THE next stop in the Cyprus problem is the UN General Assembly, one newspaper reported on Wednesday. This came out from the meeting in Athens between Greece’s new prime minister, Kyriacos Mitsotakis, and President Anastasiades who decided to coordinate their actions ahead the meetings they will have with the UN secretary-general in New York later this month as well as with US officials.
It is indicative of the quandary Anastasiades finds himself in that, after the failure to agree the terms of reference, the continued Turkish violations of the Cypriot EEZ and the moves on Famagusta, he is now talking up the UN General Assembly and the brief audience he will be granted by the secretary-general. Our presidents have been going to the UN General Assembly and addressing a half-empty auditorium for the last 45 years without securing the slightest benefit for Cyprus.
This has become a Cyprus problem annual ritual. We had thought some of these rituals such as addressing crowds in public were a thing of the past, but it appears Anastasiades has decided to revive them. On Saturday evening he will address a rally in Dherynia held to protest against Turkish plans to open the fenced area of Famagusta under Turkish Cypriot administration. Will a protest rally have any effect or are we simply returning to the 70s and 80s when anti-occupation rallies were an integral part of political life?
The situation is very dispiriting and unfortunately the president has nothing to offer. Asked in Athens on Tuesday about Turkey’s continuing violations, he acknowledged that neither European countries nor other powers “are determined to proceed with such measures that really incur a cost to Turkey”. As regards Famagusta, the government was considering taking the matter to the UN Security Council as well as legal measures, but this is merely an indirect admission of impotence.
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. This is evident from Anastasiades’ public comments that offer nothing other than defiant posturing and attacks on Turkey’s intransigence and provocativeness. There can be no talks he said on Tuesday under the threat of gunboats and Turkish drilling in the Cypriot EEZ. Yet these conditions also existed the previous week when he was underlining the need for an agreement on the terms of reference so peace talks could resume as soon as possible.
Things have taken a turn for the worse and we are staring at another prolonged stalemate. This suits the Turkish side much more than it does the Greek Cypriots, especially as the question of Unficyp’s continued presence is also questionable. Some very serious thinking has to be undertaken by the government about how to deal with this very difficult situation, which cannot be tackled with speeches at the UN General Assembly or Security Council resolutions.