What was the purpose and the objectives of the letter by President Anastasiades to the T/C leader Ersin Tatar, delivered on 23 May by the G/C negotiator Menelaos Menelaou to his T/C counterpart Ergun Olgun? In the six-page letter, President Anastasiades made a friendly appeal to his friend Ersin Tatar to resume a dialogue, spearheaded by certain Confidence-Building Measures, with the fenced city of Famagusta and Tymbou airport at their centre. The basic idea is to put Varosha under UN control, and at the same time for Tymbou airport to operate under UN supervision as a legal international airport. In his letter, President Anastasiades recalls the entire acquis of the talks: the Christofias-Talat convergences, the joint document signed with Dervis Eroglu and, of course, the Crans-Montana conference.
If someone did not know what Nicos Anastasiades really wants and believes, they might have applauded this effort as a sincere move to finally complete the discussion on the Cyprus problem, which, according to UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres, reached just a kilometre away from achieving and signing a final settlement at Crans-Montana.
That last kilometre was not travelled at Crans-Montana in July 2017 because President Anastasiades considered he had a more important goal. To return to Cyprus, win the election in January 2018 and continue to sell passports to crooks and non-crooks, with Nicos Christodoulides as his accomplice and adviser. Today, faced with the new faits accomplis that have been created, and the outcry over his choosing personal gain over the interests of the Cypriot people, he goes around making excuses and stating indiscriminately – to all and sundry – “that he could not sign an agreement at Crans-Montana that would have transformed Cyprus into a Bosnia-Herzegovina or a Lebanon”.
One wonders then: if Mr Anastasiades considers that the body of work of the talks that led to the meeting at Crans-Montana would result in us becoming a kind of Lebanon, how is it that five years later he is sending a letter to Tatar asking him to resume the talks? Has he now decided that a settlement would not lead us to becoming a Lebanon or a Bosnia-Herzegovina?
Does anyone still believe, following the course that the Cyprus problem has taken to date, that Turkey and Tatar are in any mood for a solution? On the contrary, on the orders of the Turkish vice president, Ankara amended the operational status of the occupied airport at Tymbou last Thursday. This was done, he said, to reduce the cost of tickets. This decision is probably one more step towards incorporating the occupied parts into Turkey. If Erdogan discerns that he’ll lose the election in the spring of 2023, one cannot rule out his resorting to the annexation of northern Cyprus in an attempt to win all the nationalist votes in the country.
The problem with Mr Anastasiades – despite the fact Ankara’s stance on the Cyprus problem is unreasonable – is that no one can trust him. With what credibility is President Anastasiades sending this letter publicly, while in private discussions and analyses he says other things? Who really can take him seriously? Clearly, Mr Anastasiades is aware of the problems he has created. He is not naïve.
He is, of course, a tactician, he knows that on the domestic front he is addressing naïve people, so it is worth looking deeper into his aims in relation to this letter? What was he after?
First, he wants to show that he seeks mobility on the Cyprus issue. Ioannis Kasoulides and Averof Neophytou are also exerting pressure in this direction. Averof in particular would feel much more comfortable if things were moving on the Cyprus problem front during an election period, since his main rival, Nikos Christodoulides has already rejected the CBMs. At the same time, he thinks that with this letter now no one can criticise him on the Cyprus problem in his last few months in power. In practice, Nicos Anastasiades also rejects everything. He sent the letter, of course, because he is probably certain that Turkey and Tatar will not respond, at least before his term of office ends. As he leaves office, the President will be able to say, “I tried until the last moment, but the other side did not respond.”
Secondly, correctly sensing the turmoil and unrest in the T/C community owing to the economic crisis, he pushes the CBMs to the forefront to send the message to the T/Cs that, through Ercan and Famagusta port, huge benefits will be had from tourism and trade. In this he was successful. The former T/C negotiator and opposition politician Kudret Ozersay stated that Anastasiades has cornered Tatar, while Yeniduzen, which echoes the views of the Turkish Republican Party, accuses Tatar of condemning the Turkish Cypriots to poverty and hunger by rejecting Anastasiades’ proposals.
Thirdly, he sent the letter with positions that he knows will not be accepted, since they’ve been rejected several times in the past, even by Mustafa Akinci, because he rightly senses that the T/Cs are preparing their own proposals. This became evident through Tatar’s reply where he rejected Anastasiades’ proposals and stated the T/C side would table its own, much more realistic, proposals based on the situation and realities prevailing in Cyprus today. Therefore, the proposals he tabled would act as a counterweight.
Fourthly, he sent the letter in a desperate attempt to manage his image and reputation at the EU and United Nations, since he is seen as one of the main causes of the failure of the talks. There is, at present, a huge danger posed by the Ukrainian issue. If the war should end with gains for Russia and the establishment of a confederate state between Ukraine and Donbas or the recognition of the secession of certain Ukrainian territories with the Europeans’ blessings, as certain moves by Emmanuel Macron would indicate, this precedent may also concern Cyprus. The likelihood is that at some point we will reach this point, but Mr Anastasiades hopes and prays this will not happen in the next eight months.
The end of the Bi-zonal
In short, if the Anastasiades letter had a tangible result, it was to set in motion once again the unproductive process of a blame game between the two sides. Unfortunately, things in Cyprus after Crans-Montana have taken a different turn. To the point where those who wish to look at the Cyprus issue realistically reach the conclusion that there is little chance of a discussion through direct talks of a comprehensive settlement based on a Bi-zonal, Bi-communal Federation.
Talking to politicians on both sides of the divide, reveals a main convergence of views: that the Cyprus problem must be solved step by step. The disagreement lies in the quality of the measures and policies that will lead to a normalisation of the situation. But this too appears difficult, if not impossible. The T/C side wants confidence-building measures of low politics that will gradually upgrade the T/C constituent state. Measures of economic, scientific, educational cooperation and joint actions in certain areas that are considered innocuous. The G/C side submitted proposals which, if accepted, would have disrupted the status quo, and, in its view, brought it to a more advantageous position, but again, would not lead to an overall solution. We are all now aware of the state in which the Cyprus problem finds itself. If something does not change after the presidential election in Cyprus, if there is no agreement for a comprehensive negotiation of the problem, the road to legitimising the faits accomplis of the invasion in Cyprus will become a reality.