HOW MANY more times will the UN Secretary-General’s envoy, Jane Holl Lute, have to meet the two leaders before she finally concedes defeat and calls an end to her efforts? On Sunday she paid her fourth visit to Cyprus, but once again failed to achieve real progress towards the agreement of the so-called terms of reference that would allow the resumption of talks.
In fact, agreement of the terms of reference appear to have been put aside for now, with Lute reportedly trying to arrange a meeting between the two sides, a move which was also unsuccessful. President Anastasiades had sought a meeting in Lute’s presence with Mustafa Akinci, but the latter demanded that the issue of political equality be clarified first. If “all the muddy waters were cleared,” regarding political equality, Akinci would have no objection to a three-, four- or five-party meeting, he said.
Anastasiades, who had no intention of clarifying the issue of political equality, objected to a four-party meeting which included Greece and Turkey proposed by Lute, because, according to the government spokesman, Prodromos Prodromou, “the idea was not balanced.” The balance was not secured in a meeting of the two communities and the two guarantor powers, because Anastasiades was also President of the Republic, said Prodromou. This is the old argument about the Cyprus Republic also being represented in meetings with the guarantor powers.
What Akinci is seeking with regard to equality is not very clear, with Prodromou claiming that every time the issue is discussed the “demand is expanded, in relation to what had been discussed in the past”. Is it? It was Anastasiades who has been changing his tune on the issue of political equality, raising all kinds of objections to it in the last few months, arguing quite forcefully that a meaningful vote for the Turkish Cypriots on all issues would create a dysfunctional state. His assessment may be correct, but why had he never raised the issue when talks were actually taking place?
It is Anastasiades who has been coming up with new ideas about a settlement, distancing himself from convergences achieved in the talks. After agreeing to a federal state with many authorities, he subsequently came up with the idea of the ‘loose federation’ in which central government powers would be limited. He then started expressing serious doubts about political equality, attempting to redefine it. There was also the big row about the Guterres framework, with the president insisting there was a second version for which the UN minutes had been lost.
On Sunday, he came up with another new suggestion – the political system should be a parliamentary democracy in which there would be a rotating prime minister, while the president, who would be a figurehead without powers would always be Greek Cypriot and the vice-president, a deputy figurehead without powers, Turkish Cypriot. The whole process has become a parody, with Akinci, refusing to budge, and Anastasiades constantly changing his positions. The only question now is when the UN will give up this futile process.