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Expectations remain low in days leading up to Geneva summit
Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Haravgi, Kathimerini, Phileleftheros, Politis
In the final days leading up to the informal five-party summit in Geneva to take place on April 27-29, expectations remain low among all parties, the papers report.
Phileleftheros writes that it is clear that Geneva will turn into a blame game, which has already begun among all sides, and expects that common ground will not be found. Responsibility for this could easily fall onto Ankara, Phileleftheros writes, which will be going to Geneva with positions that fall outside UN resolutions. But the paper notes that Ankara also enjoys the tolerance of international players, due to its ties with many and large interests. Phileleftheros reports that the UN Secretary General (UNSG) Antonio Guterres will, despite any difficulties, decide to allow the process to continue on a technocratic level and then through a new conference.
Politis also takes on a pessimistic view, noting that the massive gap between the two side’s positions leave little room for agreement within a few days. The paper writes that Turkey will be arriving with hard-line positions, while the GC side will be going to the summit with a President whose credibility is dwindling both within and beyond Cyprus.
Cyprus Mail also highlights that analysts have attached low expectations to the summit, particularly due to the absence of the EU, but also due to Turkey’s two-state solution rhetoric. The paper cites one source that suggested that Turkey is not keen on a Cyprus settlement at the moment, mainly since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can’t afford to lose the political support of the nationalist contingent in Turkey. At the same time, the source said domestic scandals have also stripped Anastasiades of much of his credibility, leaving little room for bold moves, and opening the path for tactical blame game manoeuvres.
Kathimerini too suggests that given the limited expectations of the GC side and the UN, the Turkish and TC sides’ insistence on new ideas, and the relegation of the EU to the margins, it will be difficult for the Geneva summit to lead to a resumption of formal talks. Citing diplomatic sources,the paper reports that the most likely scenario is that the informal summit will lead to a recognition that there is room for more informal meetings to prepare for a future formal conference.
Haravgi reports that while expectations are low, all parties understand how high the stakes are as regards Cyprus’ future. The paper writes that there is a general understanding that the summit will lead to an announcement declaring the resumption of formal talks, but it remains unclear whether talks will pick up from where they left off in Crans-Montana.
In an interview with Kathimerini, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said that despite the numerous factors that leave little room for optimism, we should not pre-determine the result since a failure of the informal summit will be a negative outcome for all participants. Christodoulides said he is aware that the new US administration has clarified to Turkey its opposition to a two-state solution. He added that international players who might not be formally present at the summit, including the EU, can still play an important role in securing positive developments.
Alithia reports on an interview by Anastasiades with the Greek newspaper ‘Ta Nea’. Anatasiades told the paper that accepting a two-state solution would open Pandora’s box for separatist movements within and beyond Europe. Anastasiades also said that if Turkey and the north remain firm in their positions, an impasse is definite, since not even the UNSG, whose mandate calls for a bi-zonal, bicommunal federation (BBF), will be able to help. Even so, Anastasiades said he would be going to the summit with a positive attitude and with political will to contribute creatively to efforts so that negotiations can resume.
Kathimerini reports that the UN understands its new initiative as different from past peace attempts, since it will assess whether there is any room for understanding or whether peace efforts should be wrapped up altogether.
Phileleftheros reports on a phone call that took place last Sunday between Guterres and the EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell. The paper writes citing information that Borrell told Guterres of Turkey’s objections to EU participation in Geneva as an observer, expressing his disagreement. Borrell asked that efforts be made by the UN to ensure EU participation in the future, highlighting the importance of EU presence as an observer in talks on Cyprus. Phileleftheros reports that Borrell also informed Guterres of his intention to invite the TC leader Ersin Tatar to Brussels to brief him on the EU’s opposition to a two-state solution, though the meeting will not be taking place for the time being. Borrell also highlighted that the EU stands behind the Guterres framework, as presented in Crans-Montana.
The paper reports that in response, Guterres said he is not too optimistic about the outcome of the informal summit, given Tatar’s position in favour of two states, which he said the UN do not accept since his mandate calls for a BBF. Only if the UN Security Council (UNSC) revises his mandate can two states be discussed, Guterres reportedly told Borrell.
Kathimerini reports that despite its limited role, the EU will be sending three officials from the European External Action Service (EEAS) who are well-versed in the Cyprus problem: Angelina Eichhorst, EEAS Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia, Helene Holm Pedersen from the office of the EEAS Deputy Secretary-General for Political Affairs, and Kjartan Bjornsson, head of the Cyprus settlement support unit in DG Reform.
Phileleftheros reports that during the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias’ contacts with his Turkish counterpart Melvut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Dendias clarified that Greece will not be accepting guarantees in Cyprus, noting that this goes against the EU acquis. Dendias also conveyed Greece’s opposition to the changing of the basis of negotiations.
At the summit, Politis reports that the Turkish side will base its arguments on sovereign equality, that seeks the creation of two constituent states that will co-establish a United Federal Cyprus, which will however have nothing to do with a federation but with a confederation, a position that is unacceptable for the GC side. Further, Politis reports that the Turkish side is asking for a positive vote in all bodies/decisions and is not accepting a positive vote only in Cabinet decisions, though Anastasiades is also unwilling to accept this convergence.
Phileleftheros outlines the various plans of action that have likely been drawn up by Turkey. Ankara is expected to stick with its position on sovereign equality causing pressure to mount on the GC side, which will pursue a decentralised federation – an idea that Phileleftheros reports relates to Turkey’s position for a loose federation. The paper reports that given that the GC side will neither accept sovereign equality nor the British formula, importance lies with how these ideas will be presented and reconciled with a decentralisation federation. This is a long shot, the paper suggests, since Turkey is pursuing two states with an equal international status, which the GC side is unlikely to accept.
Phileleftheros reports that what Turkey is seeking is a recognition of the north, and will pursue this first before opening up to ways of cooperation – be this through the framework of a confederation or a federation. This approach, the paper writes, is a permanent trap that Turkey had set up years ago, referring to the position of former TC leader Rauf Denktas who called for even a few minutes of recognition before negotiations can take place.
Politis reports citing a diplomatic source that the GC side may also receive pressure as regards hydrocarbons, since Turkey is expected to request the setting up of a bicommunal committee that will work toward a proportional distribution of funds, with Anastasiades’ proposal along these lines not being found satisfactory, while Ankara is also expected to push for an informal delineation of maritime zones between Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, that would allow Anakara to legitimise its future drilling operations. Turkey may also continue to push for a regional energy conference among Greece, Turkey, GCs and TCs.
Politis reports that following the informal summit, the GC side is aiming for a one-month timeframe for preparations for a formal conference which it hopes will take place before the June EUCO, where the matter of the customs union between Turkey and the EU will be discussed. If not, the paper writes that Anastasiades will be faced with the dilemma of either accepting the customs union, in which case he will lose leverage in Cyprus negotiations, or refusing, which will result in Turkey pushing forward with plans in Varosha and the Cyprus EEZ. Kathimerini reports that for the GC side, the resumption of talks within as little as two weeks would be ideal. Kathimerini adds that Turkey on the other hand is counting on keeping the Cyprus problem on a low heat and pushing for an extension of the preparatory period by calling for a new informal summit in June or July, after the EUCO.
If the new peace initiative fails, Phileleftheros reports that Turkey will move forward with plan B, which has already begun to be implemented in Varosha and the Cyprus EEZ. This scenario will be used as blackmail to pressure the GC side into accepting sovereign equality and to force the EU to grant Turkey its wishes during the European Council summit in June, Phileleftheros reports. Politis also writes that in the event of a collapse, Turkey will adopt an even harder stance that will play out on land and sea. In addition to Varosha and the EEZ, Politis reports that the Buffer Zone is also a matter of contention, since Turkey has for a long time been creating serious issues there that the GC side has kept hushed. Politis cites a diplomatic source that said that a collapse may also see the TC side push for a discussion on confidence-building measures (CBMs), with hydrocarbons on top of the list before moving onto matters that interest the GC side, such as Varosha.
Politis reports citing a diplomatic source that Ankara is concerned over what is being planned by TCs demanding a solution, and wasn’t too happy with the bi-communal demonstration held Saturday on both sides of the divide, with Turkey warning that it will impose harsh punishments on those acting against Turkish positions. The paper reports that Ankara told the Turkish ‘ambassador’ to the north to relay to TC authorities that they must clamp down on those going against Turkey’s positions, keep a close watch on TC journalists and academics, and prepare the groundwork for a two-state solution.
>> While several factors push expectations for 5+1 down, outcome should not be determined in advance since negative developments would burden all parties
>> New US administration has clarified to Turkey that it stands against a two-state solution
>> Accepting a two-state solution would open Pandora’s box for separatist movements within and beyond Europe
>> If Turkey & TC side remain firm in their positions, an impasse is definite, since not even the UNSG could step in to help given that his mandate calls for a BBF
>> Going to 5+1 with a positive attitude and with political will to contribute creatively to efforts so that negotiations can resume