Post originally appeared on Cyprus Mail.
IT SOUNDS like parody when a UN envoy announces that there is a ‘real opportunity’ in the Cyprus problem. We have heard such predictions from so many UN mediators/facilitators on so many occasions over the years that it is difficult not see them as a bit of a joke. Yet the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative Espen Barth Eide was perfectly serious yesterday, when he told journalists, after meeting President Anastasiades, that there was a ‘real opportunity’.
It was not an opportunity for any major breakthrough but for a resumption of the talks which Anastasiades abandoned last October after the issuing of the Turkish navtex and the incursions into the Cypriot EEZ by a Turkish seismic survey ship. As Barth Eide explained, the circumstances that caused the suspension of the talks would soon be over. Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Ozdil Nami said on Sunday that Turkey’s navtex would not be renewed after its expiry on April 6. It will not be renewed because there will be no drilling in the Cypriot EEZ.
Barth Eide alluded to this yesterday when he said: “All developments in the gas sector seem now to move in such a direction that we may have a climate where talks can continue. It seems that a window may be created where the mutual reasons for what has happened over winter are not there, and if that momentum occurs we will use it.”
He was quick to point out, when asked, that he was not referring to any agreed mutual concessions, aware that any such suggestion could be picked up on the Greek Cypriot side and cause big problems for Anastasiades. And, in fairness, there was probably no agreement on the matter between the two sides although it was well understood that no exploratory drilling (ENI-KOGAS had announced it would stop this month) would mean no navtex.
It now seems very likely that talks would resume after next month’s elections in the north, but as Barth Eide said, “at some stage there must be a shared will to move on.” Whether that shared will exists is questionable. The UN envoy said that he “feels the will is there”, but in addition to this “there must be the right circumstances”.
Such caution is perfectly understandable given the number of times that ‘real opportunities’ have led nowhere. We should also add that the existence of a “shared will to move on” might apply to the resumption of the talks and nothing more. After all both sides seem perfectly at ease with talks as long these do not go anywhere.