British High Commissioner Ric Todd warns:
Nobody can assume the status-quo will continue
Status-quo cannot continue: British High Commissioner Todd stated that given the way the world is now, given where Cyprus is, given the neighbourhood specially to the East, nobody can assume that the status quo will continue.
Risk of solution or risk of non-solution: Todd stated that Cypriots need to answer the question “Do you want to take the risk of a settlement, or take the risk of not having a settlement?” rather than “Do you want the status-quo to continue or do you want to take the risk of settlement?”
Lack of trust underlies disagreements: British High Commissioner Todd stated that there is a lack of trust between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides and said that this lack of trust underlies many of the disagreements.
British High Commissioner Ric Todd stated that, taking into consideration the nature of the world, where Cyprus is, and the neighbourhood especially to the East, nobody can assume that the status quo will continue.
“I think the choice facing Cypriots is not ‘do you want the status-quo to continue’ or ‘do you want to take the risk of settlement?’ It’s more ‘do you want to take the risk of a settlement or take the risk of not having a settlement?’ I think it’s important to try and put the issue in those terms,” said Todd.
The British High Commissioner stated that they support UN Secretary General’s efforts to resume the negotiations and added that they encourage both sides to return to structured negotiations.
Todd underlined that there is lack of trust between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides and said that this lack of trust underlies most of the disagreements over the issues on the table.
The UNSG’s Special Advisor on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, is working very hard on having the negotiations between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides resumed. And you are supporting these efforts. What is exactly being done to bring the sides back on the table?
Todd: Over the new-year period, Mr. Eide worked very hard with the two sides to try to bring about a situation, after which the negotiations could resume in a positive spirit. He always says, and we always say that it’s not just about resuming negotiations. It’s about resuming negotiations in a positive spirit. Mr. Eide believes that his efforts came close to success, but they didn’t succeed. He feels that both sides share some responsibility for the fact that the negotiations were not resumed and he will continue his efforts to bring about a resumption of negotiations. Of course we will do too. We think that Mr. Eide is doing a very good job and we do support him as all the Security Council. In that sense, there is a very strong international support for finding a settlement to the Cyprus problem
May I ask you what these efforts are?
Todd: There is a very interesting dynamic to the settlement negotiations in the sense that, clearly, the negotiations are important to all Cypriots, who are very interested in what is happening in the background. On the other hand, I think Mr. Eide, as an experienced mediator, would also say that there is need to build confidence among negotiators and therefore there is need for some element of assurance of confidentiality. That is not contrary to openness transparency and honesty. In the past, when contents of negotiations or discussions would be leaked prematurely accidentally or deliberately, that hasn’t always been constructive. So I think it will be right for us to recognize that Mr. Eide can’t always say exactly what he is trying to do.
Despite the fact that a new NAVTEX has been issued, the Turkish side is keeping Barbaros off the shore of Famagusta as a show of good will. On the other hand, Anastasiades has accepted to put the hydrocarbon issue on the table. However, despite these compromises the stalemate could not be overcome. What needs to be done to resume negotiations?
Todd: Mr. Eide acknowledged there was a move by the Greek Cypriot side and he also acknowledges there was a move by the Turkish Cypriot side, but those moves were not sufficient to bring about a resumption of the negotiations. So I think therefore, the question, which Mr. Eide will be thinking on, is how to make further efforts to bring things back to the negotiations table. I think it is very important in politics and in diplomacy and in journalism to remember what it is you are trying to achieve when you encounter daily problems. It is important to keep you eyes on what the objective is and when you are pushed off track, to remember where it was you were trying to go in the first place. It is very important to remind ourselves what the process is and the process is about bringing the reunification of Cyprus.
So you think the sides realize what we are missing because of the lack of a solution?
Todd: I do feel having been here five months that there is a desire genuinely on both sides to find a settlement. And I also feel very strongly that maybe in the past, there was an assumption that “if nothing happens, the status quo will continue.” In other words, people didn’t like the status quo, but they were used to it and thought it is bearable. But I think given the way the world is now, given where Cyprus is, given the neighbourhood, especially to the East, Syria, Iraq, I don’t think anyone can assume that the status quo will continue. I think that is something people should bear in mind too. The benefits of unification of Cyprus for both sides are clear. So there are strong positive reasons to move to a settlement, but there are also reasons, which are about avoiding negatives.
Do you mean that Cyprus could fall into chaos like its neighbours in the event of non-solution?
Todd: I wouldn’t go as far as raising threats of violence. But you cannot assume that the bad things not many miles away would not spread to Cyprus. There is a threat from terrorism all across Europe, and no country can say its exempt from that.
Would a unified Cyprus be in a much better position to stand strong in the face of terrorism?
Todd: I think in every sense a unified Cyprus would be better able to deal with the challenges that Cyprus and Cypriots face, yes.
Is it even more important that there is solution on the island now, taking into account the problems in the region?
Todd: I think with the present situation, the nature of the world, not just the threats now, but the way the 21st century is evolving the challenges, it is even more important to find a settlement now than it was before. I think the choice facing Cypriots is not “Do you want the status-quo to continue or do you want to take the risk of settlement?” It’s more, “Do you want to take the risk of a settlement or take the risk of not having a settlement?” I think it’s important to try and put the issue in those terms. We encourage the two sides to return to structured negotiations because it is in everybody’s interest. I would say that whether or not Cypriots or the others interested in the Cyprus questions like it, the British have an agenda in Cyprus and that agenda is not hidden. Our agenda is entirely open. We are trying to bring a settlement to the Cyprus question. It is understood that a settlement requires compromises. It’s easy to recognize there are conflicting pressures on political leaders. But I think what is important is that the international community is very interested in and supportive of a solution and willing to do what it can for a settlement. But equally there is also a point made in Security Council resolutions: “Finding a solution lies first and foremost with the Cypriots themselves.”
As someone who is closely following the developments, do you expect the resumptions of negotiations soon or will things linger on until after April?
Todd: I think there are alternative scenarios. There is a scenario where nothing can happen until April. However, I don’t accept and to be honest, I don’t think Mr. Eide accepts either that the existence of elections stops the process of negotiations. So, I don’t think we should accept that nothing could happen in the immediate future. The need to find a settlement is there.
From what I understand, besides trying to get the sides resume negotiations, Mr. Eide is also working on how the negotiations can move more speedily and effectively once started. Is that right?
Todd: Mr. Eide, since he started doing this work and his team are working very hard on how exactly you take up the subjects on the table. Therefore, the UN is ready to take forward with the parties the negotiations, which is why it’s so important that they resume. As I said, my strong sense is that there is a desire on both sides to find a settlement. The way forward is set out in the joint declaration. It is actually then, a question of moving to the give and take phase. It is understood that a settlement requires compromises on both sides, but those compromises must be balanced. The sides need to feel comfortable with the outcome. Therefore, once you get to negotiations and find compromises for those most difficult issues, then all the other issues will fall into place.
Do you think that the sides sincerely want a solution?
Todd: In terms of the leadership and the people responsible for the negotiations, there is - and we have to be honest about it – a lack of trust across the island between the leaderships. That distrust doesn’t help. And I often feel that the number of issues that are on the table, security, property, territory, guarantees, hydrocarbons - whether it’s on the table or floating above it doesn’t really matter - all of those issues are actually proxies for a lack of trust.
How can we overcome this lack of trust? How will the sides, who cannot trust each other for the simplest issues, jointly govern a federation?
Todd: You are absolutely right. A settlement to the Cyprus problem, when it is reached between the leaders with Mr. Eide’s help, has to be passed by referendums on both sides. If they are both ‘yes,’ then that is not the end of the Cyprus issue. It is the end of the chapter. And the next one starts. In the words of Andreas Mavroyiannis, Cypriots will then walk hand in hand into the future. So, this is one of the reasons why the UN repeatedly calls on the two sides and their leaders to foster positive public rhetoric and explain the benefits of a settlement. The UN is saying there is responsibility on leaderships across the island, not only to work for a settlement, but to help prepare the people for both referendum and the shared future. That is very important. I come to Cyprus having spent many years doing EU work. One of the fundamentals of how EU works is recognition that solidarity is not something you take. If you give solidarity, you get it back. So people are quite wrong to think that solidarity is something you take. No, it doesn’t work that way. You give solidarity and you get it.