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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Our View: Maintaining the status quo has become the objective ]

Our View: Maintaining the status quo has become the objective

IT IS BACK to business for the Cyprus problem commentators and doomsayers this week, as talks resume on Tuesday and we enter yet another period billed as ‘critical’ by the experts. The Cyprus problem has entered hundreds of ‘critical phases’ over the years, but always emerges intact. Despite the devious scheming by foreign powers and the blatant bias of UN mediators the status quo is always preserved, to the mutual satisfaction of the two sides, until the next ‘critical’ phase arrives.

The maintenance of the status quo appears to have become the objective of both sides, even if the benefits are much greater for the Turkish side which is on the brink of the informal annexation of the occupied territory. This prospect does not seem to worry the Greek Cypriots who regularly identify dangers of a ‘speedy closure’ of the problem and issue stern warnings to the perpetrators. Opposition to rushing things has become official dogma, with President Christofias never tiring of reminding the world that he would never accept ‘asphyxiating time-frames’.

For the Greek Cypriots the problem has not matured enough to justify even a modicum of urgency in the process, the latest bout of which has been dragging on for two years. Inevitably, the Turkish side has been exploiting Christofias’ reluctance to up the pace of the procedure by calling for intensified talks with a view to reaching a deal by the end of this year. Thanks to this tactic, Dervis Eroglu, a hard-liner who had always opposed re-unification, has been able to market himself as a moderate a politician committed to reaching an agreement, while Turkey is posing as keen supporter of a deal.

Eroglu put Christofias on the spot last week, by announcing that he wanted the talks to be intensified on their resumption, on August 31. This prompted a rebuke from government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou, who advised Eroglu to make his proposals at the talks and not in public, while ignoring the fact that his own boss had announced his new package of proposals at a public gathering before submitting them to the other side. Christofias, subsequently said that he was not opposed to the idea.

The overriding impression is that both leaders have begun playing the blame-game in anticipation of a talks’ failure, despite their professed commitment to the continuation of the negotiations, which are reportedly going nowhere. However speculation is rife about the UN resorting to alternative means of pushing things forward. Apart from a possible meeting of the leaders with the UN Secretary-General in New York in September, which does not have Christofias’ support, there is already speculation about broadening participation in the talks to include Greece and Turkey, with some press reports suggesting that a repeat of the 2004 Burgenstock scenario was on the cards.

In fact the latter option seems the only way forward, considering the two leaders are determined to carry on talking inconclusively for another two years if allowed to do so by the UN. Such a meeting, which could include the participation of the EU, appears to be the only way of bringing the two sides within range of an agreement, even though this is far from a foregone conclusion. As the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in her video message, broadcast on Thursday night, “tough decisions will be required for a comprehensive solution.” But would either leader be prepared to take the tough decisions required?

Eroglu is in a better position as the final say for tough decisions belongs to Turkey, whose support of a solution would be truly tested at a broad international meeting, but Christofias cannot pass the responsibility on to anyone else. He has been on the receiving end of merciless criticism, domestically, for his alleged concessions in the talks and has shown he does not possess the strength or determination to take the tough decisions required for a deal. There is little doubt that he would have a much easier ride on the home front if he got through the latest critical phase, without reaching an agreement.

The painful truth is that the Greek Cypriot political establishment is comfortable with the status quo - this is why it insists on holding out for a deal that could never be achieved – as it does not want to share power with the Turks. As for the Turks, maintenance of the status quo allows them to hold on to everything they took in 1974, at no cost.

Perversely, both sides would consider failure of the imminent critical phase to yield results a win-win situation.

(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.

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