NEGOTIATIONS on the issue of territory would be held outside Cyprus, once the intensified negotiations on the four open chapters are completed by the end of this month. Mustafa Akinci, who had been talking about this possibility, for some time now, had also said that he would be taking the Turkish Cypriot party leaders to, the so far unknown, venue abroad. He had also said this was the preference of President Anastasiades because he did not want details about the negotiations on territory to be leaked to the media and pressure to be put on the leaders.
Having confirmed the plan for talks abroad, Anastasiades announced that he would also be taking the members of the national council with him. This came as a surprise and seems to defeat the purpose of having the talks abroad, if the purpose was indeed to limit leaks to the media. There is no surer guarantee of leaks to the media than briefing the party leaders about what was being discussed, while it is safe to assume he would not take them with him if he intended to keep them in the dark about the content of the talks.
But if he cannot ensure against leaks to the media, what would be the point of having the talks in another country? Why waste the taxpayer’s money on air-fares, five-star hotel accommodation, per diem payments and security for the eight members of the national council, if the objective of keeping the talks confidential would not be achieved? Under the circumstances, it would be better to have these talks in Cyprus where Anastasiades would not feel obliged to brief the party leaders after every meeting with Akinci. He could brief them once he had reached a deal or an impasse.
Perhaps the president had reasoned that there would be leaks to the media by the Turkish Cypriot party leaders anyway and it would be better having the party leaders with him in a foreign country rather than back home, appearing on television every night stirring opposition to a settlement with no-one from the government to respond to them.
Emerging from yesterday’s national council meeting, all the leaders opposed to a settlement said they saw no point of the talks on territory being held abroad, although they would accompany the president if invited. They obviously had understood that the real reason the talks on territory – the final phase of talks before the calling of five-party meeting to discuss security and guarantees – would be held abroad is because nobody wants them to drag on for months. This was a clever way of imposing a time-frame as the two leaders and their respective entourages could not be abroad for longer than a couple of weeks, at most, haggling over territory.
The proposed road-map and time-frame that Anastasiades had rejected in New York have been brought in through the back door by the UN. It is no bad thing.