talking to the big guys (Kerry and Hague).”
On the other hand, the Hurriyet Daily News quoted a senior Turkish diplomat saying on Thursday: “Reunification talks can be launched at any time. There is a minor problem with regard to the joint statement, but we hope it will soon be overcome.”
Davutoglu leaves the north the same day of his arrival tomorrow.
Meanwhile, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Amanda Sloat arrived in Cyprus yesterday on a two-day visit. According to the US embassy, the visit is part of a previously scheduled trip to the region after Sloat assumed her duties in September. She is responsible for relations with Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus.