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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Truce in war of words proves to be short-lived ]

Truce in war of words proves to be short-lived

A NEW PATTERN appears to have been established in relations between the two sides since the first meeting Demetris Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat had last March.

That meeting was followed by a brief honeymoon period during which each side refrained from antagonising the other publicly with incendiary public statements. But this truce in the war of words did not last despite the fact that the representatives of the two leaders were working constructively for the establishment of the working groups and technical committees. Once the first salvo had been fired – it does not matter who started it – the blame-game exchanges were stepped up.

Christofias kept belittling Talat by insisting that Turkey was calling all the shots while Talat would respond putting Christofias on the defensive by referring to a settlement involving two states. Christofias then started complaining that the working groups were not making any progress, while Talat kept calling for the start of direct talks in June regardless. The impression given was that the primary concern of both sides was to avoid any blame if and when the procedure ground to a standstill.

These fears were dispelled after the May 23 meeting which went well and produced a joint communiqué that seemed to satisfy both leaders. The honeymoon period lasted a couple of weeks again, and all hell broke loose last Thursday when Christofias signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The document outraged the Turkish Cypriot side and since Thursday Talat has united with opposition politicians in lambasting Christofias and questioning his commitment to a settlement.

The bickering and the exchanges are set to intensify over the next few days in anticipation of the UN Security Council resolution for the renewal of the UNFICYP mandate as both sides try to have their positions included. And once the resolution is released there will be more bickering as it is impossible for both sides to be satisfied with it. Talat, according to press reports, has turned down an invitation by the UN Under-Secretary-General Lyn Pascoe for a dinner with Christofias next week. This could be a way of putting pressure on the UN to change the UNFICYP resolution, but whatever the motives it is a reckless way to behave.

The two leaders were also scheduled to meet, at the end of June again, to evaluate the progress being made at the working groups and to decide a start date for direct talks. But will the meeting take place if Talat snubs Pascoe next week? And if the exchanges sparked by the Cyprus-Britain Memorandum continue there might not be a point to such a meeting. This is why it is so important for the two sides to call a halt to this pointless bickering, which is a throwback to the days when the exchange of accusations was the only form of communication between the two sides.

Perhaps Talat is playing to his domestic gallery, as Christofias had done a few weeks earlier, but both need to realise that there is a much bigger issue at stake than scoring political points at the expense of each other. And if there is to be a new procedure with a hope to succeed, both leaders need to forget the blame-games of the past, no matter how hard it is to break the habit.

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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