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    Here’s what I think: Preparations for the “5+1” Conference

    With the “informal” 5+1 Cyprus Problem talks scheduled to take place in Geneva in just over a month’s time, preparations are beginning to be made. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was in Cyprus last Monday in order to convene with Ersin Tatar. His British counterpart Dominic Raab was also the island on Thursday, himself meeting with Tatar, Nicos Anastasiades, and UN Special Envoy Elizabeth Spehar.

    Here's what I think: Preparations for the "5+1" Conference 1
    Tom Cleaver

    It is set to be the first meeting of all parties since the ill-fated Crans Montana talks, and as I’m sure you’re aware, a lot has changed since then. Ersin Tatar’s election last November shed a new light on proceedings, with him being the first Cypriot leader in over half a century to openly reject the federal model. Turkey is in alignment, too, with both parties stating that the process of reunification has dragged on for far too long, and that a two-state solution should now be how the Cyprus Problem is solved.

    Of course, he’s not the first person to say that in private. Nicos Anastasiades was touting a two-state solution to journalists and to Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu years ago, but publicly going against the UN and conventional wisdom has the potential, as I said on election night, to be a sea change. It also creates intrigue in this meeting – the norms of the last fifteen years of talks no longer apply as far as the stance of the Turkish Cypriots or Turkey is concerned, and it will be interesting to see how the other parties react to that.

    Anastasiades knows he couldn’t sell a two-state solution to the Greek Cypriots

    Despite Anastasiades’ private enthusiasm for the idea of a two-state solution, he knows that he couldn’t sell that to the Greek Cypriots at the moment. The Greek Cypriots are not usually a people who riot easily, but Anastasiades agreeing to a two-state solution would potentially open up that possibility. Furthermore, being the man who agreed to recognise Northern Cyprus would permanently blacken his and probably his party’s reputation south of the green line.

    The British, too, would be wary of simply agreeing to a two-state solution. Members of the UN Security Council often are reluctant to recognise countries formed by unilateral independence declarations, and with Scotland agitating for secession in their own back yard, it is simply not going to happen at this moment. Even someone with such limited talents as Dominic Raab, and if not him one of his advisors, will be able to see that.

    As for Greece, they will reliably back up the Greek Cypriots. The government of Greece is politically closely aligned with that of the Greek Cypriots, and I don’t for one minute foresee any possible divergence between the two over the Cyprus Problem at this point.

    I would put the Crans Montana deal to a referendum against a two-state solution

    So, what will happen in Geneva, and at future negotiations? I doubt Tatar and Çavuşoğlu will simply turn up, demand a two-state solution, and refuse to talk about anything else. Doing so is unlikely to persuade the other parties to bend, and a two-state solution cannot be reached without the consent of the other parties at the table.

    No one seriously believes that a solution will be reached in Geneva next month, but one would hope for signs of progress. Maybe it’s more possible than we think, too – it was Rauf Denktaş and Tasos Papadopoulos, despite them both rejecting the Annan Plan, who got us the closest to a solution yet with the referendum. Maybe Ersin Tatar could be a catalyst for an awakening, or a less relaxed attitude to things from the Greek Cypriot side of the negotiating table, which could provoke faster movements towards a settlement. All will be revealed in Geneva next month.

    My current view on how the Cyprus Problem should be solved is as such: if Tatar is insistent on a two-state solution, and Anastasiades really wishes for a federation, then the answer is a simple one. I would make both leaders tie up the loose ends of the Crans Montana deal, and have them put it to a referendum as in 2004. If it passes, Cyprus would be reunified as prescribed by the Crans Montana deal. If it is rejected, we get a two-state solution. It would be a simple and clean cut measure of what the island once, and a clear end to this long and painful chapter in Cypriot history.

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