2010 is the year of “Talatoboiisi” or “Talatification”. Previously we were bombarded with other carefully constructed political demonizations but this one topped the lot. Basically the accusation goes like this. Talatification of the Cyprus Problem relied on obscuring a clear difference between Mehmet Ali Talat as a Turkish Cypriot negotiator and his predecessor. Rauf Denktash. Talat was likened as simply just another mouth piece – a next puppet of Turkish diplomacy.

Thus when President Christofias simply said ‘I hope to see Mehmet Ali Talat after the elections at the negociating table’ all hell broke loose. Some argued the statement weakened Talat as a candidate. Others called it shameful, almost accusing the President of selling out. I could not see the harm of such a simple comment. But for about two weeks  most of the media kept harping on about it, giving a soap box to any politician who wanted to spout their expert theories on the ‘T Syndrome’.

The elections, like them or loathe them, real or not, came and went. Eroglou, standing on a two state solution slate just to win votes from reactionary Turkish settlers  won by a slimmer margin than predicted, 50.3%. Some had placed him at over 60% in the polls. No one really batted an eyelid about what he was saying just to get elected or indeed that his statements actually contravened UN resolutions on Cyprus. Talat, despite all the odds,  got just under 43%. When one considers key electoral demographics, such as 60% of the voters actually hail from Turkey Talat’s percentage was commendable. Talat did better in Nicosia, where more Turkish Cypriots live. Eroglou took most of his votes from villages and towns such as Morphou, Famagusta and Karpasi, where more Turkish settlers live.

The result is clearly depressing.  Democracy for Turkish Cypriots is back in the middle ages and  hope for a solution has suffered a major blow. It could even be argued Eroglou has an inbuilt majority given the rigged demographics and how Turkish settlers vote so unless he messes up badly while in power, which is always possible given the unpredictability of politics, Eroglou could stay “in” for decades.

He is however as subtle as a brick in the face. Even before winning he was insisting on not only back peddling but re-inventing the wheel  of the negotiations. The ‘two states good neighbour’ type agenda as espoused for so long through the jaded tactics of Denktash Snr has resurfaced. There is a huge difference though. Denktash, a highly educated man and cunning but somewhat dated ‘cold war’ statesman, is a different calibre and class from Eroglou, who cannot even speak English fluently.

No surprise then, after two days of coming to power, Eroglou hinted he would add Denktash Snr and Jnr to his negotiating team, making the circle around him in the talks with Christofias far more hard-line and intransigent. Remember Denktash advocated voting ‘No’ in the referendum, much to the Turkish government’s dislike. So much so that they side-lined him completely and backed Talat. One wonders then if Turkish diplomacy will now turn in on itself. Ever since 2004’s referenda all Greek Cypriots have been tarnished as negative ‘No’ voters, as the side who turned its back on a solution. Shouldn’t the same now apply to Rauf Denktash who rejected ‘The Annan Plan’ the moment it was given to him. For instance in March 2003 when the then talks collapsed in The Hague, Denktash insisted, in his usual rejectionist and authoritarian manner that he would not even be willing to hold a Referendum.  Having such a negative person re-emerging in the negotiations as an adviser will inevitably lead to yet another collapse in the talks. It will also be  clear evidence of the dishonesty of Turkish diplomacy on ‘The Cyprus Problem’. Ankara, may possibly block such a move, given that they want to supposedly play a squeaky clean cat and mouse diplomacy game. Its such hypocracy. How can a country aspire to want to enter the EU still occupy part of another country actually in the EU and say at every opportunity that they want a solution based on UN Resolutions, when in fact the new possible Eroglou-Denktash negociating team wants a two state partition of the island and a continuation of the occupation?

The dynamics of the negotiations has also changed due to the closeness developed by  Talat and Christofias on a political and human level. Despite over 18 months of negotiations they did not however meet the lasting goal of a mutually agreed solution. There are many reasons for this but I want to focus on a key strategic aspect of their failure.

 They have repeated  a simple mistake that has been made for decades.The problem lies in the way the Cyprus Problem is discussed. It is a very elitist process with very limited collective public awareness and engagement. Opponents of a solution, and there are many, always have such an advantage in this sense because they have  cultivated a hardy climate against reconciliation, peace and co-existence.

 It’s not that Talat and Christofias did nothing. They did a lot but usually their efforts did not extend beyond preaching to their own converted ideological camps . Simultaneously, when efforts were made to raise awareness about a solution, efforts which are long overdue, the media and many politicians in power and outside it tried to eat Christofias alive.

Take for example the pamplet distributed in the media on a federal solution. No one has ever explained things in this manner before. We have just been bombarded with different shades of competing political interpretations by politicians who merely profit from making ideologicial capital out of a non-solution. Think about it. How complicated is it to agree on what federation means.

Imagine if a course had to be taught on the subject at a University, which government would be able to agree on a common syllabus? Would the course outline change every five years based on who got elected? Federations exist the world over. In fact about 40% of the world is governed through federal models. So why can’t Greek Cypriots agree on what it means?  And why can’t Turkish and Greek Cypriots also reach a common agreement based on federalism?

A solution made in Cyprus, with Cypriots playing the lead historic role cannot be achieved without  a public sphere kind of dialogue on what a solution means. This has to be a  broad, multi-ethnic and internationally based solidarity raising and  pro-solution process. This is the best antidote to fanaticism, nationalism and foreign intervention in Cyprus.  Dialogue is the most vital ingredient to building an organic, grassroots, bottom to top, catalytic pro-solution movement. Now more than ever, despite all the odds and the allure of partition, this movement is needed just as much as  oxygen is to life itself.

Eroglou can come and go just as much as weak hearted terms like ‘Talatification’ but until Cypriots realize they breathe the same air and share the same skies, there is no solution.