PRESIDENT Anastasiades may repeatedly declare his unflagging commitment to finding a Cyprus settlement but he does not seem prepared to make the extra effort required to achieve this. If anything, he has been reluctant to give substance to this theoretical commitment, finding pretexts not to fully engage in negotiations.
Before the business of the Barbaros had surfaced last autumn, he had refused to accept the Christofias-Talat convergences, seeking instead to start the talks from scratch. Apart from unnecessarily delaying the process, he gave Dervis Eroglu the opportunity to ignore everything that had been agreed and impose his own agenda which led to continual deadlocks. Was this the president’s objective or had he made a big error of judgement?
His quitting of the talks because of the violations of the Cypriot EEZ by the Barbaros would suggest that his commitment to a settlement was not as strong as he had claimed. All the parties supported this decision, but the truth is that the president did not have to make such a big issue out of it. A Navtex had been issued by Turkey during the Christofias presidency, but Christofias avoided playing it up and remained at the negotiations.
The Anastasiades government, in contrast, presented it as being tantamount to a declaration of war, spoke about another Turkish invasion and left the negotiations. Unless Turkey rescinded the Navtex and the Barbaros left the Cypriot EEZ he would not return to the talks, he declared. The dispute has now been resolved, but not because of Anastasiades’ tough stance, as has been claimed. Turkey will not be issuing another Navtex because the companies contracted by the Cyprus government to search for gas will not be conducting any exploratory drilling – the reason for Barbaros’ violations of the Cypriot EEZ – in the foreseeable future.
This has opened the way for the resumption of the talks, but on Sunday Anastasiades appeared to have set a new condition for this. Speaking in Limassol, he said: “Our participation in a procedure that would, in effect, accept the disputing of the national sovereignty of the Cyprus republic should be expected by nobody.” But the fact is the Turkish side had been disputing the republic’s national sovereignty for the last 40 years, so what is Anastasiades playing at?
Is he calculatingly setting a condition for the resumption of the talks that he knows the Turks would never satisfy? If he insists on the satisfaction of such a condition, which no president has ever set before, it would be a show of bad faith and taken to mean that, despite the rhetoric, he is not remotely interested in a negotiated settlement. But if this is the case he should be honest enough to say so instead of misleading everyone.
It is not as if Anastasiades can fool anyone, at home or abroad, into believing he is interested in a settlement if he keeps finding pretexts not to participate in the procedure.