The attempt to resume the Cyprus talks following the economic meltdown in South Cyprus will have once again engaged those who remain interested or brought about a sigh of “here we go again!” over the proceedings.
Cynics will probably feel vindicated since the talks have not even begun.
The South’s President Anastasiades has been adamant that a joint statement must be agreed before talks can begin. Why is he so untrusting of the negotiation process? Looking back at the numerous failed attempts to reach a settlement, doubtless he does not wish to be remembered as another president who became embroiled in endless negotiations and still could not make it happen. Beleaguered too, by dire economic problems and ham-strung by other political parties, his is an unenviable task. So perhaps it is not surprising that he wants to establish the ground rules for the talks.
President Eroglu on the other hand, has consistently said that a joint statement is unnecessary and has called for the South’s president to come to the table and get on with the talks.
In the background is the whisper and hum of speculation that the Greek Cypriots do not want a resolution until they have exploited the gas finds off-shore.Some say that Turkey wants a quick solution so it can enhance its bid to join the EU, while others say that Turkey wants to keep a military footing in the TRNC, therefore favour total separation.
Against this backdrop, both sides claim that they are ready and willing to find a solution. But are they able to do so?
Anastasiades has laid out the principles for the talks and apparently Eroglu is in agreement by and large. The sticking point appears to be the term ‘sovereignty’.
The South’s president recently said that Eroglu wants to have a sovereign state yet be part of a sovereign Cyprus. Eroglu denies this, yet refers to a sovereign TRNC. Has something been lost in translation? Eroglu denies wanting total separation yet, still refers to the sovereignty of the TRNC. Anastasiades’ response has been to scoff at the idea. He asked whoever heard of a federation which comprised sovereign states. Technically he has a point.
As far as it is possible to interpret these comments, President Eroglu has not really issued much in the way of details about what a sovereign state means to him in this context. He has used rhetoric to demand independence, security and equality (of course) for the TRNC, but as they say, the devil is in the details.
Many outsiders, then are left to ponder on what his intentions truly are as there appears to be an anomaly. The word ‘sovereign’ is the detail that seems to have bedevilled the whole process.
If this is right, then one can only ask what Eroglu truly wants. President Anastasiades has made himself crystal clear. Yet Eroglu’s intentions are not; therefore, one is led to wonder if he truly wants the TRNC to be part of a federated Cyprus.
He does not want to preface talks with a joint statement, despite indicating that he agrees with most of the contents of it, so what is it that he wants to hash out at the negotiating table?
Another question is will he get that opportunity? All reasonable bets say “no”. Does that mean that there will be no negotiations and will the TRNC will be left, once again, in a political and economic no-man’s land, struggling and dependent on the Turkish mainland?
UN Special Envoy, Alexander Downer left the island on Friday with no joint statement agreed. Again, another man with an unenviable task, trying to bridge the gap between two misaligned bodies. It would be very interesting to see what his report to the UN Security Council will contain.