Ball in our court

The talks between Republic of Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the rest of the country’s party leaders today and tomorrow are extremely important. Although developments toward a settlement on the Cyprus problem have stalled due to unwillingness on behalf of the big powers and the lingering electoral race in the breakaway state in the northern part of the divided island, the current conjuncture remains crucial. In truth, reluctance on the part of the United States – and by extension from the United Nations – is utilized as a lever for putting pressure on Nicosia. Current inaction is portrayed as the consequence of the resounding Greek-Cypriot «no» vote to the peace plan drafted by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Accordingly, the rejection of the Annan blueprint is painted as a reprehensible verdict so as to overcome potential Greek-Cypriot resistance to another ill-conceived plan in the future. It is also a way of maximizing the negative fallout on Nicosia should the Greek-Cypriot population reject another UN solution. The Greek-Cypriot side must make sure that it does not again run after developments that have been imposed on it by third parties. It must seek to pre-empt any plans aimed at portraying Greek Cypriots as the systematic killers of all international initiatives. Nicosia has a clear set of principles and carefully thought out positions about what constitutes a viable, functional and democratic solution. The Cypriot president should choose the timing that suits him best and, undistracted by pressure of any type and from any source, come out with his own solutions on all controversial points. Nicosia must lay out its proposals in a consistent and thorough fashion. It must inform the international community of its own vision of a viable and functional bizonal, bicommunal federal democracy on Cyprus, regardless of whether its proposals fall within or outside the contours of the Annan plan – a solution that the Greek Cypriots anyway rejected en masse. «This is the solution we want. We are ready to discuss any reasonable adjustments and accept legitimate compromises on this basis.» This is more or less what Nicosia’s position should sound like. Such an initiative, whenever Papadopoulos deems it the best time, will force all interested parties to take a stand on his proposals. Even if they disagree, he will at least have made sure that the next set of counterproposals from the international community will not radically diverge from his positions.