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Our view: Ban’s faux-pas or a case of ignoring progress in the talks?

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Everyone in Cyprus rushed to put the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his place for attributing the suspension of the talks on the “change of government of the Greek Cypriot community of Cyprus.” This was considered a double faux-pas. First it was the Turkish Cypriot side that quit the talks in early 2012, because it did not want to participate in the process while Cyprus had the EU presidency and second, he referred to the Republic as “the Greek Cypriot community”.

He was bound to provoke a knee-jerk reaction with these slips, as the Greek Cypriot political parties gratefully seize any opportunity to read significance into them and have a dig at the UN. The government also reacted, to avoid accusations that it had ignored Ban’s “provocative” comments. Foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides, who had instructed the Cyprus permanent representative at the UN to make demarches, said, “I wonder how many years of service a Secretary-General needs to know the member-states of the UN.”

Having shown his exasperation publicly, as was expected of him, Kasoulides then allowed his common sense to do the talking. He said he felt “these matters are possibly not so clear for him (Ban) as they are for those who deal directly with the Cyprus problem.” Ban was “dealing with very important matters,” said Kasoulides, who did not see anything suspicious behind the slip.

He was in a minority of one because all the parties identified sinister motives. The Diko leader said it was obvious the stage was being set for pressure to be applied on the Greek Cypriot side, while Evroko and Edek were convinced that Alexander Downer was behind the statement, which the Alliance of Citizens described as “provocative and unacceptable.”

How predictable that nobody focused on the substance of the Secretary-General’s statement. He said the two sides had agreed on most areas of the joint declaration and were very close. This may have been the real reason for the angry reaction to what was a genuine mistake by Ban, who has much more important and urgent issues taking up his time than the Cyprus problem. But nobody it seems is too keen on the start of talks which is why they seized the opportunity to engage in the negativity they are all familiar and comfortable with.

But how far could this abject negativity get us? Our politicians should ask themselves this question some time, instead of sitting in judgment of everyone except themselves.

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