SOME OF the confusion, which preceded the Anastasiades-Eroglu meeting, with each side claiming that the Cyprus talks were at a different stage, was cleared after the leaders met yesterday. There had been contradictory messages from the two sides in the last few weeks, with the Turkish Cypriots claiming that the negotiations were on the verge of entering the give-and-take stage, while the Greek Cypriots insisted that very little had been achieved at the talks and there was a long road ahead.
In short, one side was playing up the alleged progress and the other was not just playing it down, but arguing that it was non-existent. The comments made by the two leaders after the meeting gave some indication of what was going on. President Anastasiades said he had pointed out “the inconsistency of (Turkish Cypriot) proposals in relation to the joint declaration.” However he and Eroglu had agreed that the initial phase of the dialogue, regarding the starting positions of the two sides, had to be completed as soon as possible so that there could be more detailed talks.
Eroglu was a bit more forthcoming about the second phase, saying that bridging proposals would be submitted. Perhaps this was what the Turkish Cypriots meant when they said that the talks would soon enter the ‘give-and-take’ phase. Eroglu also mentioned that the first phase, the screening procedure, needed to be completed the soonest so that proper negotiations could begin; confidence-building measures were also discussed.
Was the inconsistency of the Turkish Cypriot proposals in relation to the joint declaration addressed? Would another month-and-a-half be devoted to the screening procedure or would the proposals that are out of line with the declaration be modified? Although it has been said that both sides were inclined to take tough starting positions, the traditional tendency for getting caught up in procedural disagreements remains as strong as ever. Why would anything change this time?
The joint declaration that was to set the boundaries within which the two sides would talk has not had the desired effect, according to Anastasiades. For Eroglu, it does not appear to matter.
At least we now know where the two sides stand and can understand the drastically different interpretations of the talks so far. All we can do now is wait and see whether the screening procedure will be completed speedily, as both leaders would like, or whether more time will be wasted on what is essentially the preliminary part of the talks.