IT IS VERY difficult to know the reasons behind President Anastasiades’ weekend revelation that the removal of the Turkish guarantee “could be achieved through the accession of Cyprus to the Partnership for Peace and subsequently to NATO.” No matter how hard we try we cannot think of one good reason for the president’s decision to share this idea with the public at such an early time in the talks.
There are plenty of good reasons why he should have kept this idea out of the public domain. First, he is raising public expectations and if the Turkish side rejected his proposal he would appear to have failed. Second, opponents of a settlement on the Turkish side could use this to rally opposition to the talks and play up fears of an agreement in the north. Turkey’s guarantee could be red line for the Turkish Cypriots like so many issues are for the Greek Cypriots, all of which should be resolved at the talks and not in public.
The president’s proposal has already sparked a knee-jerk reaction among Greek Cypriots, with AKEL threatening to reject any settlement guaranteed by NATO. Its mouthpiece claimed that the president wanted to replace Turkey with ‘another wolf’. Cyprus had ‘suffered’ at the hands of NATO and it was wrong of Anastasiades to pursue ‘DISY’s dogmatic position’ on membership of the Alliance (AKEL’s irrational hostility to NATO was not dogmatic). The party accused him of destroying unity and urged him to withdraw his ‘unacceptable proposal.’
The naysayers also used the proposal as an excuse to attack Anastasiades. EDEK did not want any guarantees and certainly not from NATO. The Citizens’ Alliance, which adopts a negative line on everything related to the talks, predictably expressed dissatisfaction with the proposal. There have even been articles in the papers slamming the idea on the grounds that NATO cannot be trusted.
While the president’s proposal was constructive – a sensible alternative to the existence of guarantor powers – it was a mistake to make it public. Hopefully he will learn from this and avoid public discussion of his ideas before they are even discussed, let alone agreed, at negotiations. There is no reason to give excuses to the naysayers, on both sides of the Green Line, to poison the climate, which is their only objective.
It serves no purpose to have public negotiations among ourselves. There are issues that are better left unsaid until they are agreed and this must become the president’s guiding principle.