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Our View: No choice but to leave the talks

UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor Espen Barth Eide leaving the Presidential Palace after meeting with President Anastasiades

MEETING the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor Espen Barth Eide yesterday was a very peculiar way of President Anastasiades implementing the National Council’s decision to withdraw from the talks. How could he have suspended our side’s participation in the talks, but still be meeting Eide? It is not as if yesterday’s meeting at the presidential palace was held to discuss the threat of Islamic State or global warming.

Leaving the presidential palace, after the meeting, Eide said he would carry on talking with the two sides with the aim of developing ideas that would lead to a settlement. He said he had a constructive exchange with Anastasiades and added that “we have defined a set of issues to discuss.” Despite Anastasiades’ withdrawal from the talks and the suspension of the meetings of the negotiators, the peace process would continue in a different format. The Special Advisor would discuss issues with each leader separately.

At least this was an answer to those who claimed that Anastasiades used Turkey’s plans to carry out gas explorations in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone as an excuse to quit the talks. Quitting the talks is easier said than done, especially now that the US is piling the pressure for some kind of deal and the Secretary-General has appointed a new Special Advisor to give impetus to the process. Eide underlined his determination to get results, repeating his assertion that “there are strategic reasons why the status quo is utterly unacceptable.” This could also be interpreted as a warning that the two sides would not be allowed to scupper the talks because strategic reasons make the settlement an imperative.

Eide said there was another thing that the Greek Cypriot leadership should bear in mind. “Oil and gas can be either a blessing or a curse,” he said adding that “if it becomes a source of tension, it will be a problem for everyone and then it will be more of a curse than a solution.” Although the political leadership is in denial, it is becoming increasingly obvious that without a settlement, it would be extremely difficult for Cyprus to exploit hydrocarbon deposits in its EEZ, because Turkey would constantly be interfering and causing tension.

Turkey’s arrogant, intimidating tactics are a violation of international law, but who will stop her? None of the measures decided by the National Council on Tuesday are likely to deter Ankara and no other country is ever likely to risk hostilities with Turkey in order to protect Cyprus’ sovereign rights. Despite being in the right, Cyprus is in a weak position because it cannot defend its sovereign rights. This is why Anastasiades met Eide yesterday, despite the fact that he had withdrawn from the peace talks.

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