We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it

2 mins read

Not wanting to make the best out of a positive news story, the government chose to ignore the crossings opening to people movement for the first time since the pandemic struck in March 2020.

Divided Cyprus getting its act together is what the outside world wants to hear, rather than the detailed intricacies of a problem nobody can or wants to solve in a hurry.

In April, the Geneva summit sucked the life out of everyone before the politicians left and made their excuses to revisit the deadlock once they’ve had a blood transfusion or taken a course of anti-depressants.

UN-backed Cyprus negotiations are no nearer resuming since they collapsed in acrimony in July 2017.

Again, the Geneva participants produced their box of excuses before fleeing the wreckage like aliens abandoning ship.

The pandemic has produced a backdrop encouraging inertia on the Cyprus problem as fighting COVID-19 is the main priority.

Nine crossing points to facilitate trade and interaction between estranged Cypriot communities were the first victims of the coronavirus outbreak.

Down the shutters came, we retreated into our shells, pretending the other side didn’t exist.

An uncompromising Turkish Cypriot leader has emerged from the rubble of mismanaged Cyprus politics to stir the waters.

Ersin Tatar’s two-state solution mantra, borrowed from a Turkish fortune cookie, is basically advocating partition, which some have gotten used to since the crossings closed.

I suppose there are small crumbs of comfort the two leaders managed to hold a conversation on the phone and agree to conditionally open the crossings from Friday.

Earlier in the week, President Nicos Anastasiades said he was satisfied with the outcome and used the opportunity to tweet a few words about confidence-building measures.

But there was no ceremony, fanfare, or symbolic gesture by the Republic to trumpet the crossings opening for the first time in 15 months.

Isn’t being able to intermingle the best confidence building you can have to build bridges across decades of mistrust and loathing?

Promoting trade, free movement, communication is how Cypriots should be living their everyday lives without walls of hate to navigate.

The opening of the crossings in 2003 was one of the few commendable achievements mitigating the island’s division in the last 47 years.

Most of the Cyprus problem back story is depressing, tragic and unforgivable.

And that’s part of the missing puzzle; there is no cultivation of hope or positive climate where the future vision is not one of despair or gridlock.

The crossings are a way back to normalcy; although COVID has to be treated with respect, the reluctance to recognise the opening officially feels rather mean spirited.

Maybe, there is a worry about Covid with people crisscrossing the divide; there might have been pressure to roll up the shutters as a political gesture of goodwill.

Toxic atmosphere

But I can’t help feeling a toxic atmosphere exists where anything construed as a step forward is seen as an obstacle in the government’s plan to keep Turkey in the international doghouse.

Spinning a narrative of an aggressive, unyielding, obdurate neighbour willing to tear up the international rule book helps the government keep Turkey in check.

As Tatar is seen to do Turkey’s bidding in changing the dynamic of UN-backed peace talks, good news stories in the context of the Cyprus problem spoils the game plan somewhat.

Is there an argument the Turkish Cypriot regime needed the crossings to open more than the Republic to ease discontent in the north?

Did the government only want to be seen to be doing the right thing, to score brownie points with the Americans and the EU?

There appears to be a concerted effort to prepare Greek Cypriots for the worst because nobody will budge an inch in a game of brinkmanship.

With Nicosia’s renewed energy search expected to be challenged by Turkey once again, flashpoints are gathering on the horizon.

Another UN summit to jump-start Cyprus talks is also being arranged.

Still, the government is already preparing the ground for a possible no-show if Turkey misbehaves, which it obviously will.

For now, we have to make do with half an island, Covid-19 fatigue, stay away UK tourists, corruption, public apathy, and political malaise.

The good news is selectively distributed by messenger on a need-to-know basis while we are kept in the dark.

PS There is one slither of light in the darkness – Europe is Chelsea Blue (I had to cheer myself up).