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Our View: Worrying signs loom ahead of Swiss talks

UN Special Adviser for Cyprus Espen Barth Eide

WHAT were the odds the common text, prepared by UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide, would have been accepted without complaints by both sides? Even 1000 to 1 would be generous odds, considering the Cyprus problem tradition of never being satisfied and finding fault with everything the UN prepares. As expected, neither side approved of what Eide presented to the negotiators yesterday and according to reports the Norwegian would be discussing the content with both sides with a view to finalising it before the conference begins in Switzerland next week.

One newspaper reported that Mustafa Akinci considered the document unacceptable and was due to fly to Ankara for discussions last night. The Turkish Cypriot leader believed that Eide fully adopted the Greek Cypriot positions. The report was attributed to unnamed sources, Akinci, presumably, not wanting to make his objections public. The Cyprus government followed a similar line, avoiding comment, even though, it could have been the source of the negative report in Phileleftheros, which claimed that the nine-page document “appears to hide many traps” and contained many “features that are of concern to Nicosia.” The paper also identified a British plot, saying that “through the complexity of the document, Eide skilfully attempted to hide British mines that he had put down in co-operation with London.”

There was no need for the government to tip off Phileleftheros about the traps and mines in the document, as the rejectionist parties were more than happy demonise the document. Dr Eleni Theocharous said it contained the “Turkish positions in disguise.” Dr Sizopoulos saw “great dangers” hidden in the text, as it envisaged the discussion of other chapters such as governance in Switzerland. A Diko announcement also identified big dangers, in Eide’s attempt to incorporate the constitution into the chapter on security; it also felt that the continuation of the Cyprus Republic was not secured. The reading of the document in the north also was determined by each party’s stance in relation to a settlement.

Could Eide have prepared a document that satisfied everyone on both sides? Of course not, because the talks’ process has always been a zero-sum game for both sides and it does not look like changing even as we prepare for its final phase. It is a very worrying sign, indicating that neither is willing to leave behind the old habits and adopt the positive, constructive approach, which would give the conference in Crans-Montana the chance of being a success. Worse still, it is highly unlikely that attitudes will change in the few days left before the start of the conference.

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