President Christodoulides will return from New York empty-handed, despite the expectations he raised about a breakthrough on the Cyprus issue, because of his refusal to put his positive agenda into practice.
According to diplomatic sources his failure to announce the confidence-building measures (CBM) that had been prepared and to signal acceptance of the deal reached on Pyla by technocrats of the two sides while in New York, deprived the UN Secretary-General of the arguments to push for a resumption of talks.
“Before he went to New York, there was an understanding with the UN that he would announce the CBMs prepared by the Greek Cypriot side and the resolution of the dispute over Pyla,” said the diplomatic source.
“This would have given the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres the arguments to counter Turkey’s position that Christodoulides was not interested in a settlement, and push for the resumption of the peace process, through the appointment of a special envoy,” he added.
Even the European Union had banked on a breakthrough in New York, with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, telling Christodoulides, according to Cyprus New Agency, that discussion of EU-Turkey relations by the European Council would be put back to December.
This was to allow for progress to be made on the Cyprus issue, reported the news agency, because the Commission opposes Turkey’s attempts to separate the talks on EU-Turkey relations from Cyprus.
Cyprus also came up at Wednesday’s meeting between Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, with the former ruling out the two-state solution and insisting that a federal settlement was the only way forward. Government sources in Greece consider a settlement essential for the Greek-Turkish dialogue, which has commenced, to progress.
It is unclear whether Christodoulides got cold feet on his arrival in the US about announcing the CBMs and the Pyla agreement, or whether this was his intention all along.
At a briefing of journalists in New York last Sunday he put all responsibility for the future of the talks on Erdogan who was scheduled to meet Guterres two days later.
“I consider the meeting of the UNSG with the Turkish president, as the most crucial in relation to how things will develop on the Cyprus problem,” Christodoulides said, speculating that “this will determine the next moves of Guterres on Cyprus.”
Tuesday’s “crucial meeting” was cancelled and Guterres was scheduled to meet Turkey’s foreign minister Hakan Fidan instead on Saturday, when he would also meet the Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.
Meanwhile, on Monday, it was reported that Christodoulides would not be announcing the CBMs that had been leaked to Politis newspaper several weeks earlier. In a report quoting unnamed sources, Cyprus News Agency said that the president was still studying some ideas of measures but this required work, but their announcement would have to wait.
The news agency report said: “With regard to the unilateral measures that the Cyprus Republic will announce for the Turkish Cypriot community, the diplomatic sources noted that it is a given that these will be announced, but this would happen at a time when the climate is favourable for the creation of conditions for the revival of efforts for the solution of the Cyprus problem, in order to give further push.”
This was a clear message from the president that the CBMs would not be announced any time soon, certainly not in New York. He did, however, inform the representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, during a working lunch on Friday, that he would announce the unilateral confidence-building measures “at the right time.”
As regards Pyla, the agreement, which had been finalised, and awaited Christodoulides’ approval, was not even mentioned. Instead, he thanked the permanent members for the position they took about the episodes.
Christodoulides will return to Cyprus without the breakthrough that he had been speaking about. He has failed to secure the appointment of a UN special envoy that was his main objective, even though he tried to put a positive spin on this failure.
After his meeting with Guterres on Friday, Christodoulides said he was “pleased” that he was “on the same page as the UNSG” with regard to the need to appoint a special envoy and for a trilateral meeting. Tatar has so far refused to attend such meeting.
The President was happy he told reporters that the Security Council as well as Guterres “see the necessity of appointing such a personality.” Whether it will happen is another matter.