In the end, as was widely expected, President Anastasiades dropped the conditions he set for attending an international conference in Geneva. At Sunday night’s dinner in New York, hosted by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, he and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci agreed to attend the conference at which the three guarantor powers would participate, while the EU would have observer status. Not surprisingly, Anastasiades agreed to the procedure, which he had rejected when Espen Barth Eide had proposed it in Nicosia a couple of weeks earlier.
Speaking on CyBC radio on Tuesday morning, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides insisted that the president had not back-tracked by citing the ‘common text’ that would be agreed by all participants ahead of the conference. The ‘common text’ would try to “secure a common approach on what we are trying to achieve in relation to security and guarantees,” said Christodoulides in what was a clear attempt to save face. Anastasiades’ proposal for a new methodology – whereby the issue of security had to be agreed before anything else was discussed – was acknowledged by the UN but bypassed. While the chapter of security was to be discussed first, there would be parallel negotiations on the other chapters.
Christodoulides, who conceded the ‘common text’ would in no way be an agreement on security, is more comfortable talking about the procedure than the substance of the talks. It was no coincidence that he was vague about the conference, implying it was not a certainty. This was certainly not the impression given by Eide at a news conference at the UN on Monday. The Norwegian said the two leaders had agreed to attend a Geneva conference and he expected this to take place in the second half of June. The only reason a specific start date was not announced was because Greece, Turkey and Britain would also have to be consulted. He also speculated that it could last as long as two weeks as the plan was to achieve a result.
On his return to Cyprus on Tuesday afternoon, Akinci did not mince his words, saying that the time of negotiations on each issue separately was over. Geneva should be a result-oriented conference as the time had come to take all the important decisions. Similar sentiments were expressed by Eide on Monday when he said that at Geneva it would become clear whether there could be a settlement or the problem was unsolvable. The Cypriot people also have a right to know.