NICOSIA - He’s been predicting imminent breakthroughs in the stalled Cyprus unity talks for 22 months only to see them repeatedly dashed, so now even the United Nations Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide sees hope sliding away.
The ever-optimistic Eide, the latest in a long line of envoys and diplomats to fail at bringing Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots to a deal, told the Cyprus News in an interview that trust has been eroded.
Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci walked away from the talks over Turkey’s demands to keep a standing army and the right to militarily intervene when it wants and after Cyprus’ Parliament – with President Nicos Anastasiades’ majority party abstaining – approved a measure to allow an annual teaching of the 1950 referendum seeking unity, or Enosis, with Greece.
Eide is a broker in the collapsed talks and unusually showed unhappiness over the lack of progress after he and Akinci and Anastasiades kept saying there was plenty.
“Trust is also needed and I am convinced that if it does not exist in the leadership level it is difficult to substitute it somewhere else,” he told CNS.
“I think if people believe in a solution in Cyprus this is the moment to speak up in favor of it, because frankly I am worried that things are not going as well as they used to do a few months ago,” he added.
He said time is running out and the issue of the negotiations should not be left only to the two leaders.
“There are some steps that are being taken and I think they are probably more successful if I do not spell them out.”
He added that, “It takes two to tango and requires some will of mutual accommodation, there is the issue of the vote in Parliament itself and people are looking into what can be done there, but there is also a question of how much the Turkish Cypriots will allow this to continue, because you can be right, morally right and make your point but it is always a choice, something that is bad can be somewhat very bad, terrible, catastrophic. That is the choice, the question is how bad it is,” he said.
Asked about an April 19 referendum in which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking near-dictatorial powers, he said that, “Any development in the vicinity that is of importance, including the referendum, is of course relevant as a lot of things are relevant but it is not an argument not to talk now, definitely not.”
He added: “There is no external force behind the absence of meetings, this particular crisis was created in Cyprus and can be solved in Cyprus, this is a Cypriot crisis.”
He denied he was using his constant optimism to hide problems with the talks even though none of his predictions for a resolution have come close to being met.
“I also said that I was quite clear that the bigger issue is whether we will be able to organise ourselves once we are at the table. Of course, I am focusing on how they can go back to the table but there is so much I can do because there is a process in Parliament and discussions between the sides will have to happen a little bit directly between them as well on that smaller issue, which is how to go back to the table,” he added.
The much bigger issue, he told CNA, “is whether we will manage to have a structured process once the leaders are back at the table. And here I express a level of worry, am not absolutely certain because I think we have been stuck a while in this last mile issue, everybody has been waiting for the move from the other side, there are certain things which one side would accommodate but only when they themselves are accommodated by the other one first.”
“I am more worried about that, rather than this immediate thing. I am not absolutely convinced that we will make it in the end and that requires an even stronger effort to go that final mile and it is extremely unfortunate that history was brought up again now,” he noted.
Eide said he does not think he has been hiding anything. “I think I am quite balanced, I have said that very many issues which I thought were very difficult - citizenship, territorial readjustment, engaging in dialogue in security – these issues are either solved or close to being solved and that tells me that this can be done but whether it will be done is fundamentally up to the leaders and secondary up to others.”