Tuesday’s meeting of the two leaders at the house of the UN Special Representative strengthened the view that the Cyprus peace process has degenerated into farce. The process is now moving backwards, with the two leaders digging up a confidence-building measure they agreed in 2015 but never implemented because the Cyprus government believed it would lead to an upgrading of the pseudo-state.
Opposition parties still believe this danger exists and criticised President Anastasiades for agreeing linking the mobile telephony networks of the two sides.
They should not be overly concerned as the government could still find reasons not to implement the measure as it had done in 2015 when it was first agreed. But even if this goes ahead it is not a sign of progress, but a reminder that nothing of substance is happening and we are back to square one – engaging in confidence building in the hope that it would improve the climate so that the talks would resume in June, because the two sides would have other, more important things to do until then.
The truth is that the climate is toxic and both sides have a share of the responsibility for this. Linking the mobile telephony networks is not going to improve the existing climate and neither will the exchange of cultural works or the de-mining of certain areas. These are all meaningless gestures that serve as a distraction from the reality that the peace process is dead and neither side is prepared to admit this, preferring instead to engage in confidence-building theatre while pretending they are making big efforts to agree the terms of reference that will lead to a resumption of talks. First, the missing minutes of the July 4, 2017 meeting must be found.
But even if they are found, Anastasiades, to be on the safe side, has another red line to prevent the start of talks – Mustafa Akinci’s insistence on the positive vote. Akinci would have to realise that “we will not be led to creative dialogue if he insists that the Turkish Cypriot community should have a defining role in decisions.” He knows the positive vote is inextricably linked to political equality, which he is also questioning and which neither Akinci nor any other Turkish Cypriot politicians would be willing to water down. Apart from having an unbridgeable difference on the positive vote, the two leaders, according to Anastasiades, “agreed to do everything in their power so that such terms of reference are formed that would allow us to enter a creative and effective dialogue.”
This farce is set to play for a long time.