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Our View: Why is Guterres continuing this futile game?

Antonio Guterres: there are low expectations for real progress or agreement on the terms of reference

THE government was “satisfied” with the UN secretary-general’s report on his Good Offices mission, reported the Cyprus News Agency, citing diplomatic sources. An unofficial copy of the report, which had been given to the UN Security Council on Tuesday evening, said the UNSG’s envoy, Jane Holl Lute, would continue her efforts to secure agreement between the two sides on the drafting of terms of reference that would lead to a resumption of the talks.

The news agency quoted the diplomatic source as saying that “despite the difficulties written down, the report highlights the clear intention of the UN secretary-general to continue the effort with a view to achieving progress in the process.” Keeping some kind of UN-sponsored process going has become an end in itself even if Lute’s efforts have gone nowhere, with very few prospects of success. Antonio Guterres’ report said, among other things “there are low expectations for real progress or agreement on the terms of reference.”

The obvious question is why would Lute keep visiting if expectations over any real progress are low? How many more meetings must she have with the two leaders before she finally concludes there can be no agreement on the terms of reference? The two leaders cannot even agree on a format to meet each other face-to-face. President Anastasiades wants a face-to-face meeting with Mustafa Akinci in Lute’s presence while Akinci wants a meeting with Anastasiades in the presence of representatives of Greece and Turkey. So what is the chance they will agree on the terms of reference?

Even the Disy leader, Averof Neophytou’s attempt at putting a positive spin on the report, saying the UNSG “opened a new window of hope”, betrayed low expectations. The report merely opened a “window of hope” but not even Neophytou could bring himself to talk of a window of opportunity. The differences between the two sides are so great that we can only hope – perhaps we should pray as well – they might be bridged. But as long as Lute keeps visiting there is hope, and that seems to be all we want. An ongoing process that offers a “window of hope” but nothing else, certainly nothing that leads to a resumption of the talks.

It is astonishing that the UNSG is willing to maintain this futile game, wasting the organisation’s resources and allowing the two sides to keep pretending that they want to reach an agreement on the terms of reference. If the leaders wanted to return to the talks this would have already happened, but it seems the UNSG cannot see what is so blatantly obvious to everyone else.

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