Peace Exchange tries to maintain a balance between upbeat and motivating posts in this little corner of the Internet.
On this occasion, however, the offering is both sobering and a call to action. Here’s why.
Last Wednesday, UN Special Adviser in Cyprus Alexander Downer met with Peace it Together representatives at the Cyprus Community Media Centre, to brief them on the current state of the negotiations.
In a nutshell, the high-ranking UN official made it clear time was running out on bringing the talks to a positive conclusion, and that deadlock on the critical issue of cross-voting was threatening to bring the peace process to a grinding halt.
Keeping to a tight schedule that permitted him little time beyond an hour’s window, Downer briefed attendees on the developments of the past six months, summarising the progress, or lack thereof, made at talks held in Geneva, Switzerland and Greentree, New York between UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.
While there are still sticking points in the chapters under discussion, said Downer, ultimately the bone of contention was the issue of cross-voting, desired by the Greek Cypriot leadership and rejected by the Turkish Cypriot leadership.
“It’s quite a delicate moment. On the property issue, more and more quiet progress is being made, (albeit) painfully slowly,” he observed. “But the cross-voting issue is unresolved.”
Given that he has to submit a report on the situation to UNSG Ban this week, after which Downer and the Secretary-General will meet in mid-April to decide what the next step should be, the UN special adviser was blunt:
“(The two leaderships) are not going to agree on all the core issues in the next nine days, so there is a question mark over the survival of the peace talks, he said.
And, as of June 30 – the last day before the Greek Cypriot government takes over the presidency of the EU Council – if the cross-voting deadlock is allowed to continue, said Downer, the Turkish Cypriot leadership may simply decide to discontinue negotiations, effectively bringing an end to the reconciliation process.
In response, Bulent Kanol of the Management Centre pointed out that, for their part, civil society groups were not being made privy to the crucial issues under discussion, effectively hindering them from acting as agents of positive peacebuilding in their communities.
“Civil society feels powerless,” he said, adding that the political leadership “should not drive forward on (the issue of cross-voting) on their own”.
Furthermore, the UN could get involved in making the negotiations more accessible to civil society, he noted.
Addressing this last point, Downer stressed that what was needed now was urgent, personal responsibility to be taken on the individual level.
“These talks are weeks away from a complete crisis due to only one thing – the cross-voting presidency issue,” he said.
“The future of all people on the island hangs on this issue which has poisoned the whole atmosphere of these talks.”
Adding his own thoughts on the role of the Peace it Together network, Giorgos Andriotis of NGO Support Centre, asked, in the event of a crisis in the talks: “How do we convince people that it’s going to be really hard to restart the process, as it has happened in the past?”
It all comes down to “the issues of substance”, replied Downer. Civil society needed to pose the question: “what do I think about cross-voting, and what do I want from my leaders”.
So, in wrapping up, the Peace Exchange urges its readers to seize the moment.
Let’s not wait to get educated or updated on the key issues passively, but use whatever resources and outlets are available to make the importance of reconciliation stressed to the leaderships of the two communities. Before it is too late.
That’s all for right now, but Peace Exchange will be back with more good stuff very soon.
See you in the next post!