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Location, location and location

Mont Pèlerin where the leaders will meet in early November

President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci will continue the Cyprus negotiations from November 7-11 in Mont Pelerin in Switzerland.

Switzerland and New York have always been the main hot spots – or in this case cold spots – for high-level talks between Cypriot leaders. In the 21st century Cyprus negotiations, leaders have met several times in each of the two but failed to arrive home with any progress in the talks. We take a look at a the most notable places they met, and one which thankfully never got past the ‘really bad idea’ stage.

Charlie Chaplin and the pilgrim’s mountain
THE breath-taking vistas of Lake Geneva and the excellent cuisine on offer at the Mont Pelerin resort just might stir the two leaders to think out of the box as they brainstorm there from November 7 to 11.

Mont Pelerin (literally, “pilgrim mountain”) is a mountain of the Swiss Prealps, overlooking Lake Geneva in the Swiss canton of Vaud.

Located on vineyard rich foot hills between Lausanne and Montreux, among the verdant Chardonne grape vineyards and wooded paths the hotel is still easily accessible from Geneva and Lausanne and is a 50-minute drive from Geneva International Airport.

Celebrated as one of Switzerland’s finest luxury resorts, Le Mirador Resort & Spa, where the leaders will reportedly be staying, describes itself as “an oasis of calm”. Suites run from around 300 euros a night and up. Also this year it opened a Charlie Chaplin’s museum that will operate until December 31 this year. Chaplin had moved nearby lake Geneva in 1953 and lived there until his death in 1977.

Mont Pelerin Mirador resort where the leaders will reportedly be staying
Mont Pelerin Mirador resort where the leaders will reportedly be staying

The Swiss resort is perhaps best known through the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS), following its inception at a meeting there in 1947.

The MPS is an international organization composed of economists (including eight winners of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences), philosophers, historians, intellectuals, business leaders, and others committed to their understanding of personal and political freedom.

Its founders included Friedrich Hayek, Frank Knight, Karl Popper, Ludwig von Mises, George Stigler, and Milton Friedman.

The society advocates freedom of expression, free market economic policies, the political values of an open society.

Famous members, present and past, include Charles Koch (CEO of Koch Industries), William F. Buckley Jr., and former Czech president Vaclav Klaus.

The MPS has been associated to classical liberalism, to the Austrian school of economics, and to libertarianism.

However some commentators, usually left-leaning, argue that the MPS is a ‘Trojan horse’ for neoliberalism.

Critics say the MPS is an elite globalist organisation that played a leading role in shaping the economic policies of several countries and in creating numerous think-tanks devoted to propagating the theories of the Chicago and Austrian schools of economics.

They have traced early links between some of the MPS founders to Rockefeller money and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Burgenstock was considered well isolated for the talks
Burgenstock was considered well isolated for the talks

Burgenstock: all about energy levels

IN MARCH 2004, during negotiations between Tassos Papadopoulos and Mehmet Ali Talat – Rauf Denktash refused to go – then UN envoy Alvaro de Soto insisted the Burgenstock Hotels complex in Switzerland was the ideal location for the Cyprus talks because it brought all sides more or less under one roof.

But both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides complained about the isolation brought on by being snowed-in. De Soto had said that because of the snow there was not much of a view, outside or inside, and admitted that the complex was “a little bit like a prison” and that one could suppose he was the warden.

The Burgenstock complex, which comprises three separate hotels, is no stranger to big events and celebrity visits. It has twice played host to top secret Bilderberg conferences in 1981 and 1985, Bilderberg, have now gone mainstream but in 2004 they were still a ‘shadowy organisation’ with Henry Kissingers being the biggest shadow.

The complex was also a favourite of the late Hollywood star Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer, who got married at the chapel there, as did Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti.

The Burgenstock hotels were founded by the sons of two peasants in 1870 and now it’s on a par with the Ritz.

Burgenstock’s success – except in the case of the Cyprus problem – is down to a high level of bio-energy in the area, according to one of its managers. He said Swiss scientists had precisely measured the energies and found them to be twice as high as other places in Switzerland.

One Greek Cypriot party leader there at the time was not impressed with talk of energy levels but was pleased with everything else. “The food is excellent, the drink is even better and there are lots of pretty girls around,” he told the Cyprus Mail at the time.

Demetris Christofias and Dervis Eroglu enjoyed the opulence of the Greentree estate in New York
Demetris Christofias and Dervis Eroglu enjoyed the opulence of the Greentree estate in New York

Greentree, New York: a racy backdrop for the talks

IN January 2012, former President Demetris Christofias and then Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu held a round of talks tucked away on a snowy estate on Long Island in New York.

Bad weather had hit the island with inches of snow, sleet and freezing rain causing travel difficulties. Winds were between 25 to 35 mph, and gusts up to 60 mph resulted in downed trees and power outages.

But it was all very cosy and casual inside which was in keeping with the spirit of what Greentree is all about, according to its one-time history as a family home that saw lavish parties.

The Greentree Foundation works with the United Nations and other organisations whose missions are similar in scope and importance as a meeting place to promote human rights, justice and international cooperation. This is in accordance with the wishes of the Whitney family who owned the estate and whose ancestors had arrived in the US on the Mayflower in 1621.

Greentree is a 400-acre property consisting of forested areas, mowed fields and landscaped gardens. Most of the site is made up of upland oak forests with a red maple-hardwood swamp located at the southern portion of the property. The site also supports a variety of wildlife, including many species of birds.

The estate includes numerous large stable buildings, as the Whitney’s were avid horse breeders and racers.

W Payne Whitney purchased the estate in 1904 for his bride, Helen Julia Hay. Five other family farms in the area were added at a later date. When he died in 1927, his son John Hay ‘Jock’ Whitney and his second wife, Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney, occupied the main house.

Betsey Whitney remained in residence there until her death in 1998, having set up the foundation in 1982, the year, Jock Whitney died, aged 78. The Greentree Foundation now occupies the property.

More interesting than the actual estate was the life of Jock Whitney who was the US ambassador to Britain, and publisher of the New York Herald Tribune. While married to his first wife, Jock Whitney was romantically linked to Tallulah Bankhead, Joan Bennett, Paulette Goddard and Joan Crawford.

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard met at one of Whitney’s parties. Jock Whitney was also a lifelong friend of Fred Astaire, sharing a passion for horse racing.

During the 1970s, Whitney was listed as one of the ten wealthiest men in the world.



Sauna diplomacy was an idea no one seemed impressed with
Sauna diplomacy was an idea no one seemed impressed with

And then there was that ‘sauna diplomacy’ idea

IN JULY 2006, during the Papadopoulos-Talat negotiations, then EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn’s suggested the leaders of the two communities should meet in a Finnish sauna to resolve their differences.

Finland held the rotating EU presidency at the time. “Perhaps Finland’s Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja could invite leaders of both communities to the Finnish sauna and use some ‘sauna diplomacy’ to move this issue forward,” said Rehn, who is from the Nordic country.

Local reaction to the concept of sauna diplomacy was one of amusement for the most part.

“Mr Rehn is emotional sometimes. I think he was trying to apply the customs of Finnish hospitality to the situation in Cyprus,” said ex-Foreign Minister George Iacovou. “It was a metaphor. He meant to say that, when you enter a sauna naked, with no baggage, you take no prejudices with you into the room. The naked truth, as they say.”

Iacovou – a veteran of foreign affairs – said he could not recall a high-level meeting taking place in a sauna, be it between Cypriot or foreign leaders.

Former Foreign Minister Nicos Rolandis also had no such recollection from the world annals.

“Obviously, it was humour on Mr. Rehn’s part. He didn’t mean it literally. Besides, it wouldn’t be very wise for Papadopoulos or Talat – they are not exactly young men,” he said.

Then Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashardis agreed that the gist of Rehn’s comment was that the two leaders should intensify their efforts for a settlement. “They have to sweat it out, as the saying goes in Cyprus,” Pashardis offered.

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