Truth be told we are not masters in the art of diplomacy. Odd as it may sound modern diplomacy involves truthfulness, directness and openness. In an era where the public can change allegiances based on one tweet, sincerity and integrity are greatly appreciated. Cypriots however do excel in bargaining. In the process and if history is anything to go by, Cyprus is willing to ‘defect’ until the end of time, regrettably whatever the consequences.
Following the events that led to the collapse of the conference on Cyprus in Crans Montana President Anastasiades had announced that he is ready to restart the negotiations from where they left off, namely based on the 4th of July Guterres framework.
The announcement was met with disbelief as the Turkish Cypriots and some members of the Greek Cypriot negotiating team had no recollection of such a framework. A white paper dated June 30 2017 was the last documented list of principles of intent.
The debate escalated with each side squabbling as to the existence of a 4th of July document. The President went as far as asking UN envoy Jane Holl Lute to look for the minutes of the meeting in question, which in turn generated conspiracy theories as to the reason behind the disappearance of the minutes. It was later revealed that what the President had in mind was a message from UNSG Antonio Guterres that was reportedly transmitted to the two leaders by UN mediator Espen Barth Eide.
It must be said that the Guterres framework as it came to be known is not a set of agreed convergences but instead a statement of intent, a roadmap based on contemporary understanding of conflict resolution which is part of the methodology of UN mediation guidelines. Since both sides agreed to engage in UN led negotiations, the two sides in principle, agreed to discuss the proposals.
In detail, Anastasiades insisted on it because the phraseology was favourable. On the chapter of guarantees the June 30 white paper refers to the fact that the unilateral rights of intervention do not constitute a viable arrangement and must end. There is also a reference on the issue of troops which the paper notes should be dealt with at the highest political level, implying that decisions on the issue should be taken by the heads of government of Turkey, UK and Greece. On governance there was a specific reference to rotating Presidency, a convergence that had been achieved in the past by Chistofias-Talat.
The Guterres framework, ie. the UNs reading of the situation before any bargaining had begun, was more wholesome. According Anastasiades’s interpretation, the 4th of July framework spelled out that the Treaty of Guarantees between Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom, which is part of the Treaty establishing the Republic of Cyprus, is not viable in its entirety and must be changed or abolished. The wording used by the President is also found in the June 30 paper as ''I think we need, as he said, the end of the unilateral right of intervention and the end of the Treaty of Guarantees''. On this particular point rests, tactical confusion aside, the entire argument; regardless of which side one supports, it had become apparent to the parties involved that there cannot be a solution without abolishing intervention rights.
For Anastasiades this was a major achievement, albeit without getting the job done. It’s an argument that any Cypriot President will win (elections with).
It is however well known among observers that the chapter of guarantees is of symbolic nature. It is also generally expected that Turkey will relinquish its intervention rights in exchange for a deal that would secure more powers for Turkish Cypriots in the governance chapter. The July 4th conversations spoke of immediate withdrawal of armies from Cyprus allowing for a sunset clause for the withdrawal of the remaining forces. At the same time ''governance issues were to be dealt with based on the principle of effective participation’’.
In other words the bargaining involved the abolition of guarantees by Turkey in exchange for more concessions on governance by Greek Cypriots.
At this point, no one picked up the mic from the floor.
The complexity involved in drawing up in detail the powers of every single institution in a State and drafting the laws governing these is undoubtedly a daunting task. However most of the issues around chapters on property and territory had been written with black ink, very few details remained in red and blue.
Be that as it may Anastasiades decided that concessions on governance were shaping up to be too much for the Greek Cypriots. He feared that such a deal will not pass through a referendum.
Speaking to the press yesterday Anastasiades said that since the negotiations ended inconclusively any convergences are invalidated.