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07 May, 2021
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The end of history

Stakes in Cyprus as high as ever, but frowns stay on the down-low

Andreas Paraschos

Andreas Paraschos

I think it is very hypocritical and demeaning for old members of the ruling party and former government officials when they call me up or text me, usually on a Sunday, to point out that I should have written this and that about President Anastasiades, who did an 180 degree turn on the Cyprus problem, something which they view as dangerous.

I am repulsed by this type of adventurism and political rivalry which is most certainly embedded in the Cypriot genetic code. How is it okay at such a critical juncture that people who served as ministers, members of parliament, MEPs, or state officials, do not dare state their positions in full view of the public? How can we expect an average citizen making €1000 each month - and they are so many - to get involved in the Cyprus problem or other pressing social issues while those officials sit comfortably with their two even three pensions on top of each other but have no guts to speak their mind?

And all this is unraveling at a crucial moment when the “end of history” is fast approaching, not the one in Fukuyama’s book but the one on the Cyprus chapter, with the “Last Man” in this problem being Anastasiades himself!

If results from exploratory gas drills are as good as advertised, he will head towards a speedy resolution, but if not, then an unbelievable snag will go on for another half century

But let’s stop for a moment to appreciate the gravity of the situation.

Jane Holl Lute is here already with the “Terms of Reference” up her sleeve. The last time I had the chance to speak with the President, exactly one month ago, he was not certain about the content of these terms, but to be fair, neither did anyone else from the political establishment. But it would be rather naïve for someone to expect that a respectable diplomat, the likes of Ms. Lute, wouldn’t include the main objective as a main reference in her terms. And then the question would be: “Gentlemen, is the BBF (bizonal, bicommunal federation) still the targeted solution or are there any “new ideas” that we heard and read about circulating in Cyprus? 

As I’m being told by my sources close to the UN, Ms. Lute is one of those diplomats who favours straight talk and it is not impossible that she would ask President Anastasiades whether he is seeking another form of solution, just like he had told foreign diplomats.

I expect that the President will reiterate his focus on BBF, even though he has crucified it multiple times with public comments and new talking points. And so a new process for talks will begin which would run for quite some time, despite timetables on negotiations having run their course according to the latest report of the UN Secretary General.

However, altering the topics within the contextual framework and procedure would be time consuming, as such changes would need to be agreed upon, so a more reasonable timeframe of six months could probably be given and most likely under certain conditions.

These terms and conditions could not but link the future of UNFICYP to the outcome of the process for solution, as this understanding is held by multiple sources familiar with the matter. In fact, when I said to a diplomatic source that we were willing to take up the entire cost of the Peacekeeping force, an ironic smile came my way.

It is obvious that the window of time is desperately getting shorter along with options. And even though he does not want to say it publicly, President Anastasiades on one hand is now convinced that BBF ain’t good enough for him all the while he won’t dare bring up to the UN those “new ideas” he has been proposing on the sidelines.

There's a way out but it's a double-edge sword

There is a way out of this but it is a double-edged sword. If results from exploratory gas drills in the Cypriot EEZ are as good as they have been advertised, he will make a virtue out of necessity and head towards a speedy resolution, as the stakes are high in this bet on natural gas.

But if the results are not as good, then he will drag the process along with newly added confederation concepts in order to alter the negotiation framework. Of course, this can only be done with a mandate from the UN Security Council. In such case, Russia would use its veto power signaling the start of an unbelievable snag for yet another half century.

The article was first published by Kathimerini Cyprus on 16 December 2018

Cyprus  |  Paraschos  |  Anastasiades  |  Lute  |  UN  |  natural gas  |  EEZ  |  BBF  |  federal  |  negotiations  |  peace  |  UNFICYP  |  Turkey  |  Greek  |  Turkish  |  Cypriot

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