“The climate, the tone, the way people spoke about each other and to each other didn’t sound like people that were about to unify their homeland”
United Nations.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
What prevented the solution, in the Crans Montana talks on Cyprus, was not what could have been the final outcome but the inability to get to that final outcome, UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide has told CNA in an interview, after the collapse of the week-long talks in the Swiss ski resort.
Eide, in his interview, referred to “a collective failure” which he maintains, “includes everybody who was there”. If something fails, “everyone should think what should I have done to make it better, rather than running and say everybody else made the mistakes” he explained.
On the thorny issue of abolishing the current system of guarantees, as this is stipulated in the 1960 treaties which established the Republic of Cyprus, Eide said that things were moving towards a “major breakthrough on guarantees but we still had the outstanding issues on the troops. Between “sunset clause” review and perpetuity, we didn’t have yet the final agreement,” he told CNA.
Eide said there were some “very important and very constructive openings from the Greek Cypriot side … from Mr. Anastasiades, on the internal front,” which were presented in context.
Replying to questions, he said that at the long dinner on July 6 which continued into the early hours of Friday morning “everybody in the room understood that this wasn’t going anywhere. There was deterioration of trust… The climate, the tone, the way people spoke about each other and to each other didn’t sound like people that were about to unify their homeland.”
In his replies to CNA questions, Eide referred to a package deal and talked about six strategic issues which related to replacing the Treaty of Guarantees with an implementation mechanism, the future of the troops, rotating presidency, the future of “one particular place” – as he described it meaning the Town of Morphou – , the property regime and the equivalent or special treatment of the Turkish nationals.
“If we had answered these questions, we could have been beyond the point of no return,” he acknowledged.
The UN official, commenting on criticism that the Conference was not well prepared, he said the idea that the UN was not prepared is paradoxical and added:
“We had prepared this event for several months. If someone was unprepared, maybe it’s the people who were in charge, not the people that were just helping them.”
- Let me start with your statement about “collective failure” in Crans Montana. Is everybody responsible including the U.N.? Because you were criticized for being unprepared.
- If I say it’s a collective failure I must say that includes everybody who was there. If something fails, everyone should think what should I have done to make it better, rather than running and say everybody else made the mistakes. I must say I felt we were very well prepared. We had many – many bilaterals, we were shuttling between the guarantors developing many concrete ideas of security and guarantees and I can tell you now that from early on it was my conviction that the Treaty of Guarantees and the right of intervention had to end immediately. There is no place for that in a modern sovereign state.
“Troops” is something else. Some of the troops that are in Cyprus have their origin in the 1960 Treaty of Alliance. That was an idea of some kind of defensive alliance between Cyprus and some neighboring states. That’s actually quite normal. Many countries have a defense partnership with other. You can have or you cannot have. It’s a choice in the sense whether you want a military presence. But those troops that came in 1974, in the exercise of the so-called right of intervention – which is of course itself contested – they are no longer warranted in the post-settlement situation, because in the Turkish argument – with which the Greek Cypriots don’t agree – they were there to restore the constitutional order. If you have a settlement there is really a constitutional order, so that argument is gone.
The idea was to develop a security concept where troops would be quickly reduced down to that level that was in the Treaty of Alliance and also back to the purpose of the Treaty of Alliance, which we could rename. It could become a Friendship Pact, where you will have a limited number of troops for some time, but completely unconnected to any internal role, in other words, without any role in the internal matters.
- What you called the fourth pillar…
- Exactly. I think this very much catered to a key Greek Cypriot concern, that a modern state cannot have a system where other states maintain an unilateral right of intervention. If any troops were to stay, even for some time, they had to be framed in the logic of some kind of mutually agreed defense arrangement, i.e. what originally was known as the Treaty of Alliance.
In order to arrive at that goal, however, we would first need to answer another question, which was the Turkish Cypriots’ concern: How can we be secure without the presence of Turkish troops? What if things end up going terribly wrong again, as it did back then between 1963 and 1974? We were then trying to say, if we had an international mechanism monitoring implementation at least for the time it takes till the process is fully completed with all the aspects of implementation, this could take away the need for having a guarantee system, because you are now under some kind of UN monitoring mechanism. That, combined with all the internal aspects – constitutional order, respect of political equality and internal security mechanisms of the federal and the constituent states – would cater to do what a country does, with federal, state and local police etc..
The outcome of this would have been a fundamental change to the security system, but still answered some of the Turkish Cypriot worries. One of the most interesting thing – and for some of us a learning experience – was the second session of the Conference in Mont Pelerin, where it became very clear to all of us that the worry of the average Greek Cypriot and the worry of the Turkish Cypriots were on different levels. The Turkish Cypriots have inherited from their reading of the history of 1960s a concern for life and property of individuals but also for a concern for identity and community. So it’s the level of the community that their concerns are.
The Greek Cypriot worry is more the concern for the security of state and how do we insure a sovereign state with no risk of intervention from other countries. Both concerns are perfectly fair and actually not incompatible. You could answer both in the same way. You take away other countries’ right to intervene, but we do keep an international system guarantying the implementation will happen and no one will run away with the state.
- From what I heard, at the end we came to the question and then the SG closed the Conference. Did he misunderstand what the Turkish Foreign Minister has told him that there will be, from the first day, no guarantee system? Is this the case?
- It is difficult to talk about confidential conversations. I have to keep some things confidential. What I can tell you is that the SG didn’t misunderstand anything. We were in the same meetings and it was quite clear what was happening. Out of the various bilaterals we saw the possibility of arriving that night at the final total package; a total package with many elements in it, one of which would have been the end of guarantees.
- If this package wasn’t presented in writing to everybody, how could it be agreed?
- The agreement would be written down by us after agreeing among the heads of delegation. This is actually normal procedure at the end of such negotiations. The parties had all some written proposals but they have also certain things they said to the SG. Because the SG was testing the limits of every participant. He said, I want to hear about what you want, I want to hear what your red line is and I want to understand where your flexibility lies.
- The SG said “here is what I understood Mr. Cavusoglu said, what Mr. Anastasiades said etc”. When Mr. Kotzias, or Mr. Anastasiades asked Mr. Cavusoglu, “did you say that?” and his answer was no, how could this be presented?
- This is not exactly what happened. The problem is, these conversations were confidential. But some of what I have read that purportedly refers to that dinner is simply wrong. So let me say this: In these high sensitive issues the SG, myself and members of my team were in many bilateral meetings, testing out the frontiers of people’s views, including off course Turkey in order to see if a final package was available that we thought the others will accept. So, what the Secretary General said in this dinner was based on these conversations and it wasn’t wrong.
Let me speak in general terms because it’s easier to answer. A part to such a meeting might say, “here is my position, there is your position, these are not compatible”. A mediator or a facilitator can say “if you move a little here and he moves a little there, then maybe we could find something mutually acceptable? That could be a verbal communication and then the SG could at the end say “this is my reading of the room”. And then it can be written down. This is how it sometimes works, in difficult negotiations like these. Not everything is based on written inputs.
Our firm conviction was, and remains, that in that overall reading it would be possible – based on many factors – to see an end to the system of guarantees. What we were not yet able to say was that we had the final answer to the longevity of the troop presence. It was clear the troops would be reduced and it was also clear that when they were reduced it would be down to the old levels. But between “sunset clause” review and perpetuity, we didn’t have yet the final agreement.
So, we were moving towards a major breakthrough on guarantees, but we still had the outstanding issues on the troops. Let me be clear: There was agreement about the fact that their number after reduction would be very low, but the time they would stay wasn’t yet agreed.
- You said “we were moving towards”, but we hadn’t yet arrived at the “no guarantees”.
- We could have done it that night. That’s clear.
- So why didn’t the SG continue?
- He made that decision after he read the room and what it had gotten to that evening.
I explained at length in the Security Council – that different parties had their focus on different elements. Turkish Cypriots had strong focus on political equality related issues and Greek Cypriots very much on security related issues. That’s legitimate. We would have a solution that will provide a new security regime that could only be part of a total package. It couldn’t live its own life. A sequential approach, first we do security, then we do property, then we do governance etc. would not work. At this critical, final moment, a deal would only materialize as a package where all managed to get what was most important for them while helping others to get what most mattered to them too.
We focused on this, but I have to say there were some very important and very constructive openings also from the Greek Cypriot side … from Mr. Anastasiades, on the internal front. They were of course also presented “in context” or “subject to” other achievements. They were not given as “stand alone” offers – they were dependent on other achievements. Which makes sense. This was exactly what we were trying to do. The SG was asking, “what’s your final-final cards, could you go a little further” and occasionally the sides told us, “yes we can go a little further, if the others do the same”.
- Didn’t Cavusoglu propose 15 years for the termination of the Treaty of Guarantees?
- Turkey’s official position was that the guarantees should be phased out after a number of years. This view was well known to all. But beyond that, the Secretary-General and I, when we were testing everybody’s flexibility, understood that as a contribution to a final package it would actually be possible for all to agree on an immediate termination of the rights of intervention upon entry into force – but of course only if there was agreement also on the rest of the final package. Furthermore, it had to be a SG compromise proposal – not a proposal from any party. During the Conference, the SG, Undersecretary-General Feltman and I had all made clear that we did not believe a deal would be possible without a termination of the intervention rights. And this was increasingly understood by all.
- So, if we were so close, why did you not continue and instead asked for cooling off period etc?
- We could start tomorrow morning, if it was up to the UN. But we need all parties to continuing and it’s not my sense that this is the case right now. I hope to find out more, however, from the leaders when I meet them again next week.
- Did you hear anybody saying “I don’t want to talk”? The last word came from the SG.
- We were approaching 2:30 at night. It was a very long dinner. He said that after what he heard during this dinner he didn’t see any prospect in continuing the conference, for instance the following week, given the mood that had developed. He asked the participants if they agreed and they did agree. It was a very special dinner. What I can tell you is that everybody in the room understood that this wasn’t going anywhere. The deterioration of mutual trust was obvious… The climate, the tone, the way people spoke about each other and to each other didn’t sound like people that were about to unify their homeland.
- It’s not secret you are running in your country’s elections and sometime before September 11 you are going to leave the post. And you will go to say farewell to the parties.
- Yes, of course I will.
- Will you get during these visits their sense and convey it to the SG, or it will just be farewell visit?
- I will very much like to hear their own thoughts, what they want to do next, in order to share my impressions with the SG now that the immediate dust has settled after Crans-Montana. Because my last main task in this assignment will be along with my team to –prepare the Secretary-General’s report of the history of these talks. We must remember that Mr. Anastasiades and Mr. Akinci have taken this process way beyond what’s seen before. We have literally thousands of pages of documents, notes and inputs; we have a well of insights to what happened in these hundreds and hundreds of meetings. Somebody has to take stock of all this. I assume they do as well, but we the UN will definitely do that. Again, I must say, despite of the sad outcome of the Conference, I was very impressed by both leaders and their negotiating teams and everything they achieved underway – in a truly leader-led process.
- When is this best-seller going to be published?
- (He laughs) … When we are done! We start right now …
- It may go beyond your tenure?
- My intention is to finalize this when I am in the job. We are talking about the reasonably near future.
- You are concerned about the blame game…
- Very. I think it’s very unhealthy and it also turns complicated issues into banalities. I have to say, since the Akinci – Anastasiades negotiations started in May 2015, for a full year and a half there was hardly any blame game at leader’s level. Certain people in political circles on both sides are blaming everybody else all the time, of course, but the leaders were refraining from this. But sometime around winter last year that changed and we started to see public statements questioning each other’s intentions, and from then on I felt that this was becoming increasingly difficult. I was sometimes criticized about being too optimistic in Cyprus. Maybe I was! Now I haven’t been optimistic for half a year – to be frank – and you will not find a single very optimistic statement from me in 2017. But I still have this image.
Well OK – I want to say now – it’s good time to say it – that I was optimistic for two main reasons: One was because I saw that these problems were all perfectly solvable, but even more importantly, because for a long time I saw the determination, leadership and will to cut through in leaders. We solved the issue of citizenship; that’s a big one. We solved the issues of internal freedoms, laying the groundwork for a normal, federal state. And so on. We solved very big issues and then we were stuck on certain questions which I saw as relatively small issues. But at some point late last autumn I think something happened last autumn; historians will find out why. At some point anyway the climate and trust deteriorated significantly. I am not only speaking about the trust at leaders’ level, but also the trust and understanding between the two communities started to change. Maybe it was because we were losing momentum. These processes have their time, if time is not well spent, it might be lost.
- A lot of time was lost after the Cypriot Parliament resolution on Enosis, then more time for other issues and then we arrived at the end, with the elections few months away.. There was also not much time to complete the thing.. So, probably this is the reason you are accused for being unprepared. We are talking about complicated things, like the treaty of Vienna of 1955, and the treaty for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Germany etc. Even in Crans Montana time was lost and the net negotiating time was limited.
- Very good question but somewhat I disagree with the premise. The property regime, for instance, is extremely complex. Even if you have a broad agreement it will take months to write it up. The international treaties issues are politically extremely difficult but legally relatively easy to amend. It’s not too difficult to change it, technically speaking, once the sides agree on the new content. Basically, we wanted one treaty to go away and another treaty to change. That could be done by good lawyers in days – literally. If you look at the existing treaties, they are very short; a few paragraphs each, including the one that would eventually be terminated
But, all that said, we didn’t expect to come down from the mountain with the full agreement. What we were hoping and aiming for was to have a strategic breakthrough on six strategic issues. Which a:
How do we replace the Treaty of Guarantees with an implementation mechanism?
What do we do with the troops?
Will there be rotating presidency and whether it will be with cross voting and so on.
What will happen to “one particular place” in the territorial arrangement?
What happens to the property regime? Could there be two regimes, one for the areas under territorial adjustment and one for those not under territorial adjustment?
How do we deal with the question of the equivalent or special treatment of the Turkish nationals?
If we had answered these questions, we could have been beyond the point of no return. We will still have to write up the agreement, , all the elements of the deal, but remember, we had hundreds of pages already done. There was no lack of work. On our side we had an excellent team, but also I cannot praise enough Andreas Mavroyiannis and OzdilNami and their teams that included lawyers and experienced people, who already have done much of this work. What would have happened if we succeeded in Crans Montana, it would be that you would then put down a group of eminent lawyers and say: Here is the political agreement, make it to a constitution. Here is the property deal and write it into a law text.
Yes, it would take some time, but the idea was to spend that time.
In January 2016 there was an agreement by the leaders to start working on a constitution. They both committed to each other to send their best lawyers to start writing just the pieces we can write. Because there were agreements and then eventually we fill in. It never started.
- Economy and the banks also never started.
- I informed the Security Council that we were still waiting for the Asset Quality Review (AQR, which means a quality control of the bank system in the north). It never started.
Interestingly on economy, that chapter was almost fully agreed, but the implementation work wasn’t done.
What I want to say and I want to lead by example is we should all look into what we should have done differently. But this idea that we weren’t prepared is little paradoxical. I have been hearing since I came is that this is leader-led and it’s owned by them and we are just facilitating. I fully subscribed to that. If someone was unprepared, maybe it’s the people who were in charge, not the people that were just helping them?
- Since January you were insisting on changing the methodology, by packaging some issues.
- From January, when we had the very successful map exercise on the 11th, which means we were well into the 5th chapter and then on the 12th we opened the Conference with the focus on security and guarantees – we came to the conclusion that the remaining “make or break” issues were few but big. We could live our entire lives in the buffer zone trying to discuss them one by one, but it would not work – they could only be solved by some kind of trade-off.
The issue of the presidency, for instance, would simply not happen one sunny day, unless one said “ok, you can have rotating presidency, let’s see what I can get”. There was a need to look into it in a package. At the time it wasn’t accepted and there were some fears and resistance to the idea of packaging, but as soon as we went to Crans Montana that was the name of the game; and as soon as the Secretary General came, he said what I was saying since January, that this can only work in a package. And he said, after good preparations, we have identified six issues as the make or break issues.. Everyone agreed to them. They signed up to that, it wasn’t something we forced on them. We need to know what happens to the two treaties, to property etc.
We don’t need to know everything else now. In these processes you will have a phase where the two sides say “it may work or it may not work”. So I will have to try to make it work but I have to reserve my options so I am OK if it doesn’t work. And then you come to a point where you do what I call the hand-shakes, that we can make it work together, we can make a state; we can make a new state of affairs, we can build a federal Cyprus.
- There was also some discussion about putting forward bridging ideas. Wasn’t that what the SG did?
- Actually, we did not put in any bridging ideas. Rather, we took what we heard from one or more of the participants and we tried to find a meeting point for all to converge. We organized the four levels approach, yes, but all the elements of that package were presented from the sides. The Secretary-General’s main contribution in Crans Montana was to say that, these six things can all be solved here, but only in the form of a package. The tragedy of this that what prevented the solution was not what could have been the final outcome, but the inability to get to that that final outcome. I think I know what the final deal would have looked like. I think Nikos Anastasiades knows and I think Mustafa Akinci knows and Mr. Cavusoglu and Mr. Kotzias know what the final outcome would have looked like; and my subjective view is that all could have lived with it. But we couldn’t get there, because we were struggling with how to sequence things in a way that could make all this work. And this makes me sad.