January 15, 2017
The historic international conference on Cyprus to discuss the contentious security aspect of a possible settlement began on Thursday with diminished expectations.
The conference bringing together the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides, along with the guarantor states Turkey, Greece and the UK, was expected to result in an agreement on security and guarantees and therefore remove the last obstacle in the way of a settlement.
However, the lack of satisfactory dialogue and preparation between the parties ahead of the conference to lay the groundwork, as well as the failure of the two Cypriot leaders to reach sufficient convergences on the internal chapters, diminished expectations.
The conference marks the beginning – instead of the end – of what looks like a long and difficult dialogue between the Cypriot sides and guarantor states on the issue.
It is, nevertheless, historic since this is the first time the issue is being tabled with all parties behind doors accepting that the existing security and guarantee arrangements on the island should change, and a compromise should be reached.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades had jointly decided on December 1 that they had made enough progress in the five chapters of the negotiations – governance and power sharing, property, EU, economy and territory.
There were high expectations that the Geneva conference could witness the sealing of a deal on the guarantees issue. However, limited dialogue between Turkey and Greece did not exactly prove constructive and the planned high-level preparatory meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras never took place.
The importance of the conference was progressively lowered in recent days with messages coming from all sides, including the UN, that this would be just a beginning and a breakthrough should not be expected.
The parties are very likely to end the discussions in Geneva on Friday and return to their respective countries with the commitment to continue dialogue.
Patience is running low, however,among Turkish Cypriots, who feel that they are running out of time for a solution as a number of internal and external developments will not allow the negotiations to continue for much longer into 2017.
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