ON SUNDAY night the CyBC television news reported that Turkey had officially asked the UN for the resumption of the talks to be put back to June. It did not inform viewers when this official request was made nor whether any confirmation had been given by the UN. Eventually, the reporter revealed that the information came from “diplomatic sources” which is code language for information given by the Cyprus government, usually the foreign ministry.
The CyBC report also gave a reason for this delay – there would be local elections in Turkey, but it did not mention when these would be held, because this might make its report less convincing. They are scheduled for March. There will be elections in Cyprus in May for the European parliament, which raises questions about who had actually sought putting back the resumption of talks to June, assuming there is even a tiny possibility of a return to the negotiating table.
Speaking on Trito radio show on Tuesday morning, Akel leader Andros Kyprianou mentioned that at the last national council meeting, President Anastasiades said the talks could not resume before June because of elections in Turkey. When he asked Anastasiades when these elections would be held, he was told in March, Kyprianou said, implying that this was an excuse by the president. To stress the point, he reminded listeners that Turkey attended the first international conference on Cyprus despite its crucial constitutional referendum.
The truth is that “elections in Turkey” have been used time and again by the Anastasiades government as an excuse for avoiding or delaying engagement in talks. It is an old and familiar ploy used repeatedly by this president’s team as a delaying tactic. The CyBC news was used to attribute the latest election delay to the Turkish government, thus sparing Anastasiades criticism, especially as this excuse had already been questioned by Kyprianou at the national council. In fact the president used the CyBC story as an answer “to all those who criticised me for not doing everything possible to resume the dialogue”.
It is entirely possible that Anastasiades told the UN that he could not return to the talks before the European parliament elections in May. Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, meanwhile, claimed talks would not resume until June because of the European elections in the south. The Turks are probably as keen as Anastasiades on avoiding a resumption of the talks but not because of local elections.
Anastasiades is more concerned with the renewal of the Unficyp mandate. He has secured another six-month extension now by engaging in consultations over resuming talks with UN envoy Jane Holl Lute and he will hope to secure another extension in June by taking part in more preparations for resuming talks. It may sound far-fetched, but for Anastasiades maintaining the status quo has become the sole objective of his Cyprus problem policy.