After the fiasco of Geneva, which officially confirmed no common ground existed between the two sides, we have been witnessing obligatory exchange of accusations and insults aimed at the respective domestic audiences. This practice is as old as the Cyprus process, each side staking a claim to the moral high ground, which, has always been a part of the Cyprob political show, regardless of its meaninglessness.
In his Easter message, President Anastasiades referred to the “arrogance of those who envisage a new Ottoman empire” that was witnessed in Geneva, sparking a response not only from an ‘insulted’ Ersin Tatar, but also from the spokesman of Turkey’s AKP, Omer Celik who said Anastasiades “is exhibiting his corrupt mentality.” The exchange of insults turned childish, Anastasiades reminding Tatar that 100,000 Turkish Cypriots held ID cards and passports of the Republic and saying “patience has its limits.” Meanwhile Tatar insisted it was insulting for the president to refer to the Turkish Cypriots as ‘citizens’ of the Republic and brought up the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus in 1571.
We have returned to the good old days of the Cyprus problem, when every statement issued by one side had to be answered by the other and the blame game was never switched off. Even Anastasiades and Tatar have taken on the role of leaders of the past, the former acting like Spyros Kyprianou and the latter like Rauf Denktash, one of whom always made sure every initiative ended in deadlock. In another similarity with the old days, the UN refused to give up on the peace initiatives. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in closing the 5+1 conference in Geneva said he would call another one in a few months, while his envoy would continue her efforts to establish some common ground. Why, he would do this he did not say.
Meanwhile Anastasiades, in another move reminiscent of days gone by, announced that his government would launch a campaign to inform the international community about the positions submitted by the Turkish Cypriot side in Geneva. The Cyprus government has been conducting enlightenment campaigns to condemn the occupation and expose Turkish intransigence since 1974 without ever gaining anything other than some platitudes that were treated as great diplomatic triumphs.
Anastasiades, nevertheless, started this campaign on Friday when he briefed European leaders about the Geneva talks and Turkish insistence on two states. It is doubly futile today as his credibility was destroyed when he walked out of the Crans-Montana talks in 2017 despite the fact that the bizonal bicommunal federation, he is now supposedly keen on, was on the table. He is committed to federation only in theory because when the conditions for achieving it were in place, and he had a Turkish Cypriot leader opposite him, fully committed to it, he walked away.
He will not have a free ride in his new campaign, which will also include a letter of protest to Guterres, as Turkey is planning to do the same. Turkey’s press, in the last few days, carried reports of the exchanges in Geneva, during which foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reminded Anastasiades of the conversation they had in Crans-Montana in which he, allegedly said the Greek Cypriots would never agree to share power with the Turkish Cypriots. Cavusoglu even produced a document, circulated in Crans-Montana by Anastasiades, rejecting the rotating presidency and, therefore, political equality. According to the Turkish press, the Ankara government saw Anastasiades’ comments about the arrogance of the Ottoman empire as offensive and an attempt to create tension, and said it was preparing to complain to the EU as it had done in the past – presumably after Crans-Montana.
Was Anastasiades’ remark calculated to cause offence to the Turks or was it aimed, like his enlightenment campaign, at domestic consumption, to prove to skeptical Greek Cypriots that he is blameless for the current situation and it was all the fault of the arrogant Ottomans. He cannot possibly take any responsibility for the situation, in which everything is lost for the Greek Cypriots, thanks to his disastrously poor handling of the Cyprus problem. We can blame Turkey’s unwavering position on sovereign equality and a two-state solution for the current deadlock but a leader who allowed this development to happen, by spurning the opportunity for a federal settlement when it was on offer, must take responsibility.
His refusal to do a deal four years ago is the reason Turkey has been constantly violating our EEZ, has announced plans for opening Varosha for settlement and argues that a two-state solution is now the only option.
Anastasiades has led us to this dead end, but he will carry on playing the blame game and conducting international campaigns to report Turkey’s intransigence, because our leaders never take any responsibility for their actions, especially on the Cyprus problem.