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Our View: Pyla road rhetoric encapsulates the zero-sum game mentality

turkish cypriot police confront un personnel in pyla
File Photo: Turkish Cypriot police confront UN personnel in Pyla (TAK)

The zero-sum game that has always marked the Cyprus problem dealings between the two sides is now being played over the Pyla ‘understanding’, reached a couple of weeks ago. The idea of win-win is totally alien, to the politicians and technocrats of both sides, who can only see things either as a ‘gain’ or a ‘loss.’ There is never anything in between or a consideration that a ‘loss’ could benefit the process or lead to a ‘gain’ in the future, because everything is served for daily political consumption.

On Wednesday the Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign ministry,’ illustrating its zero-sum game mentality issued a statement, complaining that the Cyprus government resorted to “false and distorted statements” about the Pyla ‘understanding’ that were intended “to create false impressions.” The Greek Cypriot leadership, it said, “is trying to portray the compromise reached as its own victory and present it as a step that allows the UN Security Council to expand its authority and dominance in the region.”

Why does it matter how President Christodoulides presented the agreement to the Greek Cypriots? He had to put a positive spin on it to limit the criticism he would come under, from parties and media, for giving in on the construction of the Pyla-Arsos road that his government opposed, claiming it would give a military advantage to the Turkish occupation troops. It was a foolish argument, stemming from the zero-sum game mentality, and Christodoulides had to say that the feared military advantage the government had built up had been neutralised.

The Turkish Cypriots, meanwhile, got exactly what they wanted – a road linking Pyla to Arsos, through the buffer zone, that will satisfy what they described as “a long overdue humanitarian need.” Why does it matter if the Greek Cypriots, in exchange, will create plots for the development of the area surrounding Pyla and set up a photovoltaic park? The ‘understanding’, although there are some details that still need to be agreed, was a perfect example of a win-win arrangement, both sides getting what they wanted out of it. There are no grounds for either to feel hard done by.

The understanding reached was not a Greek Cypriot victory – we tend to measure success in the number of residential developments that are undertaken. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots will gain nothing from it. Once the road is built, the Turkish Cypriots of Pyla will be able to cross north much quicker than before and will no longer have to go through the British bases. Surely that is a victory for Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, a victory that is not negated because the Greek Cypriots got something out of the deal as well.

Perhaps, before there is a resumption of talks, the UN should arrange a crash course on ‘win-win thinking’ for our politicians.

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