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Our View: Fact-finding visit a case of much ado about nothing

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The government has been hailing the visit by Assistant Secretary-General Rosemary Di Carlo as if some great victory had been achieved. It has been its main talking point since Friday, following the meeting between UNSG Antonio Guterres and President Nicos Anastasiades in New York.

Government spokesman Marios Pelekanos got the ball rolling again on Monday saying DiCarlo would visit this autumn for a fact-finding mission and to keep the Cyprus process alive “despite Turkey’s unacceptable attitude”.

A year ago, on the sidelines of the 2021 UN General Assembly, Anastasiades asked Guterres to appoint a new envoy, following the departure of Jane Holl Lute whose visits over two years, resulted in an informal five-party conference in Geneva in April that year that was a spectacular failure.

In the subsequent 12 months, the UN chief resisted appointing a new envoy despite the regular nagging by the Greek Cypriot side, probably because he didn’t see the point, or because presidential elections were not all that long away. For the Anastasiades administration of course, going into an election where there is no Cyprob movement would be a black mark with some voters.

So, what has suddenly changed in a year to prompt the appointment of DiCarlo? Relations between the two sides have only worsened in the past 12 months, the Turkish Cypriot leader is becoming more hard-line by the day and the Turkish leadership has gone off the rails, especially when it comes to Cyprus and Greece.

On top of that, how does it make sense to appoint a new envoy just four months before a presidential election? Also, what facts will DiCarlo find that have not already been either passed on to Guterres by both leaders last week, been publicly spouted daily by politicians on both sides, or been written about in the media in excruciating detail? And there is also Unficyp monitoring things.

DiCarlo can find all the facts she needs at a glance without even coming here. If she is looking for common ground to help restart negotiations, the UN must know there are none at the moment as reiterated by Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar most emphatically on Sunday.

The Turkish side is clear that it will not engage in new talks without recognition and it is no longer interested in a federation. The Greek Cypriot side can say whatever it wants, like Pelekanos’ pointless comment on Monday that “we’re making every effort to convince Turkey to return to the negotiating table” as if that was something that was within our power to do.

The official line on DiCarlo’s visit is to ‘keep the process alive’. Given the facts in evidence, we can’t help but wonder whether it has less to do with ‘keeping the process alive’, because there is no process, and more to do with ‘being seen to keep the process alive’.

At this point there is no justification for appointing an envoy so the UNSG has offered a fact-finding visit by DiCarlo, probably as a concession to Anastasiades. Nothing will come of it.

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