Cablegate: Talat On Cyprus Negotiations: Glass Is Half-Full

DE RUEHAK #2031/01 3290722
P 240722Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat
portrayed the status of ongoing Cyprus negotiations in
realistic yet optimistic terms in a November 20 speech in
Ankara. Talat was clear in pointing out the trouble spots
where negotiations have to date accomplished little, and
agreed with comments made by several observers that
additional international pressure on the Greek Cypriots would
be necessary to push the pace of talks forward more quickly.
However, perhaps recognizing the pessimistic outlook toward
the talks shared by many Cyprus watchers in Turkey, Talat
noted progress had been made and pushed back on those who
argued that only international community threats to recognize
an independent "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" would
work in forcing Christofias and the Greek Cypriots to get
serious about negotiations. END SUMMARY

2. (SBU) Talat spoke before a small invited audience of
diplomats, journalists, and think-tankers November 20 at the
Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) in
Ankara. The talk, billed as a roundtable discussion on
"Cyprus Negotiations: Where Do We Stand?", and follow-on
question and answer session was in English, but Talat made
prefatory remarks in Turkish, primarily aimed at a small
gaggle of Turkish television cameras allowed in for the
opening few minutes. In those remarks, Talat noted that
talks are ongoing, that there has been some progress, that
much work remains to be done, and that ultimate success is
possible if there is flexibility on both sides. He also took
the occasion to criticize an MOU signed recently by the ROC
and Russia in which both promised to enhance bilateral
relations, saying that such "unilateral agreements will not
help the negotiations process."

3. (SBU) Once the cameras had been removed from the room,
Talat provided a brief synopsis of what it had taken to get
comprehensive settlement negotiations re-started. He claimed
that the international community's stance toward Kosovo's
independence and a February statement made by then Russian
President Vladimir Putin, accusing the West of a
double-standard in pressing for Kosovar independence but not
insisting on an independent Turkish Cypriot state, had been
helpful in getting the Greek Cypriot public to question the
anti-settlement approach of former President Tassos
Papadopoulos and had helped to bring about the surprise
election of Demetris Christofias.

4. (SBU) Talat lamented that despite lengthy pre-election
talks between Christofias' AKEL party and T/C counterparts on
the Annan Plan and how comprehensive settlement negotiations
could move forward quickly were he to be elected, the new ROC
President had backtracked following his election and refused
to accept Annan as the starting point for a new round of
negotiations. Talat attributed this to Papadopoulos'
demonization of Annan. However, the practical effect for the
current round of talks had been that while the G/C side
insists it is not bound by Annan and believes itself free to
offer up new ideas on a host of issues on which agreement had
been reached in the Annan Plan, the Greek Cypriots
nonetheless act as if the Turkish Cypriots are indeed bound
by Annan and accuse the T/C side of backtracking or taking a
hard-line approach if Talat puts forward new proposals
himself. As Talat described it, both sides refer to Annan at
times, when it suits their positions, but talks are also
covering ground outside the parameters of Annan.

5. (SBU) Talat also provided an overview of the substance of
the talks, noting the parties had engaged in discussions on
power-sharing and governance and had reached some
"semi-agreements." He said there had been agreement on the
"main subject" but some aspects remain on the table. He said
the discussion on competencies was over for now, adding that
there remain "big differences over executive powers."
Acknowledging problems remain in reaching agreement on the
workings of the federal legislature and the GC/TC numerical
division, Talat nonetheless characterized the differences
with regard to the legislature as being "not big." He also
claimed the two sides were close to agreement with regard to
the judiciary. In short, Talat said there really has been
progress, but from his standpoint the pace of progress
remains unsatisfactory.

6. (SBU) The Greek Cypriots continue to refuse to accept the
implementation of any formal timetable for negotiations,
without which it will be nearly impossible to move talks
forward sufficiently to maintain momentum. Talat expressed
hope that the international community, and the UNSYG's
Special Advisor, understand the need to bring greater
pressure in order to achieve progress, but had been
discouraged by actions in recent months which he claimed had
had just the opposite effect. He specifically pointed to the

ANKARA 00002031 002 OF 002

June 2008 UNSCR that accepted the UNSYG's report in which
language was changed with regard to the isolation of the
Turkish Cypriots, and to bilateral MOUs signed by both Russia
and the UK with the ROC, as examples of actions that lead
Greek Cypriots to conclude there is no penalty for
maintaining the status quo. Subsequent ROC actions that
contribute to or worsen the isolation of the Turkish
Cypriots, including ROC insistence on preventing foreign
leaders from meeting with Talat in his office in the north,
only serve to further undermine the negotiating atmosphere.
He said it seems clear the Greek Cypriots feel no compulsion
to move quickly and, in fact, likely would prefer to see
negotiations drag on to the end of 2009, under the
misconception that Turkey's EU accession process and its
commitments under the Ankara Protocol to open ports to
Cypriot vessels will force the Turkish side to make
concessions. In the meantime, Turkish Cypriots are in a
hurry because every day "we lose a little more ground
economically." Talat said he believes the international
community will "begin to intervene at some point," noting
there is no guarantee of that but there have been "some

7. (SBU) Responding to questions regarding the possibility
that international recognition of Kosovo and Russian
recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia might provide the
Turkish Cypriots greater leverage, Talat made clear he did
not cite Kosovo as an example for the Cyprus situation. He
had noted it merely as having served as a "fearful reminder"
to the Greek Cypriots that independence for the north could
occur. He emphasized that he has "no other ideas beyond a
negotiated settlement" in resolving Cyprus' long-standing

8. (SBU) COMMENT: While expressing frustration at the pace of
the talks, Talat was decidedly more optimistic about the
ultimate success of the negotiations than his Turkish

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