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Charm offensive to win over UN chief

By Lefteris Adilinis

RoC President Nicos Anastasiades arrives in New York on Monday and in-cyprus.com understands that his major objective is to make sure he won’t be singled out by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres as the culprit for the collapse of July’s Crans-Montana summit.

Anastasiades will address the UN General Assembly on Thursday and the next day he will meet Guterres. The UN Secretary General will also meet separately at his New York headquarters with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.

Currently, both Cypriot leaders’ main preoccupation is not the restart of talks but the content of the UNSG’s report on the latest failed attempt to solve the political problem. Guterres has indicated that he will submit his report to the UN Security Council after the General Assembly ends its work and of course after he has met Anastasiades and Akinci.

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There is an understanding that the UNSG won’t be blaming only one side for the talks’ collapse. Such assurances, though, are deemed to be vague by both leaders who will do their best to avoid being on the receiving end of potential harsh criticism.

Anastasiades will stress to the UNSG his willingness to resume negotiations immediately, as long as Turkey and Turkish Cypriots accept the framework Guterres himself devised at Crans-Montana.

The Greek Cypriot side believes that the framework provides for the eventual abolition of guarantees and a step-by-step withdrawal of Turkish troops from the north. It also calls on Nicosia to accept a rotating presidency and ease Turkish Cypriot participation in the decision making of a future reunited federal state.

The RoC President faces a difficult task in New York. Despite the careful public statements, Guterres is not at all keen to restart a new settlement process, having seen at Crans-Montana the reluctance of Cypriots and Turks to agree on a compromise.

Nicosia in the dog house

Also, European Union officials who coordinate with the UN leadership, still blame Anastasiades for not taking the Swiss talks one step further by inviting the Prime Ministers of Turkey, Greece and Britain to devise an acceptable formula for the security and guarantees aspect of the problem.

EU officials also hold Akinci responsible for asking for too much on the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem, namely on the effective participation of Turkish Cypriots in the federal structure. Demands that – as Greek Cypriots – insist derailed the talks in Switzerland and made finding a formula on security much more difficult.

Anastasiades’ other New York objective is to find out whether Turkey and Akinci would be willing to give direct dialogue another chance in October.

In-cyprus.com understands, though, that the President and his aides are not holding their breath on that. They realise how impossible such a task is in the current state of suspicion that dominates relations of the two sides.

Guterres has made clear he won’t engage again on Cyprus unless both sides jointly make a firm and very serious commitment. Diplomatic sources also point out that the Secretary General is aware that restarting talks would definitely help Anastasiades’ pre-election campaign, but won’t necessarily improve the chances of achieving a long waited Cyprus settlement.

Akinci is also in a tight spot. He has to defend Ankara’s position that any future arrangement on Cyprus should be outside of UN parameters. This is a political U-turn for the Turkish Cypriot leader who was always a firm defender of a federal settlement and now has to effectively talk about a possible two-state solution within the EU.

With prospects of talks restarting being so slim, both leaders now aim for a “balanced” (as they put it) report by the UN Secretary General, sensing strongly that direct meetings between them will be a long time in the making.

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