Sunday, 15 April 2018

British High Commissioner Matthew Kidd: Chance for solution will be lost soon



You need to “define what a settlement could look like in terms that focus on the future that it would bring, rather than the past that it would be designed to correct.”
“There is still just a chance… If it doesn’t happen very soon - within months - then really the opportunity will have been lost.”
“In Switzerland during last year, new ground was being broken. And it was being broken in a constructive way, which brought answers to the last outstanding questions, particularly on security and guarantees within reach.”
The Secretary General’s framework shows us that what is left is a specific set of big things, which need to be addressed interdependently. And that needs a different kind of process.”
 “It would be very difficult for Cyprus to exploit its hydrocarbons if there is no solution.”
“There is a really important difference politically, economically, in terms of mentality between a status quo we put up with because we think it’s a temporary stepping stone on the way to a better outcome, and the status quo, which is all we have got left once that prospect of a better alternative no longer exists.”

ESRA AYGIN

Now that you are leaving the island, maybe you can tell me what really happened in Crans Montana.
Kidd: This question points us backwards but what we need is to look forward. And that is part of a bigger challenge to define what a settlement could look like in terms that focus on the future that it would bring, rather than the past that it would be designed to correct. It needs to correct that past of course, it needs to reflect that experiences. But it needs to look forward as well. And the more we focus on the advantages that it can bring, and the kind of Cyprus that it can make possible, the easier it is to find a way of designing it to support those positive, forward looking goals.

“In Switzerland during last year, new ground was being broken. And it was being broken in a constructive way, which brought answers to the last outstanding questions, particularly on security and guarantees within reach.”

Do you agree with the UN Secretary General that a historic chance was missed in Crans Montana?
Kidd: It would have been a historic achievement, no question. It was an opportunity to achieve that historic achievement, no question. It was missed. But if you start calling it a historic opportunity, you do tend to suggest that it is all over. And I don’t think we are quite there. I think that in those three sessions in Switzerland during last year, new ground was being broken. And it was being broken in a constructive way, which brought answers to the last outstanding questions, particularly on security and guarantees within reach. And that material, that thinking, those discussions are still available, could still be utilized. So that’s why I don’t think it’s all over. But that material and the kind of political climate in which those discussions happened is not going to wait forever for people to come back and use it. Even in the last 9 months as we have seen, people have started to walk back a bit from some of the thinking that they were ready to start doing then. Some of the more general climate has gotten worse. New problems have come up to make progress harder.

“There is still just a chance… If it doesn’t happen very soon - within months - then really the opportunity will have been lost.”

Is there still a chance?
Kidd: There is still just a chance. But the longer you leave it, the more things coming from outside, the more statements people make will make it harder and harder to rebuild the confidence. And without the confidence, you don’t rebuild the readiness to compromise, and you get to the end of the road. So, I think personally, that if it doesn’t happen very soon - within months - then really the opportunity will have been lost. This is the moment, which there either can be a settlement or the thing that we have all been working for, for all these years is not going to be able to happen.

The UNSG said the period after Crans Montana should be a period of reflection and consideration for all sides. Did the UK go through a reflection period?
Kidd: Definitely yes, absolutely.

Do you have a clearer idea of how to avoid now the failure that took place in Crans Montana?
Kidd: There were things that we were all trying to do, which it turned out we couldn’t do them in the way that we were trying to do them. It wasn’t a mistake necessarily, but it turned out not to be a successful route. There are ways in which the whole process worked, which I think didn’t work as well as we hoped they would. If some of the things, which happened on the last couple of days,
had happened earlier, if we had found ways of getting them onto the table earlier, we could have made more use overall of the time we had. I will give an example and leave it at that. The length of time that we spent in Crans Montana, the 10-12 days could have been really good. But we didn’t quite design it in ways, which meant that we used every day of that 10-12 day period as well as it could have been used. It’s worth thinking about whether another time it could be designed a little bit differently and maybe to think of a shorter block and then maybe another shorter block later rather than 12 days at once.

“The framework the Secretary General prepared was a very skillful, expert, balanced piece of work both in substance and in method… If we can get a process underway, it will be very good to use that.”

Now that everything has come to the table and we have the very skillfully prepared framework of the UN Secretary General, would it be an easier and smoother process if the sides can get back to the table?
Kidd: I think yes. I agree with you the framework the Secretary General prepared was a very skillful, expert, balanced piece of work both in substance and in method. It is encouraging to hear players of all sides valuing it and wanting to find ways of using it. So yes, if we can get a process underway, it will be very good to use that. It has never been available before. It found a way to bring together the elements that had in practice, up to that point, been treated separately even though we said they were to be interdependent.

I am assuming Britain is in touch with all the parties. Do you see there is commitment from all parties to this framework?
Kidd: I think at this stage they don’t all think of it in the same way. I think there is general agreement that it is valuable, that it is a model, which is worth trying to use. But I don’t think there is agreement on exactly is best to do with it.

“The best thing to do is to test Turkey.”

We heard from various sources that Turkey was willing to give up guarantees in Crans Montana even though this was not put in writing. Considering the developments since, is Turkey at the same position?
Kidd: I don’t know, but I think the best thing to do is to test Turkey and find out. I think it’s a real pity to reach the conclusion ‘They will never agree to it now’ without testing it. And this is a negotiating habit, which both sides have developed over the years, because they’ve been disappointed too often. They tend to think they know what the other will accept and they tend to be too quick to say ‘They will never do that.’ Without testing it, without trying, without offering something that will help make it happen. So I think in this case, we need to find the opportunity if we can, to test how ready Turkey now is.

“Division undermines security and political impact and makes it harder for Cyprus to play any effective part in protecting its own security in these difficult circumstances.”

Do the conflicts in the region increase the urgency of a solution?
Kidd: The developments in the region are an extra factor, an extra reason to think that a reunified Cyprus operating in a constructive, collaborative way -that it hasn’t done for all those years- would be a safer place in a difficult region than the current situation, where there is that extra division between the two parts of the island. A division, which undermines security and political impact, and makes it harder for Cyprus to play any effective part in protecting its own security in these difficult circumstances.

“It would be very difficult for Cyprus to exploit its hydrocarbons without a solution.”

Are we heading towards a bigger crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean with regards the hydrocarbon exploration activities?
Kidd: I hope the answer to your question is ‘no.’ We are a signatory of the Law of the Sea Convention, so we recognize Cyprus’ claim under the Law of the Sea Convention to its EEZ and its right to exploit that. But we also see that potentially the fact that there are hydrocarbons in these waters is a new factor to underline the value of a settlement. Our hope is that as development of the hydrocarbons goes forward, this is done in light of efforts to reach a settlement. Because then, everyone gets the benefits from it in the easiest way.

If there is no solution would it be possible for Cyprus to exploit its hydrocarbons?
Kidd: I think it gets very difficult. The good scenario is that there is a settlement and it’s win-win for everybody. The bad scenario is that there isn’t a settlement and it gets very hard for anybody to get any benefit from it.

What is our biggest challenge now to get a negotiation process started?
Kidd: There is a lot of skepticism in public opinion. Each time there is a moment of hope, where it looks as thought something is finally going to happen and then it doesn’t, that skepticism risks getting deeper. And that, of course, is reflected in the leaders’ sense of where their own public opinion is, and how much room for maneuever they have, and how much political will they are ready to show. Plus, that sense of not a clear enough vision of what a future could look like in a settlement.

But both sides know quite well what a solution will look like.
Kidd: I agree with you. It’s pretty clear what the outcome of the deal looks like. What is not so clear is what it opens the way to. How a reunified Cyprus would work, what opportunities would become possible in it. That’s what is missing. There has been little effort to educate people, to explain to them, to offer to them what openings a settlement would provide, how life could look better in a solution.

In case of non-solution “the dilemmas for the Turkish Cypriots would become more acute. For Greek Cypriots, the assets that they have, the opportunities that could await them would be harder over time to grasp.”

What awaits Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots in case of non-solution?
Kidd: What I am quite confident about is that the prospects for both sides would be worse. The dilemmas for the Turkish Cypriots would become more acute. For Greek Cypriots, the assets that they have, the opportunities that could await them would be harder over time to grasp. Some of the handicaps that they have faced and tolerated facing because there would be a deal, would become more and more binding. There is a really important difference politically, economically, in terms of mentality, between a status quo we put up with because we think it’s a temporary stepping stone on the way to a better outcome, and the status quo, which is all we have got left once that prospect of a better alternative no longer exists.

The leaders are having a dinner on 16 April. What would be the best outcome at the dinner?
Kidd: I think it’s right to start with quite modest expectations. They meet after 9 months and they probably both saved up quite a lot of frustrations and grumbles about each other to get off their chest. So that has to happen. I hope that they will both, in the course of that conversation, hear each other saying that they still want to bring this negotiation to a conclusion and that their communities need that. If they can hear each other saying that, then this shows that they want to try now to design a way of doing that, which will need to be a bit different from what we had before.

“The Secretary General’s framework shows us that what is left is a specific set of big things, which need to be addressed interdependently. And that needs a different kind of process.”

How should the process be different?
Kidd: The stage that we reached last summer, what there is left to do, and the Secretary General’s framework mean that we are at a different stage of the process. We have been through a long period of laborious, detailed settlement of most of the internal issues. We got past that. We know what is left. The Secretary General’s framework shows us that what is left is a specific set of big things, which need to be addressed interdependently. And that needs a different kind of process. And the leaders need to figure out how. I can’t design their negotiating method for them but I think that it is sensible to think that this is now a stage, which may need different methodologies.