THE VISITS of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot negotiators to Ankara and Athens respectively, went very well, it was reported. But it seems positive news does not receive anywhere near as much coverage as bad news. If there had been the slightest bit of tension or some minor disagreement over procedure, the media would have made it their main story, as they thrive on negative news.
But as is often said, no news is good news. And there was no real news either from Athens or Ankara. The Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis said he had a good meeting with the Turkish foreign ministry’s Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, while sources close to him said that he was given “a very warm welcome”. The Turkish Cypriot negotiator Kudret Ozersay, who met the Greek foreign ministry’s general secretary said the meeting exceeded his expectations and described it as “the start of a healthy dialogue.”
It has also helped that the two sides have agreed to keep the content of these meetings out of the public domain, in order to help the peace procedure. This is the best policy given the inclination of politicians and media that are opposed to a settlement to take any bit of available information, twist it, and use it to turn the public against the talks. The same policy, appears to be in place with regard to the Ozersay-Mavroyiannis talks about which very little is being said in public. In fact the UN Secretary-General had advised both sides, before the start of talks, to avoid public statements.
Turkish Cypriot leader, Dervis Eroglu showed his true colours by interpreting Ozersay’s visit to Athens as an opening of the door to more Turkish Cypriot meetings with other countries. This was a dig at the Cyprus government, which had tried to block such contacts in the past, and perhaps an attempt to stir Greek Cypriot anger but it was ignored.
Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu took a positive line, describing the visit as ‘historic’ which it was. For decades Greek Cypriot politicians had been arguing that the key to a solution was in Ankara and now the representative of the Republic is conducting talks with the Turkish government. This was a historic and ground-breaking development which should not be underestimated because the direct involvement of Turkey and Greece changes the format of the talks.
Whether the direct involvement of Ankara and Athens will prove a game-changer remains to be seen, but it has certainly raised expectations.