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Our View: A failed start to pointless talks

Talks are progressing at a snail's pace

IT IS VERY difficult to say what is actually going on, if anything, at the Cyprus talks. Monday’s long meeting between President Anastasiades and Dervis Eroglu, which was supposed to have cleared things up, added to the general confusion, giving the impression that the two sides are on a different wavelength, each pursuing its own agenda regardless.

The funny thing was that meetings of the two leaders were supposed to help the talks move along at a faster pace, clearing the way for the negotiators to make real progress. If the statements that followed Monday’s meeting were anything to go by, the exact opposite has been achieved, the two leaders introducing new areas of disagreement, both in relation to procedure and substance.

As we depend on the information given out selectively by both sides we cannot reach any safe conclusions, especially as what we hear regularly changes. To start with, it was reported that Eroglu rejected the Talat-Christofias convergences and wanted the talks to start from scratch. But did Anastasiades accept the convergences? Not all of them, because on Monday he expressed his opposition to the rotating presidency and reportedly made a ‘president and vice-president’ proposal that was unacceptable to Eroglu.

Then there is the issue of the procedure, with Anastasiades demanding the submission of proposals on all chapters of the Cyprus problem including territory and security and Eroglu refusing to do so. Without this being done it is not possible to move to the third phase of the process which is supposed to be the ‘give and take’ negotiations, at which stage the settlement would supposedly be finalised.

But it does not appear like the third phase will arrive any time soon as the two sides have agreed on more time-consuming issues such as the return to the idea of the technical committees. Apparently, a committee would now be set up to discuss issues relating to the EU, which had to be agreed in the past and are not an issue because the European Commission has made it clear it would accept anything the two sides agreed.

The problem, however, is that the two sides do not seem prepared to agree on anything, which was why they were back at their default position – the blame game – in the last few days. How many more times do we have to hear about the Greek Cypriots ignoring the facts on the ground and Turkish Cypriots being intransigent? Many more, we are afraid, because, as we all know, both sides have acquired an expertise in failed negotiations.

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