The infamous Istanbul crisis, albeit small, was very important in showing how vital leadership and good judgement are right now, at a time when Cyprus solution negotiations have reached a critical point.
Both Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades acted irrationally in this crisis, not as two leaders building a common future together, but as mediocre politicians trying to outdo each other.
Dreading criticism that he had been ignored and left out even by Turkey while Anastasiades was given the VIP treatment, Akinci scrambled until the last moment to arrange a meeting with the UN Secretary General and set foot in Istanbul. He did this despite the clear hesitation of the UN, which probably guessed this could turn into a crisis.
Anastasiades, faced with a fait accompli in a place he already felt insecure, feared the backlash if Akinci was to be received on equal footing, and stormed out of Istanbul- which is understandable. But practically leaving the table and jeopardising negotiations was an extreme, unjustifiable and inexplicable response.
We have no time to lose. The momentum in the negotiations has been lost and the political climate on both sides of the island has changed for the worse. The nationalist coalition in the north is poisoning the sentiment, while hard-line parties in the south gained ground and entered parliament.
Many factors inside and outside Cyprus are increasingly complicating reunification efforts. If Akinci and Anastasiades are serious about solving the Cyprus problem in 2016, as they recently jointly stated, they have to make a decision right now.
They will either be politicians who play into the hands of hardliners, try to score points against each other and engage in never-ending tactical moves; or they will be visionary leaders, focus on the big picture, and guide their people forward with determination and courage.
They will either be politicians who are prisoners of their own weaknesses, fears and emotions, get carried away with every breeze and lead Cyprus into uncertainty; or they will be leaders who act rationally and responsibly, take unfaltering steps in the path they set out, and create a united Cyprus.
They will either be men of small domestic politics, or rise among the world’s leaders.
Now is the moment of truth, gentlemen…Will you be the leaders who make history, or the petty politicians of a divided Cyprus?