Although the publication of the minutes of meetings held at Crans-Montana in July 2017 were seen as a vindication of President Anastasiades’ stance, they also raised a big question about his negotiation skills. From what the minutes said, the Turkish side was prepared to agree to the abolition of guarantees and unilateral rights of intervention as well as a significant reduction of troops.
This information was conveyed to Anastasiades by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a meeting before the final dinner. Considering that the scrapping of Treaty of Guarantee had become a red line of the Greek Cypriot side before the conference, we would have expected Anastasiades to have seized this opportunity. Instead, according to the minutes, he was looking at excuses not to discuss this.
He questioned the sincerity of the offer, as if the secretary-general had made things up. But even if there was such a suspicion, however unjustifiable, a competent negotiator would have gone along with it instead of trying to shoot it down without discussion. Anastasiades said he could not accept the implementation and monitoring mechanism, which would replace the treaty, if Turkey participated in it. Again, a competent negotiator would have accepted this as a good starting point and sought to have some safeguards included in the mechanism, even if Turkey participated in it.
He may have indicated that he could have accepted this arrangement, but the negotiations could not move forward because he rejected the proposal, conveyed by Guterres, for an “immediate and significant reduction” of Turkish troops. “A review of its troops would not be today but could happen later,” Guterres was recorded as saying, something that Anastasiades said he could not accept because “he demanded the complete withdrawal of troops on day one.”
Was the president not aware that a negotiation is about compromise? He said he “would never accept a half agreement, an agreement that dealt only with guarantees, unilateral rights of intervention but nothing about the troops.” An immediate and significant reduction of troops was nothing? It would have been a small concession (having 650 or 1000 troops staying on was preferable than the 40,000 we have at present) while guarantees and intervention rights would have been scrapped.
Instead, thanks to these inept negotiating tactics, he secured the permanent presence of 40,000 occupation troops and the maintenance of the guarantees that prevent us from being a normal state (as he likes to say) forever. Of course to have secured these concessions, there would have had to have been a comprehensive agreement, which was, most probably what Anastasiades was intent on avoiding. We can only presume his negotiating ineptitude was calculated, calculated to achieve this end.