Of Geneva Informal Meetings and of Brussels Summits

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

There are at least three operational take-aways from the Informal Meeting on Cyprus, held last week in Geneva, at the initiative of the UN Secretary General. But the real interest lays further on, in Brussels.

The first take-away is one of failure: “The truth is that, at the end of our efforts” – said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – “we have not yet found enough common grounds to allow for the resumption of formal negotiations for a settlement of the Cyprus problem”. That much was more or less expected, but the positions taken in the meeting, especially the Turkish-Cypriot paper demanding “sovereign equality”, meaning a two-states approach in the East Mediterranean island, made the impasse clearer than ever.

The second is a matter of conjecture: why Guterres made it known that “we have been able to agree to convene in the near future another meeting […], again with the objective to move in the direction of reaching common ground”? [The “near future” was translated, later on, as meaning two-to-three months].

A third take-away may well be the fact that the Greek-Cypriot delegation made it clear that “negotiations should resume from what they left off in Crans Montana” in 2017, meaning “a settlement based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation”. This position was buttressed by U.S. support: Undersecretary of State for European Affairs Philip Reeker made it clear to the Turkish Ambassador to the US that the new Turkish/Turkish-Cypriot position on this issue is not acceptable to the American Government; the US Permanent Representative to the UN made the same point to her Turkish counterpart. Interestingly enough, the German Foreign Ministry made it also known that, for Berlin, the results of the Geneva talks were disappointing, but also that any two-states solution for Cyprus was “incompatible with the UN parameters of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality”

All of which has to be weighted with two further considerations: the one is Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s own declaration, just after the Geneva meeting, that “the Greek-Cypriot administration has never been honest” – if there ever was an example of torpedoing UN efforts, this is a classic. So, how come that there would seem to be strong pressures on Secretary General Guterres to bring forward his expected new initiative “with the objective to reach common ground”, at a time closer to the June 24-25  EU Summit over (among other things) the Union’s relations with Turkey?

Since we start looking forward to June, we should not forget that a different Summit is planned – also in Brussels. This is the June 14the NATO Summit, which is expected to dwell over “a substantive and forward-looking NATO 2030 agenda”. It is in Brussels that US President Biden will have his first face-to-face meeting with President Ergodan (the two have just had their long-awaited first phone contact, expressing “interest in a constructive bilateral relationship with expanded areas of cooperation and effective management of disagreements”). Speaking of disagreements, both the ending of Turkey’s participation to the F-35 aircraft consortium and the US recognition of the Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turkey have strewn the way with mines.

At that very Summit, one might also see Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis having his own face-to-face meeting with President Biden (their own phone-call was held in late March, with the American President reportedly saying “If you need anything, call me. I’m here to help”).

Would the NATO Brussels Summit serve as the venue for a Mitsotakis-Erdogan meeting, too?