By Jean Christou
NOW that the Cyprus talks have resumed, the question on everyone’s lips is whether the promising start to the negotiations will end in tears yet again or whether this time there is a real chance of success.
Taking stock of the rapid developments after a painful five months of stalling on reaching a deal on the joint statement, political observers yesterday believed that several different circumstances currently in play offer some hope that a deal can be reached.
Unlike ten years ago, when Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan plan on the eve of EU accession, a decade later and 40 years since the Turkish invasion, things have changed dramatically on several levels.
On the domestic front, Cyprus is in the throes of an economic depression and oil and gas have been discovered but cannot yet be fully exploited to get the island out from under the troika’s yoke. Regionally, Turkey’s EU accession has stalled and its relationship with Israel has become intertwined in growing ties between Nicosia and Tel Aviv, and the US is showing a greater interest in the eastern Mediterranean and, by extension, the Cyprus issue.
This was borne out last week during a quick visit by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, who skipped in for a day and left with a sudden deal on the joint declaration that allowed talks to start on Tuesday.
Analyst Fiona Mullen of Sapienta Economics said this time around, as far as negotiations were concerned, US involvement seemed to be more intense, and it was being welcomed by the Greek Cypriot side.
“That’s new,” she said. “They were very involved in 2004 but were not welcome”.
Mullen believes there were a lot more ‘carrots’ than ‘sticks’ being thrown around this time. “Is it ‘Varosha for gas’ or a package deal including Turkey and the EU?” she said.
However, although the joint declaration was agreed quickly in the end, Mullen said it has taken a long time to get to that point, so she would be surprised if an actual solution was wrapped up in less than a year, she said.
AKEL MP Pambos Papageorgiou said the opposition party was on board with the negotiations and believes overall the atmosphere is more conducive to a solution this time around.
“First of all we have the experience of a failed plan. We are wiser now and we know people’s worries and concerns and what they think, and we know the drawbacks,” he said. “The financial crisis is affecting people and a solution would contribute to the economy, the government in Turkey is more stable and there is no more deep state, Cyprus’ position has been elevated in the region through its ties with Israel, and there is also the oil and gas,” he added.
Political observer Louis Igoumenides said AKEL’s support was a big help for President Nicos Anastasiades.
“Also Anastasiades’ own party (DISY) is under his control and [coalition partner] DIKO is not united. [DIKO leader Nicolas] Papadopoulos has majority support but it’s not easy to leave the government with a 60:40 split,” said Igoumenides of the growing possibility the party might withdraw.
He agrees there is a better chance of success this time, given the interest of the big powers in the new process.
“We also have internal changes due to the economic situation, and individuals who said ‘no’ in 2004 realise that no progress has been made since then and that any new solution would be slightly worse,” Igoumenides added.
“This time, if we succeed in achieving a good solution that is accepted by both sides, people will say yes.”