The Turkish Foreign Ministry, responding to a reporter's question, stated that the information published in the Cypriot press that Turkey had accepted the abolition of the guarantees in Crans Montana was not true. The government spokesman referred to the Turkish Foreign Ministry's statement to refute the report. It is naive to believe that the Turkish Foreign Minister would confirm the intention to abolish the guarantees, especially in a period of tension and lack of dialogue.
The issue of guarantees dominated the dinner given by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the night of July 6, 2017, which was attended by the three guarantor powers, the two communities of Cyprus and the EU as an observer. How that dinner unfolded is extremely enlightening to the intentions of the parties at that particular time.
Opening the debate on guarantees, Guterres said the Guarantee Treaty and the right of unilateral intervention were not viable. He also informed those present that Turkey had handed him an informal document proposing to replace the Guarantee Treaty with a new Implementation Treaty. Instead of a new treaty, the secretary general adopted at the outset a suggestion of the Greek side for the creation of a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the solution. The UN drafted a mechanism and Guterres distributed it to attendees.
Guterres asked Tsavousoglu, in front of everyone, whether Turkey would accept the immediate repeal of the Guarantee Treaty if there was a credible monitoring mechanism. Tsavousoglu replied that Turkey was open to dialogue and would be flexible, but that would depend on progress on the other four open issues. It is noteworthy that throughout the talks the Turkish side did not object, nor did it challenge the secretary general's proposal. for a mechanism that would replace the Guarantee Treaty.
Guterres then touched on the thorny issue of troop withdrawal. “Zero army and zero guarantees,” he said, “was not a starting point for the Turks, while – on the other hand – the long stay of troops was a red line for the Greeks. Guterres' strategy was to secure what he saw as possible, a middle ground. That is, not to withdraw all troops from the beginning, but to reduce them rapidly, accompanied by a clause to review their length of stay. Guterres said the issue of troops should be taken to a higher level, with the prime ministers of the three guarantor powers attending a new conference in New York a few days later or being summoned to Crans Montana at the same time.
Guterres asked Tsavousoglu if Turkey would agree to discuss the troops at the level of prime ministers, to which he replied that he had no objection. To the same question, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said that if the remaining troops were within the framework of the 1960 Alliance Treaty, ie 650 Turks and 950 Greeks, Greece was open to discuss a process of reviewing their stay at the level of prime ministers.
Tsavousoglu said he fully understood the secretary-general's position that the right to unilateral intervention was unsustainable and reiterated his position that “zero troops and zero guarantees” was not a starting point. Nevertheless, he said, Turkey would be flexible and discuss a review of the right of intervention if there was agreement on other open issues. In such a case, he clarified, Turkey would be more flexible.
The course of the discussion was in line with the assurance that Tsavousoglu gave to Guterres, earlier in the day, that Turkey would accept the abolition of guarantees if there was an agreement on the other issues and an agreed mechanism for the implementation of the solution. In order to ease the situation, Guterres informed Anastasiadis, in a private meeting before dinner, that Tsavousoglu was not authorized by Ankara to submit written proposals for the abolition of the guarantees, but assured him that he would accept such a suggestion, as part of an overall package, if it came from the United Nations.
However, Anastasiadis, who went to Crans Montana in protest and under pressure from the events, assessed these developments as negative and not as an opportunity to remove the guarantees. Already, in February of the same year, he was talking in Nicosia about a two-state solution, while on the eve of dinner he approached Tsavousoglou and told him that the attempt for a federation solution was in vain, because the Greek Cypriots and the hospitals were not willing to share them. and that the only possible solution was the two states.
Anastasiadis, therefore, took advantage of the information he had that Tsavousoglou was not authorized to submit written proposals for guarantees, and built all his arguments on his demand that the Turkish side be placed in writing, “here and now”. Turkey's promise, he said, that he would be flexible meant nothing to him and insisted that there were ambiguities and that he would not accept any agreement if they did not clear everything up.
At this stage, Akinji tried to convince Anastasiadis that it was the last attempt for a federation solution and they should not let the solution slip through their hands. He said it was the first time Turkey had accepted a review of the guarantee system and that it was an important step that should not be missed.
When Guterres said that in his view Turkey would accept the termination of the right of intervention, in the context of a comprehensive settlement and meaning that all outstanding issues would have been settled, Anastasiadis asked what was Turkey's problem to say directly that it accepts abolition of guarantees. Tsavousoglou responded by saying that the general secretary had just said it, but you did not want to hear it.
An additional element that made the secretary general to doubt whether Anastasiadis was negotiating “in good faith” was to question the mechanism for implementing the solution. Although Anastasiadis himself had suggested the mechanism, at the critical moment he claimed that the plan presented by the secretary general was unclear and that it was the Guarantee Agreement under another name. This position provoked the reaction of Guterres, who told Anastasiadis that he could reject him, but the mechanism was not clear. One of Anastasiadis' objections regarding the mechanism was that Turkey would also have a role to play. The mechanism had five levels of intervention, the last in the Security Council. Turkey, like Greece, would participate in an eight-member committee at the second level, which had no executive power and would be chaired by the United Nations.
At Anastasiadis' insistence that Turkey take a written stance on the issue of guarantees, Guterres was willing to ease the situation and write a text explaining what he had understood from the bilateral talks. Speaking, Tsavousoglou said that there should be clarifications on all issues and not only on guarantees. He also said that he did not accept anything in writing and reiterated his original proposals, that the guarantees should be maintained and reconsidered in 10-15 years. In this warlike climate and visibly disappointed, the Secretary-General claimed responsibility, saying that there was a misunderstanding on his part. This reference did not refer directly to the bilateral discussions he had with Tsavousoglou, but to whether an agreement was possible. His assessment, he said, was that there was no realistic chance of an agreement and he closed the conference. This position of Guterres was channeled to the media as an admission of the secretary general. that Tsavousoglou deceived him.
Tsipras would go
The Secretary-General's initial assessment that a solution was possible was not in vain. Open issues would all be dealt with in the “Guterres framework” which was supposed to be accepted by both sides. The abolition of the guarantees would be replaced by the mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the solution, which was the best that the Greek Cypriot side could expect. And the issue of troops would be addressed at the level of prime ministers. Assurances had already been given for a quick departure and the goal of 650 Turks and 950 Greeks predicted by Zurich was achievable.
The Prime Minister of Greece was willing to visit Crans Montana. In fact, before the shipwreck, there was a break and Anastasiadis left to talk on the phone with Tsipras. The conversation was loud, with the rest of the audience realizing that Tsipras was trying to persuade him to move the conference to a prime ministerial level, but he refused. Tsavousoglou said he was willing to stay in Crans Montana for as many days as needed to get results. And the secretary general He said he would leave the next day, but was willing to return again to continue the prime ministerial conference. Only Anastasiadis was in a hurry to leave and before the end of the conference the Cypriot delegation was instructed to prepare the suitcases.