NOBODY could have been surprised that there was nothing meaningful to announce after the UNSG’s envoy Jane Holl Lute’s weekend meetings with the two leaders in Nicosia. Lute’s visits, of which there have been more than half a dozen in the last 14 months, invariably end in failure even though it would be unfair to put all the blame on the UN envoy, as the two leaders must also take a sizeable share of the responsibility for the complete lack of progress.
What is surprising is that she keeps coming. After her penultimate visit, when she had several meetings with each leader, but still failed to secure an agreement on the terms of reference, we would have thought she would have given up. She returned at the weekend, however, presumably to prepare for next Monday’s meeting of the two leaders with UNSG Antonio Guterres in Berlin. Even in this regard she achieved next to nothing if press reports are anything to go by.
According to the reports there will be an open agenda at the Berlin meeting, which is a diplomatic way of saying the two sides were nowhere near agreeing on anything. Presidential palace sources told the Cyprus News Agency that President Anastasiades told Lute he believed there were grounds for an agreement to be reached on the terms of reference, but this sounded more like preparation for the inevitable blame game that is expected to follow Monday’s meeting than a realistic appraisal of the prospects of the meeting.
In Cyprus the Greek Cypriot opposition parties started questioning Guterres’ impartiality at the weekend after seeing his report to UN Security Council, because it did not make any reference to Turkey’s repeated violations of the Cypriot EEZ. His tolerance of Turkey’s unlawful actions was described “provocative” and “problematic”, indicating a lack of will on his part to condemn such actions. They ignored the position of the UNSG on the matter that was outlined in an earlier report – that a settlement would resolve the dispute over the exploitation of hydrocarbons.
They fail to understand that the UNSG’s objective is for the two sides to reach an agreement on a settlement that would automatically resolve disputes that are a direct consequence of the status quo. Condemning Turkey in his report will not exactly create conditions for a resumption of the talks, but instead eliminate the very small probability there is to push the peace process forward. We are assuming the UNSG believes this small probability still exists, otherwise he would not keep sending Lute here.