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Suspicious minds

The most valuable element for the success of the Cyprus peace process, the trust among interlocutors and mediators, was lost this week in Istanbul.

With that trust also went the belief that the leaders had what it takes to rise above micro politics, see the big picture and not get lost in the mundane and ever-present taboos of political division.

The decision by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to have a meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, on the sidelines of an international conference he was co-organising with Turkey in Istanbul, caused diplomatic havoc.

It also resulted in the Greek Cypriot side temporarily freezing the peace talks with the Turkish Cypriots. On Friday the UNSG managed to patch up the rift with a telephone call to Anastasiades.

Ban Ki-moon provided the distinction between the sovereignty of Republic of Cyprus as a recognized state and the inter-communal dialogue for achieving a settlement Anastasiades had requested.

Ban didn’t really recognise that he made a mistake in Istanbul (the second term of Anastasiades to get back to the table), although political analysts say that anyway it was a tall order to expect that UN would specifically accept being at fault.

In any case, UNSG’s phone call mended fences and seemingly put an end to the latest mini crisis in the talks. It didn’t succeed though to completely remove suspicion.

The Istanbul incident revealed once again the thin foundations on which any attempt to solve the Cyprus problem is based. Even though Anastasiades and Akinci have sincerely tried to build a healthy relationship, they do not lose an opportunity to score points against each other, surrendering themselves to the whim of hardliners within their respective communities.

A good example is the Turkish Cypriot leader’s apparent insistence, beforehand, to take part in the Istanbul conference and meet the UNSG, so as not to be seen as inferior to President Anastasiades who had been invited.

Much more striking though, is the UN’s inability at the highest level, to avoid actions that could jeopardise the hard work already achieved.

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