Nothing has changed in Cyprus.
Our old friend Nikos Anastasiades was reelected in the Feb. 5 run-off polls for a second five-year term as the president of Greek Cyprus, adding his name to a short list of Greek Cypriot leaders who managed to serve two terms as president. The caliber of Anastasiades, of course, is neither a match to Makarios or Glafkos Clerides, but as a leader who managed to get reelected for a second term his political success must be saluted.
Was it because he was a successful president that Greek Cypriots reelected him? Economy-wise Anastasiades’ first term might have been a success. After all, he inherited a collapsed economy from the socialist Demetris Christofias and achieved incredible success in leading the country to a recovery, which is still ongoing.
But politically, Anastasiades failed to achieve anything substantial because of his constantly flip-flopping tactics, indecisiveness, and the lack of political will to find a comprehensive federal resolution for Cyprus. Did the Greek Cypriots reelect him in hopes that he might reach a federal deal on his second term? No. On the country, he was elected with the pledge of continuing talks with a “zero soldiers, zero guarantees and zero settlers” position that guarantees a permanent nonsolution for the Cyprus deal.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı most probably, who – like his comrades in northern Cyprus – would have preferred to see socialist candidate Stavros Malas reelected, called Anastasiades to congratulate him and tell him: “It’s high time to talk of something new.” What would Anastasiades’ reply be? What could he say after all that campaigning of very rarely talking on the Cyprus problem, and even when he does he just mentions how frustrated he is with the failure to convince Turkey to withdraw its troops and agree on giving up its guarantor status in Cyprus. Were those the only subjects that failed in the last round of Cyprus talks? What were the reasons that made all round of Cyprus talks since 1968 end in failure?
It requires great ability now to return to Akıncı and ask to resume the Cyprus federation talks from where they were left on the evening of July, 6, 2017, when a dinner was hosted by the U.N. secretary-general. Could Anastasiades convince Akıncı that time has come to make a U-turn and accept Turkish Cypriot political equality, including rotation of presidency, in return for handing back Morphou (Güzelyurt), an end to Turkey’s guarantor status, a phased withdrawal of Turkish troops down to 650 (the requirement of the 1960 treaty of alliance) and even opening talks on withdrawal of that figure after 12 years?
There was good chemistry between Akıncı and Anastasiades, but that was gone. Could they rehash it now once again? Could there be something new between the two old fellows? It is often said that no man ever steps in the same river twice. Times have changed. But the two leaders are the same. Turkey and Greece are the same. Conditions are the same. Of course, no one can refute the probability that the two leaders might concoct a new process. I cannot rule that out, but it will be very difficult to rebuild the collapsed bridges.