Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Taking no prisoners

THE unbearable likeness of the manner in which these present Cyprob talks mirror former talks is not in doubt. They are, as before and always, tortuous. The pattern is always the same; the UN Special Adviser brings the two sides together, creates a congenial environment for communication and encourages negotiators (this time Mavroyianis & Nami Incorporated) at the negotiating table.

Then, when the wheels of fortune seem to be turning in favour of a solution, he invites leaders to dine before setting out a timetable for top-level meetings. Other than the usual platitudes, little or no information on the outcome of these meetings is imparted to the press or opposition political parties.

After nearly two years of talks, President Anastassiades convened parliament last week to tell MP’s little we didn’t already know – because, as usual, there is nothing to tell, and what there is, he’s not telling, other than repeating for the umpteenth time his intention to successfully conclude this round of talks with a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation – nothing less! Given the adverse reactions to his speech by opposition parties and the media, he would have been wiser to have taken Mark Twain’s advice, ‘If you have nothing to say, say nothing’.

The reality is that we will be presented with more or less the same package – a rejigged Annan Plan – the original 2004 plan ending in tears under the leadership of a former president, Tassos Papadopoulos. Back then, negotiations also took two years, both sides first settling on the format, thereafter calling citizens to vote in two separate referenda.

But the form and substance has subtly changed; there are noticeable differences between that package and the ‘90 percent agreed’ present package. No return of Morphou and fewer boundary changes than in 2004.

Free movement for all, though the right for northerners to purchase property and live in the south will be denied by the north to southerners wishing to do the same in the north. Border checkpoints will remain in situ for at least five years – the two sides effectively still partitioned while we assimilate the implications of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. The presidents of both communities will play ‘musical chairs’ with the seat of power. Any gas pumped from the Republic’s EEZ’s will first be ‘metered’ then piped through Turkey. Both sides will retain their ‘armies’. The north will discard the Turkish lira and adopt the euro, and will automatically join us in the EU. Schools on both sides will include the other’s language in curricula. And the most important of all, our two football federations will reunite and we will witness TC teams playing against GC teams.

Come on then! Does it really matter what’s in a rejigged Annan Plan? Even if all of the south’s conditions were met, many would still find reams to complain about.

Some say this present round of talks is nothing less than a covert inverted takeover (when a small public limited company – usually financed by an anonymous backer or merchant bank – buys out a much larger competitor) leading to economies of scale and a unified workforce. And if that’s what negotiators are planning behind the scenes then we must also accept that ‘the anonymous backer’ is in the driving seat and our two leaders are merely figureheads feeding the media with promises of wealth, health and happiness for all, while Turkey and the UN fix parameters to protect their interests.

Rather than further complicate these present Cyprob negotiations with unpalatable presidential pronouncements, which opposition parties vehemently denounce as ‘outside his brief’, we are being sold a solution so complex/vague in its detail that few will dare object for fear of appearing asinine, e.g. last week’s RIK3 radio interview, when the presenter seriously belittled the son of Tassos, leader of DIKO, whose MP’s are now behaving like rats deserting a sinking ship.

And that’s why we will never know, or need to know, the true contents of any plan to resolve the Cyprob. Just vote yes is what we are being told.

Opposition parties can’t get a handle on this, never before seen, strategy of incumbent presidents, negotiators and the UN Special Adviser, who are first eliminating the credibility of opponents so they can sell whatever they want to a disinterested and exhausted electorate fed-up being fed endless Cyprob verbiage – a strategy intent on ‘taking no prisoners’.

Perhaps not such a bad way of doing business, is it, given that previous attempts to solve, in its previous form, the unsolvable, failed lamentably?

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