OPINION

Pragmatism

A year after Greek Cypriots voted en masse against a UN-sponsored plan for the reunification of the divided Mediterranean island, Washington is stepping up pressure to restart the stalled peace talks. But its tactics are wrong. Washington’s new Cyprus envoy, Laura Kennedy, is calling on Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos to outline changes Nicosia wants to make to the plan before any new negotiations begin. It has made no similar demands on the other parties. The government in Athens is without doubt facing similar pressure. Washington is thereby acting as if all sides have already embraced UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint save for a few details that Nicosia has to clarify. But this is not the case here. The UN plan was set to be put to a referendum on both sides of the green line. A negative verdict by either of the two camps would be enough to kill the plan. And so it happened, as the overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots turned their backs on the UN initiative. This means that there is no roughly agreed settlement to which only slight changes need be made. What there is, rather, is a deadlock that can only be lifted with a fresh round of talks. As with all bargaining processes, in this case also both sides must present their positions. We cannot expect one side to show its cards beforehand. Nor can the American envoy afford to say that «the initiative will have to come from Cypriots rather than outsiders.» Everyone knows that Turkish troops are occupying Cypriot territory and that Ankara is the one pushing for membership of the European Union. Treading with prudence and pragmatism, Papadopoulos admits that any new negotiations will be based on the already rejected Annan plan. Moreover, the Greek-Cypriot leader stresses that he is not seeking for a just solution – for no acceptable solution will any longer be a just one. What Papadopoulos is really after is a viable solution. And there can be no sustainable settlement so long as the question of withdrawing Turkish troops remains unanswered. Besides, it was the recently elected Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat who said a year ago that the UN reunification plan could fail anytime if developments failed to meet Ankara’s expectations. Papadopoulos has taken the path of realpolitik: a path that will lead to a genuine solution of the Cyprus dispute and not to bigger problems. Athens is right to back him and do its best to convince Washington that Cyprus does not need a quick-fix solution but a genuine negotiation process that will result in a workable and enduring settlement.