Prospects of a successful outcome in the negotiations widely seen as the best and probably the last chance to reunify Cyprus under a bi-communal, bizonal federation have decreased significantly.
Although there is occasional mention about a second Geneva meeting that would bring together the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides as well as the guarantor states – Turkey, Greece, and the United Kingdom – before July to seal a deal, insiders consider this a distant notion.
“A second Geneva would require a huge effort and bold compromises, which are not there,” said a diplomatic source. “As things stand, Geneva seems far fetched.”
The sides lost an invaluable two months when Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci walked out of talks after parliament voted to introduce an Enosis commemoration in state schools in February. The blame game and nationalist rhetoric adopted by both sides poisoned the climate.
Negotiations resumed last month, but the leaders have lost trust in each other and seem burnt, people close to the process agree. Moreover, the Greek Cypriot side has entered the pre-election period, which means it is very difficult for the leadership to take any steps or make any decisions that would have adverse political consequences. And the outstanding issues are the most difficult and sensitive ones.
An offer by Akinci to give a more active role to UN envoy Espen Barth Eide to carry out shuttle diplomacy to bring the sides closer was rejected by the Greek Cypriot leader.
In an effort to save the process, Eide is currently in New York to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council to update them on the negotiations and discuss the way forward.
The UN Special Advisor has recently openly questioned the drive and determination of the sides and repeatedly called for leadership.
A Cyprus conference in Geneva in January brought together the two sides and the guarantor states to discuss the contentious security chapter but failed to produce conclusive results.
July is widely seen as a natural deadline for talks as a new round of hydrocarbon drillings in the Cyprus waters is expected to spark reaction by Turkey and create an unfavorable climate for the dialogue to continue.
Turkey has time and again stated that it will not remain a bystander while drillings take place and will step in to safeguard the rights of Turkish Cypriots. Ankara maintains that Cyprus’ hydrocarbon resources can only be explored after a comprehensive settlement, so the wealth can be equitably shared by both communities.
“When drilling begins, political dynamics and the climate are expected to change in such a way that it will be impossible to continue the process,” said a foreign diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity. “If there is no Geneva before July, then there is no solution in Cyprus.”