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Our View: New found optimism on progress in talks

IT WAS quite astonishing to hear President Anastasiades, on Tuesday, expressing the hope that the peace talks could lead to an agreement before the parliamentary elections scheduled for May. When Mustafa Akinci suggested, a few months ago, that the aim was to have a deal before the elections, Anastasiades and his spokesmen were quick to point out there was no such time-frame, speculating that it would take much longer to resolve the many differences that existed between the two sides.

There was a similar response from the government to comments attributed to the UN envoy Espen Barth Eide about the possibility of having a deal before the end of this year and a referendum in the first half of 2016. Also speaking at The Economist conference on Tuesday, Eide said there was a need to prepare for a settlement “because it could actually happen sooner than you think.” These comments came just a day after Akinci and Anastasiades started the round of talks billed as ‘intensive’.

More importantly, before the intensive phase of the talks began, Eide said there would be no announcement about what had been discussed, after each session. The six sessions scheduled for this month would instead be seen as part of a “continuous meeting” and that any assessments would be made public towards the end. This was a very sensible decision bearing in mind what had taken place in the preceding weeks, during which we were witness to endless public negotiations about property, guarantees and majorities, not to mention attempts to kick-off a blame game that had marked all peace efforts of the past.

Disclosure suited only the opponents of a settlement who used information from the talks, selectively, in order to poison the climate and turn people against a deal. It also forced Anastasiades and his spokesmen to engage frequently in unnecessary exchanges with hardliners which only suited the latter. There is another good reason for not divulging information on every issue discussed. It would make a lot more sense for people to be informed when the main provisions of an overall agreement were finalised, rather than be given a running commentary on every difference that arose in the process.

The hopes expressed for a deal before May could be an indication that, despite the negativity generated by the parties with the assistance of the media, real progress was being made in the talks between the leaders. Why else would Anastasiades now be talking about hope of an agreement before May, without complaining about suffocating time-frames.

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