The two community leaders in the Cyprus negotiations face great odds against achieving agreement for a settlement.
In an article written by Jean Christou for Cyprus Mail*, he said that they are both up against the clock and that the change in background events plus opposition in both communities, do not give observers and experts much hope for a solution.
The Greek Cypriots do not want to be pressured by time-frames, but given that there is a sense of time running out, if no solution is reached by early 2017, it is increasing likely that the talks will collapse.
Despite that fact that Presidents Anastasiades and Akinci have gone further down the road towards a solution than their predecessors, there still remain disagreements on all chapters, and none at all on the issues of territory, guaranties and security.
Added to which, there will be a change in leadership in the White House, in the UN and there will be elections in mid-May in south Cyprus. In addition, there is a deadline for international companies that want to explore for gas reserves offshore Cyprus.
Political analyst Christoforos Christoforou added that the background to the negotiations has changed since the time of the 2004 Annan Plan. Cyprus was not yet a member of the EU and the Greek Cypriots felt safe in rejecting the solution plan. “The realities are different now,” he said. “Without a solution there will be no gas and no benefits from gas. This is a point of pressure for the leaders. This is also a bright point for a solution,” he added, given the benefits it would bring to the economy.
On the other hand, in the north, there is a sense of ‘fait acomplis’ with the rise in private Turkish investment and pressure from the mainland to give TRNC citizenship to another 27,000 settlers.
The fact that both leaders have asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to increase his role in the talks, indicates that they both feel that they cannot resolve the outstanding issues alone, Hubert Faustmann, associate professor for history and political science at the University of Nicosia, has said. There are 180 issues on the table related to the substance of the talks, and another 103 pending in the UN’s pipeline .
“The two leaders leave for New York with substantial differences and will probably find it difficult or impossible without outside involvement to resolve them,” Faustmann said. “Then the question of UN mediation will pop up. It’s the classical dilemma of 2004. People will resist outside mediation.”
He noted that currently, the overriding impression from the talks appeared to be more about PR than anything of substance. “They have to start moving,” he said. “The window is closing. Early next year will be the final limit for a comprehensive solution. Otherwise they will be left with a piecemeal one. They should also think ahead to that,” he added.
According to James Ker-Lindsay Cyprus and Balkans expert at the London School of Economics, the talks, which re-commenced in May 2015, have continued for too long.
“Once you go beyond 12 months the rejectionists find their voices. If it goes on for much longer beyond this year there might be a sense of ‘what’s taking so long’,” he said.
With major changes abroad, Ker-Lindsay believes that to sell the settlement, emphasis should be put on why Cyprus needs to reunify, rather than focus on the deal itself. Turkey has become even more unstable, he said, pointing out that “..the Turkish Cypriots have to do more to help and show some allegiance to the new Cyprus state rather than always looking to Turkey.”
“Always bear in mind that negotiating for a solution in Cyprus is indistinguishable from negotiating to avoid blame. You can never tell what the background motives are,” he said.
The leaders’ statement had been very disappointing because it repeated the same “pedestrian and cautious” sentiments. However, he had to admit that they were also trying to avoid igniting responses from the rejectionist camps on both sides.
Insiders have said that out of the four big issues – guarantees, security, property and territory, the first two are the easiest to solve, given the right approaches.
“The guarantees is just a lot of talk,” said one. “If Turkey wants to invade somewhere it doesn’t need a guarantee to do it.” While the Greek Cypriots insist that guarantees are redundant, the Turkish side says they are necessary. Although, some say Akinci knows they’re really not but still needs to give assurances to the Turkish Cypriots.
Property is a complex and expensive issue. However, according to government polls, the Greek Cypriots are said to be more concerned about the costs of funding a solution given their country’s recent economic melt-down.
Last the week, the south’s government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said that the Turkish Cypriots want to see very little in the way of territorial adjustments. “It is one of the issues that is under discussion together with security.” Although, he did note that this was the first time since 1960, that these matters were being discussed in the negotiations.
In conclusion, Professor Faustmann said that he felt the outlook was rather bleak.
“There is a chance, but it’s not all over without mediation, and won’t be by the end of the year. There could be a five-party conference [on guarantees], but the Greek Cypriots will resist it. I’m more pessimistic than optimistic,” he said.
Ker-Lindsay said that he wanted to be optimistic about a solution.
*This is an edited version of an article written by Jean Christou and published in Cyprus Mail.
For the full article click here.