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Our View: Cyprus talks might also benefit from some outside help

IN HIS televised Easter message, President Anastasiades, as is the custom, drew parallels with the hope offered by Resurrection and the future of the country. A message of hope was offered by the resurrection, but also “results from the work that we have accomplished as a society and as a state both for the reorganisation of our country and for the solution of our national problem.” Now, he said, “we can stand on our own power with confidence, without the support of the Troika and without a memorandum on financial assistance.”

This was not the only cause for the message of hope. The message of the Resurrection “strengthens our resolve for the great effort we have been making during the last year for the solution to the Cyprus problem, searching for a solution that will be viable, functional and will open up prospects for a peaceful future for the citizens of our country.” With everyone’s co-operation “we can overcome any obstacles so that 2016 will be the last year of the painful catastrophe that has lasted for 42 years now.”

Noble sentiments, but the President underestimates a crucial factor in his message of hope – the role played by outsiders such as the European Commission and the IMF in the reorganisation of our country and the placing of our economy on a healthy basis. Could we have achieved this on our own, without the Troika’s diktats linked to threats of the withdrawal of financial assistance if we failed to comply? If we were left to our own devices, with our irresponsible opposition parties calling the shots we would have accomplished very little as a society and as a state. It suffices to say that Anastasiades’ predecessor, Demetris Christofias, had obdurately refused to sign a memorandum for assistance, choosing state bankruptcy over austerity measures.

We mention this because the Cyprus peace talks could also do with assistance from outsiders, even if we have ruled out the option of arbitration, after the experience of 2004. In the current procedure, the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser, Espen Barth Eide, has the role of facilitator, rather than mediator, which limits his power to make a more dynamic contribution. This is a continuation of the Christofias-Talat mantra about “Cypriot ownership” of the talks, which led nowhere. Can things be different this time, given the two leaders have been talking about governance and the property issue for almost a year now without reaching agreement – some convergences were reported two weeks ago but this could hardly be described as a breakthrough.

Perhaps more involvement from outsiders – in the form of mild arbitration – could speed things up and encourage the two leaders to make the big leap forward. As we know, our respective leaders are terrified of taking tough decisions because they cannot cope with the strong domestic criticism these would provoke. If they could blame them on the outsiders – as the Anastasiades government repeatedly did in the case of the unpopular measures during the assistance programme – it might be easier to sell the decisions to the public and steal the thunder of the opposition parties.

 

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