By Loucas Charalambous
I HAD WRITTEN last week that if we wanted to solve the Cyrus problem this could be done in 30 days, but if we did not want to we could be talking for another 40 years.
Last week’s public spat between the negotiators of the two sides, I think confirms this view. It is also confirmed by many other actions by the political leaders of the two communities, who, it has become apparent, have abandoned the prudence they showed to start with and have embarked on the senseless game of trading accusations for internal consumption.
The row over the document on the convergences is absurd. On the part of the Turkish Cypriots, negotiator Kudret Ozersay accuses our side of trying to re-negotiate issues about which convergences had been recorded in the Talat-Christofias talks and insists that everything in the document should be accepted.
On our side, Andreas Mavroyiannis rejects all convergences and claims that the relevant document was not on the negotiating table.
In the convergences document, there are many issues that have been agreed and it makes no sense to re-visit them. But there are also issues that could do with better solutions.
One of these is the much-debated procedure for the election of president and vice-president of the federal government, an issue that was linked to the ‘weighted’ voting of the Greek Cypriots.
I had in the past argued that this was a procedure that would create friction in the event of a settlement.
In practice it would allow, for instance, 70 per cent of the Greek Cypriots to overturn even a 60 per cent majority in the voting of the Turkish Cypriots for the election of a vice-president.
This is why it seems astonishing the Turkish side insists on this ‘convergence’, when the Annan plan offered the ideal solution for our case – a federal council which would allow each member to act as president.
On our part, President Anastasiades gives the impression that he is only interested in negotiations being in progress and not in a solution.
There could be no other explanation for his support of the snail’s pace at which the procedure is moving, on the pretext that every issue under discussion must ‘mature’. But our problem is 50 years old. Are we still waiting for it to mature?
In this respect there is another peculiarity. While Anastasiades declares at every opportunity that time is working against the Greek Cypriots – and he is right – it is the Turkish side which seems to be in a hurry for a settlement and not the president.
All the noise being made about the confidence-building measures (CBMs) and the return of the fenced area of Famagusta is indicative of this lack of urgency. The efforts being made by our side over the CBM, are greater than those devoted to the settlement talks.
If we used all the time devoted to the CBM in the pursuit of a comprehensive agreement it is likely that we would reach a settlement sooner and this would also include Famagusta.
In last Sunday’s article, I wrote that there was only one way for the talks procedure to be speeded up – putting the Annan plan on the negotiating table and making the necessary changes to it.
This is the only way to salvage the territorial adjustments, envisaged by that plan.
So if Anastasiades is seriously interested in the procedure being concluded, this is the only road. The other road – slow paced talks, CBMs and waiting for maturity of issues – leads us deeper into a labyrinth from which we will never escape.