End game or game over
The Mont Pelerin rendezvous of the Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders was slated to be an “end game” but it turned out to be an almost “game over.” Upon request of the Greek Cypriot leaders, the deadlocked talks were suspended for one week and are scheduled to resume, this time in Geneva, on Nov. 20.
Talks were being held under a news blackout. While Turkish Cypriot media has been in darkness, however, thanks to the permanent leaks in the Greek Cypriot media, there is as well an abundance of information reflecting the Greek Cypriot perceptions. That has been a permanent problem of the past one year of negotiations, though lately Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı started to spoon feed some journalists who became subservient to his “Settlement now” obsessive and defeatist stance.
The summary of the process is that Akıncı did not put a map on the table but made some “very important” openings on the territorial aspect of the problem. Akıncı’s proposals were “so surprising” that the two leaders came to the brink of deciding on a date for the international conference, where Turkey, Greece and Britain, the three guarantor powers, would participate to discuss the sixth chapter of the talks, security and guarantees. Thus, the over-50-years-old Cyprus talks process was about to come to a conclusion, an agreement on a federation or what? No one knows, except if the talks collapse, that will be the end of the road for at least the current format.
If Akıncı made such important and surprising concessions, why did the Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades ask for a one-week break? If Akıncı wanted such a break he would now be on the grill or Turkey would be attacked for not letting him make a decision. Yet, Anastasiades said he needed time to consult Athens, the leaders of parties and the archbishop of the Church of Cyprus.
All small parties – who are all small but in a closely contested presidential election in February 2018 will play decisive roles – were against any sort of federation with Turkish Cypriots. Did Archbishop Hrisostomos not send a message stressing he was against a deal? Why did Anastasiades not take the responsibility and walk the road of concession rather than surrendering to the hawks? Will he be able to win their support in week-long talks? No.
Even if it might be assumed that Anastasiades was sincere, after Akıncı’s “generous territorial offer,” he did not want to miss the opportunity and wanted to get the approval of the national council – an advisory body comprised of all party leaders and the archbishop – to a federal arrangement with effective Turkish Cypriot participation, can he really receive such an endorsement? Except his DISI and the socialist AKEL, is there any possibility of any other party lending support to anything negotiated by Anastasiades? No. Since former negotiator Tumazos Chelebis, the president of the Cyprus Problem Bureau of AKEL’s Central Committee, was a member of Anastasiades’ negotiations team, could the Greek Cypriot leader not confer with AKEL through him? Why did he want this break? Though Chelebis has been known to be a hardliner and the AKEL traditionally and categorically has been against the continuation of the 1960 guarantee scheme or any Turkish soldier remaining on the island after a settlement, there were signs that the socialist party might not oppose a compromise deal.
Still, in alliance with some of the smaller and radical parties who under no condition might support a deal, AKEL might consider entering presidential elections with a consensus candidate, like George Lilikas. If it is assumed that the Church and Lilikas have very good relations with the Church, AKEL and some smaller allies, Lilikas this time might fulfill his presidential dream.
If Anastasiades wanted the break to consult Athens, that would be a big lie. Was Athens interested in the Cyprus problem or willing to remain as one of the three guarantor powers?
Obviously, Anastasiades wanted to have some time for recollection before making a decision to walk the end game or declare a game over for the Cyprus talks. Now he will drag his feet, play on time and demand further concessions in order to attend the Geneva round of talks on Nov. 20. It is very likely that the Turkish Cypriot side will come under intense pressure to walk the extra mile demanded by Anastasiades so that the Greek Cypriot leader could convince his opposition and go to Geneva. The same old game.
So far, Akıncı opened his hand on the territorial aspects of the Cyprus problem assuming that within a few days a five-party international conference would convene and the Cyprus problem would reach the end game stage. If tomorrow Anastasiades conditions his Geneva attendance to Turkish Cypriots placing a territorial adjustments map on the table, accepting that will pose existential dangers for the Turkish Cypriot people.
Akıncı should avoid walking such a road. Otherwise, it might not be the end game for the Cyprus talks but definitely might be the game over move for Turkish Cypriots.