DESPITE the sour note on which the Geneva conference ended last Thursday night, yesterday’s first meeting, in Mont Pelerin, of the technical committee, made up of technocrats from the three guarantor powers and the two sides in Cyprus went smoothly, according to reports from Switzerland. The committee is set to meet again today and wind up its work on Friday, after which a date would be set for the politicians to return to Geneva to resume negotiations on security and guarantees.
Nobody expects any drama or bickering in Mont Pelerin because the technocrats would not be negotiating, but merely recording each side’s questions regarding security and guarantees and codifying the respective positions. Generally speaking, committees of technocrats gathering information are uneventful affairs, which is no bad thing. The work they do would allow the UN to make preparations and perhaps sound out the sides, regarding their positions, before the re-convening of the conference.
This work could have been done in Geneva last week if it had not been for the Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias’ insistence that it was put off until a later date. He had suggested the technocrats met on January 23, but the UN brought the date forward not wanting to lose the momentum created at the conference. Interestingly, Kotzias, who went on the offensive this week, countering the criticism of his unhelpful role at the conference, would not be representing Greece in Geneva again.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides has repeatedly said that the Geneva conference would be at ‘prime minister level,’ which means that Greece would be represented by Alexis Tsipras. This decision had been taken immediately after the disappointing end of the conference, with the aim of excluding Kotzias from the next gathering. President Anastasiades has a much better relationship with Tsipras who does not share his foreign minister’s hardline views, certain to lead to deadlock.
Inevitably, one of the opposition parties – Edek – could not allow the meetings of the technical committee to take place without finding something negative to say. It questioned the presence of Toumazos Tselepis in the Greek Cypriot team. Tselepis, Akel’s resident expert on the Cyprus problem and member of Anastasiades’ negotiating team, was not a technocrat and therefore had no place in the delegation, said the Edek chief, Marinos Sizopoulos, sounding as if he had uncovered a major scandal. Not even his rejectionist fellow travellers thought this was worth making a fuss about.
They must know they will have plenty to make a fuss about after the technical committee completes its work because that, in all likelihood, would be the final straight of the 20-month peace process.