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Our View: Minutes ‘discovery’ much ado about nothing

un conference on cyprus
President Nicos Anastasiades leaves a meeting at the conference on Cyprus in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, July 6, 2017

A document, published in Phileleftheros on Sunday, which contained the supposedly missing minutes of a July 4 meeting that the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide had with the negotiators of the two sides in Crans Montana, has been used by the government to attack its critics and accuse the UN of promoting a false narrative about what had happened.

Government spokesman Marios Pelekanos said the minutes “confirmed everything the president of the republic had repeatedly stated in relation to the true events during the period of the talks at Crans Montana.” They also confirmed, according to Pelekanos, “for one more time that the narratives conveyed by some on behalf of the UN were false and misleading about the events that took place on July 4, with the aim, on the one hand, to absolve the Turkish side of its responsibility for the collapse of the talks and, on the other, to cause rifts in the Greek Cypriot domestic front.”

This is not the first time, President Anastasiades has accused the UN of lying. He did it after the Crans Montana talks as well, accusing Eide of being a liar and of showing a pro-Turkish bias, something most in Cyprus were more than happy to accept unquestioningly. Now there is confirmation of the ‘lying’ by the presentation of the July 4 minutes, which the UN had said did not exist. Our side had disingenuously claimed that these minutes were proof that there was an amended Guterres framework. This was not correct, considering that the Greek Cypriot side could not have amended UNSG’s framework without the consent of the other side.

It is yet another diversion tactic. Anastasiades is focusing on the process, in order to divert attention away from his own responsibilities for the collapse of the talks, that three members of his negotiating team highlighted in the previous week. Andreas Mavroyianis, his chief negotiator, and team members Toumazos Tselepis and Polys Polyviou all said we lost “two big opportunities” for a settlement by walking out of talks, first at Mont Pellerin and then at Crans Montana. The existence of or not of the July 4 minutes change nothing in this evaluation.

UNSG Guterres had told Anastasiades that the Turkish side had submitted a confidential document in which it said it would accept the abolition of the Treaty of Guarantee and the unilateral right of intervention. It would also withdraw the occupation troops, leaving behind 650 soldiers as per the 1960 agreement. In addition, the proposals of the two sides on territory were just 1 percentage point apart, which made a deal a practical certainty. In other words, a deal that the Greek Cypriots could live with was on offer.

A smart president, committed to a settlement, would have recognised this as the best opportunity for a deal and tried to seal it. And if the Turkish side was bluffing, he would have exposed this bluffing. Instead, Anastasiades decided to walk out, blaming Turkish intransigence for his unwillingness to strike a deal, from which, according to Mavroyiannis, we were just a whisker away. The publication of the minutes does not negate this reality, nor does it confirm the president’s narrative about Crans Montana which not even the members of his negotiating team accept.

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