It was surprising the Cyprus News Agency correspondent in New York reported that the UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy Maria Angela Holguin would continue her mission in Cyprus for another three months, with the aim of finding common ground for the resumption of negotiations between the two sides.

No source was given for this information, but we are certain the correspondent did not make it up. The surprise was that the state news agency, was admitting what the government had been denying ever since the announcement of Holguin’s appointment – that her mission had a time frame. The Turkish Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar, had insisted there was a six-month time frame for Holguin to find common ground while the Cyprus government spokesman repeatedly denied it.  The UN avoided saying anything.

The CNA report has now confirmed there is a time frame. Even if one did not exist, one exists now, and it is for three months. Foreign minister Constantinos Kombos admitted this on Friday, by saying that the UNSG’s intention was to extend the duration of Holguin’s mission. If there was no time frame, why would there be a need to extend her mission?

According to CNA, she will submit her report on her mission to UNSG by the end of this month and in July the Security Council will discuss it. Kombos said he expected her to return to the island after she completed her contacts in New York.

While the government was clearly relieved to hear that Holguin will have another three months – because there was always the danger that Antonio Guterres could have ended the mission – it does not change anything. Before leaving, Holguin had said that the Greek Cypriot side knew what it had to do to unlock the process, implying that it was not prepared to do it. Will it do in September what it refused to do in May, or is it expecting some miraculous change in the Turkish side’s position?

The overriding impression is that President Christodoulides does not have a plan. He appears to have treated the appointment of a personal envoy as an end in itself, a way of showing the world that he wanted a settlement. If he was as committed to a settlement as he claimed he was, he would have shown more flexibility and imagination in dealing with Tatar’s demands, no matter how unreasonable they appeared. This is what a smart and brave negotiator, who was committed to breaking the deadlock, would have done.

Christodoulides chose instead to stick to his guns, aware that there would be no breakthrough but content that Tatar would be blamed for the failure of the initiative. He would tell people that he did everything he could for the resumption of the talks, but Turkish intransigence could not be bowed. And that is likely to be the final act of this professionally-staged theatre.