Was there ever the slightest doubt that the party leaders and the president would have rejected Mustafa Akinci’s proposal for setting up a joint committee to administer hydrocarbons? Certainly not, even though the government had avoided taking an official position until Tuesday’s meeting of the president with the leaders.
The government had restricted itself to giving uncredited information to the press claiming the proposal was thought up by Turkey’s foreign ministry with the aim of destroying the latest effort for a resumption of the talks. We can only speculate that President Anastasiades did not want to take personal responsibility for turning down the proposal because he knew that its rejection would not be a smart move.
Then again, considering the government has repeatedly shown that its priority is pandering to the hard-line parties of the centre with idle claims that it would incur a political cost to Turkey for the violations of the Cypriot EEZ, it cannot now climb down and even consider discussing a joint committee. But it chose to make the rejection a collective decision of the parties so that nobody could blame Anastasiades for making the wrong choice.
As long as the rejectionist camp is on side, Anastasiades does not seem to care that he has handed Turkey a strong argument for justifying carrying on with its illegal drilling. Ankara will argue that it is carrying out the drilling because the Cyprus government refused to share the natural resources with the Turkish Cypriot and have Anastasiades’ rejection to back this up. This will substantially weaken the case of the Cyprus government as it would have ignored the position of the UN and US about the equitable sharing of hydrocarbons.
An alternative line of action would have been for Anastasiades to signal his readiness for settlement that would automatically solve the hydrocarbons dispute. He could have told the UN Secretary-General that he was ready to attend a conference, like the one at Crans Montana, in order to finalise a settlement. He is not, however, prepared to do this either. Instead, he would send a letter to the UNSG, said the under-secretary to the president, explaining that the main objective was “the creation of good conditions for the resumption of talks.”
The president knows that the resumption of talks could only take place at a Crans Montana-type conference with a view to finalising a deal, but he does not want to follow this path, so he is trapped. And there is no obvious way out for him.