Cyprus Talks: a change in mindset or hoodwinking on a grand scale?

Circular_Intersection_signArriving to the promise of a week in the Cyprus sun, 24°c and a good rest I was met by our taxi driver at the airport. The conversation drifted from banalities to the reunification issue. Whereas previously I have been accustomed to hearing things like: “Oh what that? It’ll never happen” or “not in a million years,” I was surprised to hear a rather resigned, “well I suppose it might be happening.” I pressed for further backup evidence, but alas there was only a shrug of the shoulders and an equivocal, “well the Governments have agreed it haven’t they?”

“…there is no visible progress and no real tangible agreement on anything…”

What have they agreed I thought? Only two months ago it was the running gag. All the major points of agreement in the reunion process, things like agreeing to differ on many (unspecified) things and having agreed on many things (also unspecified) so we have a glorious situation where there is no visible progress and no real tangible agreement on anything that has been released to the public. Except maybe that they’ve agreed to put Turkish and Greek names on the town signs. No mention of which comes first though; English perhaps?

Next day I’m talking to the Cypriot pool man next door who has up till now been a firm believer in “no way!” Suddenly I find that he is resignedly saying, “yes well it’s going to happen isn’t it.” The next door neighbor was also of the opinion that things were moving in the direction of an unspecified settlement. What a change from October. I scanned the press for anything to give this change in mindset credence. I came up with nothing.

“Let the public vote and we’ll decide what they voted for later.”

Travelling back via Larnaca, I picked up a Cyprus Mail which had couple of interesting tit bits in it. One just underlining the depth of the problem (p.2, 10/12/2009.) On this day on December 10th 1969 Britain was seeking to expel Greece from the council of Europe. Greece defended themselves with accusations about British atrocities in Cyprus and also of interfering with Greece’s internal affairs. Well, if that’s not a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Still I digress. The interesting bit on the settlement appears in a very modest article on page 7 which drags up a couple of international VIPs (both well past their best before dates) Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu who, both acting on the sparse information available, seem to think the island is on the brink of settlement. “Just a little nudge” is one of the terms used. Tutu is quotes as saying “Cyprus is on the cusp of a wonderful situation.” What does he know that we don’t? Jimmy Carter was also reported as saying that this was “..a situation where two leaders were better qualified to come to a solution,” whatever that means; sounds positive though. Carter follows up by saying, “secondly, I think the Cyprus people now believe the decision is in their hands… not in the UN’s, Turkey’s or Greece. So people have a choice of unity and peace or division where the problems may become more troublesome in the future.” Talk about stating the obvious.

I still fail to see any meat in the discussion. No hard facts no plan. So where is all the optimism coming from? Especially when I read in the same paper that Christofias has been bleating on about all the negative press relating to the talks. Can he really be that naïve? All that has come out of the talks up to now, apart from the aforementioned, are the things that have been shelved, the things they can’t agree on. If memory serves me rightly these far outweigh the agreement on town sign names by about several dozen to one. No wonder the press found it hard to write positive things about the reunification.

I can’t help feeling that there is an element of steamrollering taking place. Capping all this with an article about a media campaign to inform the public on “what a federation will mean” so they (the public) will be in a position to vote in 2010 in a referendum. I am left feeling a sort of déjà vu, that we’ve been here before and blamed it on lack of communication (Annan Plan 2004). The fact that a referendum with such a fixed timetable (although no exact date is being talked about) is in the offing, begs the stigma of agenda rigging. Let the public vote and we’ll decide what they voted for later. Whatever it is, Henry Kissinger will leap out of the wings and say that’s what America had planned all along. After all it’s about time America had a success story in the foreign affairs field.

there is no visible progress and no real tangible agreement on anything that has been released to the public.
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