PRESIDENT Anastasiades gave a televised news conference last night and today will be briefing the party leaders about what happened in Mont Pelerin. Mustafa Akinci who spoke to journalists on Tuesday, blaming Anastasiades for the impasse, will today brief the ‘parliament’ in the north, so we should be getting both sides of the story.
The most encouraging development is that nobody is prepared to give up on the process right now. The international community has called for a continuation of the talks while the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor Espen Barth Eide will reportedly return to Cyprus next week to tell the two leaders, according to CNA, that “the game is not over.” The prevailing view is that too much progress had been achieved to abandon the process now.
Before then, Anastasiades should have a serious discussion with the prime minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras and forcefully demand that Greece adopts a supportive role, instead of undermining the process as it had done in the last week. Anastasiades has a share of the blame for standing next to Tsipras and nodding approvingly while the PM declared that Greece would only take part in a multi-party meeting only if there was “agreement for the abolition of the anachronistic system of guarantees and the full withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island.”
It was as if the president was endorsing this absolute position, which verged on the absurd as it ruled out any negotiations at the five-party conference; Greece’s foreign ministry had also made it clear that Greece did not want any chapters other than security and guarantees to be discussed at the conference. By setting such a condition in order to attend– no negotiations on anything – the five-party conference, Greece would, in effect, be blocking the final phase of the process from taking place.
Was Tsipras not aware that the conference would tie up the loose ends in the talks and aim to reach a compromise on the issue of guarantees? Did he not know that the Turkish side was not willing to abolish guarantees but was prepared to discuss an alternative arrangement? On what grounds was the Greek government ruling out such a possibility, before it had even been discussed? The Greek Cypriots may have been prepared to live with for the sake of reunification and Tsipras had no right blocking it.
Incredibly, on Tuesday, after the collapse of the talks, foreign minister Nikos Kotzias distributed a non-paper via email which repeated Greece’s irrational conditions. He withdrew it a few hours later, but it was astonishing he persisted with positions that had caused such damage to the Switzerland talks. The Turkish foreign ministry, in contrast, issued a statement saying that “a highly valuable opportunity has been missed,” and stressed that “Turkey’s resolve to finding a viable solution to the Cyprus question continues.”
Athens could not even bring itself to say the right things, after the deadlock, creating the impression that the obstacle to a settlement was Greece, which had never been the case in the past. Irrespective of Greece’ motives and designs, before the process resumes, Anastasiades must make it very clear to Tsipras that he should fully support efforts to strike a deal, rather than placing obstacles.