Cyprus Mail
Guest ColumnistOpinion

Bane of Cyprus solution: too much power in one man

Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci at a bicommunal children’s event in 2016 before the talks collapsed a year later.

Leontios Ierodiakonou in his final instalment on the history of the Cyprus problem analyses the debacle of the Crans-Montana talks in 2017

In April 2015, Mustafa Akinci, well-known for his Cyprus-centre, pro-settlement positions, was elected Turkish Cypriot leader.

With Nicos Anastasiades, whose stance on the Annan plan showed he had both the will and determination for a solution, in the Cyprus presidency hopes for a settlement of the Cyprus problem were given a big boost. In addition to the talks, the two leaders also made joint appearances on both sides, creating an unprecedentedly positive climate.

To speed up the process, the two leaders had a meeting in the autumn of 2016 in Mont Pelerin and two months later (January 2017) at a conference in Geneva.

According to the UN secretary-general’s report of September 28, 2017, there were convergences on a great many issues. The various aspects of the bizonal, bicommunal federations (BBF) with political equality had been discussed “and, to a large degree, agreed on”. Also, “for the first time in the history of the negotiations”, there was an exchange “of maps delineating internal administrative boundaries”.

Although the report was written after the collapse of the Crans-Montana talks in the summer of 2017, it reflected the convergences from earlier in the year.

At the Crans-Montana conference on June 30, 2017, the UNSG Antonio Guterres, presented his suggestions, known as the “Guterres framework”, which was positively received by both Anastasiades and the members of the negotiating team. Among other things, the framework, envisaged – for the first time – the abolition of the Treaty of Guarantee and the unilateral right of intervention.

As for the foreign troops, it envisaged that “the timeframes for their withdrawal should be agreed at the end and in the presence of the prime ministers of the three guarantor powers.”

In November 2021, various UN documents were published in the Cypriot press regarding the Crans-Montana conference.

The meeting at which the arguments and the general behaviour of the Greek Cypriot side at the Crans-Montana conference were illustrated – as clearly and comprehensively as was possible – is the one that the UN secretary-general had with our delegation on July 6, 2017 at 6:15 pm. At that meeting were Guterres with his special advisor Espen Barth Eide and other aides while the Greek Cypriot side was represented by Anastasiades, negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis and Nikos Christodoulides.

Conveying his conclusions from the meetings he had with the Turkish delegation, the UNSG stressed two things. a) The possibility of abolishing the Treaty of Guarantee and the unilateral right of intervention b) That at that time Turkey was unable to accept the full withdrawal of its troops and had left the door open for a more definitive settlement of the troop issue in the future.

As soon as Anastasiades heard these words from Guterres he wanted it made clear what all this meant. The UNSG repeated that the Treaty of Guarantee can be terminated. Anastasiades immediately asked what would happen with the troops, while Guterres stressed that they were now discussing the guarantees and that the issue of troops could be resolved at a later date. He added that a mechanism to monitor the implementation of what had been agreed would be set. As soon as Anastasiades heard about a monitoring and implementation mechanism, he asked if Turkey would have a role in this mechanism. He stressed that he could not accept a role for Turkey in the mechanism. Eide – who had previously had consultations with the interested parties – had to intervene twice to remind the Anastasiades that he had already given his consent for Turkey’s participation.

The UNSG stressed that this (the ending of guarantees) was a big step and added: Turkey is also ready to reduce its troops. “The issue of troops has been resolved but it cannot be resolved right now.”

It is worth underlining here that the abolition of the Treaty of Guarantee and the unilateral right of intervention were officially raised for discussion for the first time on the initiative of the UNSG. Anastasiades, instead of thanking Guterres, out of politeness and expediency, for the importance attached to the abolition of the guarantee agreement, which was included in the Guterres framework, jumped to the second part of UNSG’s statement that Turkey was not ready right then to accept the full withdrawal of all its troops. He asked what would happen with the troops, knowing full well that on that issue, there could be no agreed arrangement at that conference.

Also, when Guterres referred to the establishment of the mechanism for monitoring and implementing the solution, instead of Anastasiades asking for an explanation of the role Turkey would have in that body, so that he would know what he was talking about, he started to give his own arbitrary interpretations.

He predicted with certainty: “Turkey has no real intention of terminating the guarantees and that it would replace this role with its presence in the solution monitoring mechanism.”

Later, at the last dinner, he questioned whether the mechanism for overseeing the solution “was the Treaty of Guarantee with a different name”. And yet – apart from the fact that he had already given his consent – the central and key role would belong to the United Nations, which would monitor the progress of the implementation of the solution on the ground and report to the Security Council. The participation of the guarantor powers in the was essentially as observer. They would not have executive powers.

It would not be arbitrary to conclude from a brief summary of the above that Anastasiades was conveying a totally negative attitude together with an unwillingness to negotiate responsibly and seriously. He was constantly questioning the proposals, conclusions and even the intentions of the UNSG.

In other words, without claiming that the other side was or would continue to be cooperative to the end in finding a compromise solution, it would not be excessive to say that Anastasiades’ behaviour contributed to the collapse of the conference. And with all this, our own trustworthiness was further damaged, without any blame placed on the occupier’s intransigence.

During the conference and after its collapse, very positive comments were heard from the members of the Greek Cypriot delegation about the role of Guterres. Moreover, immediately after the conference, our side adopted the political line of resuming the negotiations from the point where they were left in Crans-Montana. The interpretation that can be given to the above positions of all three protagonists (Anastasiades, Mavroyiannis, Christodoulides) at that conference was that both the Guterres Framework and the results of the work were considered positive. And this is where further paradoxical behaviour begins.

When on April 30, 2018, Akinci openly suggested that if the Greek Cypriot side accepted the Guterres Framework, then we should announce it as a “strategic agreement”, the Greek Cypriot side did not respond. This behaviour can only be explained by the three protagonists and especially by Anastasiades who was in power.

Could this behaviour be considered conducive to a settlement?

Closing this series of articles, I believe that the main reason why we have made so many political mistakes in the handling of our national problem is because decisions have always been made by one person. The president of the day.

I hope the new president will take notice of this. Because the wording he used on March 5 – “if a plan is presented that I don’t like, then I will not present it to the people” – is not the best position to take. Such terminology belongs to the absolute monarchs (who inherited their crown) of earlier times, not by presidents elected by popular vote. It would be much wiser to take such a serious decision collectively.



Leontios Ierodiakonou is a former Disy deputy who also served as minister of communications in the Clerides government. He is author of books on the Cyprus problem, including Fatal Leadership (1948-2021): Makarios and his Continuers

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