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Our View: UNSG’s words falling on deaf ears

UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is having another stab at ‘encouraging’ the Cyprus process forward as the leaders prepare for their fourth meeting tomorrow, and a fifth on Monday.

In his latest report on UNFICYP to the Security Council he urges the leaders to sustain the ‘current momentum’ though there does not seem to be much going on in the way of momentum.

The leaders have met only three times since the negotiations began on February 11. In May US Secretary of State Joe Biden got them to agree to ‘speed up the process’ by meeting twice a month. There was a meeting on June 2 and one slated for June 23 but President Nicos Anastasiades was admitted to hospital that weekend.

Their respective negotiators, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Kudret Ozersay meet regularly and there has been some movement in the technical committees, for example, the signing of a deal on Tuesday for the long-awaited restoration of Apostolos Andreas.

But Ban wants the two sides to take concrete steps on a range of measures, ‘as a sign of their commitment to the peace process’. He urges both sides to work with the UN force on military confidence building measures.

He also asks them to refrain from negative rhetoric ‘about the process and each other’. Neither of these requests are likely to come about. While both sides appear willing to cooperate on religious and cultural grounds, military cooperation, even through the UN, seems like a lot to ask at this stage of the game.
Refraining from negative rhetoric is also likely to go unheeded as it’s the raison d’etre for politicians on both sides in order to score points.

We witnessed this in the past week when the government officially reprimanded foreign ambassadors for having lunch in the north with Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Ozdil Nami.

Ever since the cross-visits of the negotiators to Athens and Ankara earlier in the year – the first time a Turkish Cypriot leader’s aide had held sanctioned talks with senior foreign officials – Ozersay has been running around Europe and the US meeting senior officials.

Reading the subsequent headlines in the Turkish Cypriot media one couldn’t help but think that ‘who met with Ozersay’ was far more important to the Turkish Cypriot side than what was discussed or its relevance to the negotiations. To them it was a step towards recognition.

Nami’s subsequent lunches for ambassadors, and posting a photo on Facebook, obviously pushed the envelope a little too far for the Greek Cypriot side to stomach and it stepped in with the note verbale.

In a way the incident is a microcosm of the talks’ macrocosm. One side exerts all of its efforts in trying to prove they are a separate entity while the other exerts all of its efforts to prove them wrong. Until they both start working towards the same goal, Ban may have to keep banging his head off a brick wall.

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