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Our View: Face-saving formula needed for talks to resume

President Nicos Anastasiades

BARELY 24 hours had passed after President Anastasiades had made public his proposal for the resumption of talks and Turkey issued another NAVTEX that would reportedly remain in force until April. Anastasiades had proposed that the sharing of the hydrocarbons between the two communities could be discussed at the final stages of the settlement talks, when the territorial adjustments were being negotiated.

This was the concession he was willing to make so that talks could resume, but he had also set a condition – that there would be no new NAVTEX and the Turkish ship Barbaros would stay out of the Cyprus EEZ. This was obviously not good enough for Turkey. One of the demands of the Turkish side had been satisfied – Anastasiades agreed to discuss the sharing of the hydrocarbons at the peace talks – but the second, the suspension of drilling by the Cyprus Republic, was not.

This may have been the reason Ankara issued another NAVTEX 24 hours after Anastasiades’ proposal was made public. We assume Turkey, which always makes a point of underlining its position of strength, was not prepared to make any concession before all its demands were satisfied. There is a tiny probability that, despite the issuing of the NAVTEX, the Barbaros would not sail into the Cyprus EEZ, but Turkey has not accustomed us to idle threats, let alone acts of goodwill for the sake of the peace talks.

Poor old Anastasiades has come under attack from all the political parties for his proposal – the hardliners have lambasted him for agreeing to the inclusion of hydrocarbons in the peace talks, while AKEL has accused him of not making a concrete proposal for the sharing of the natural gas. The attacks would have been an irrelevance if his concession led to a resumption of the talks, but the Turks have refused to budge putting him in a very awkward position.

The deadlock is threatening to become permanent. The only person who might be able to break it is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Cyprus Espen Barth Eide who is reportedly in contact with both sides. It is a thankless task as both sides are entrenched in their positions, but everything now depends on the Norwegian diplomat finding a face-saving formula that would allow the resumption of talks.

However, with the Turks insisting on their demand for the suspension of the drilling and Anastasiades not willing to suffer the humiliation of giving in to it, the prospects of success of Eide’s salvage operation seem rather dim.

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