By Christos P. Panayiotides
I often hear the argument that in the negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem, we should not “open our cards” to Turkey, because by doing so we are weakening our negotiating position. Obviously, those who adopt this view believe that the negotiations are some sort of a poker game, where the players hold their cards closed to “bluff” and, if they are good at it, to win. Such a view reveals ignorance and naivety, since diplomatic and business negotiations rarely rely on “bluff” to produce the desired result. In practice, successful negotiations are those in which all parties involved end up on the winning side.
In my opinion, the basic reason for the blatant failure of the Greek Cypriot leaders to secure a fair (under the circumstances), viable and functional solution is their belief that the gains of our side will, by definition, be losses of the other side, and, therefore, attaining a satisfactory (for our side) solution to the problem is a function of our ability to find a way to force Turkey to accept our terms. Given that we have never had (and continue to lack) the means to force Turkey to yield to our demands, it was inevitable that we would fail to resolve the Cyprus problem and there is little doubt that we will continue to fail, irrespective of how long we are willing to wait. The problem is that the longer we wait the worse the situation becomes. The passage of time consolidates the totally unsatisfactory present state of affairs and renders the fait accompli irreversible. A classic example is the right, which is gradually acquired by settlers, to settle permanently in Cyprus, despite their (or their ancestors’) evidently illegal origins.
My conclusion, therefore, is that we better set the “bluffs” aside and explain, in an honest and decent manner, to the people of Cyprus the options which are realistically open to us. Then, we should press on with a down-to-earth attitude to a negotiation process that would allow all those involved to come out of the process on the winning side.
To keep feeding the Greek Cypriots expectations, which will never be fulfilled, constitutes criminally irresponsible behaviour, similar to that of a gambler, who has lost almost all his money and, in a desperate attempt to break even, resorts to “bluffing”. He is left high and dry.
The gamblers should gamble with their own personal wealth. Our homeland is not on offer for this sort of game.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia