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Regrettable and counter-productive though they may be, one should not make too much out of comments delivered by either Anastasiadis or Akinci ahead of the Geneva talks (9-12 January 2017). Both leaders are playing to their home audiences, trying to assuage (irrational, deep-seated) fears and/or thwart ill-intentioned attempts to ambush the negotiations.

Often these attempts are masked in the form of inane, outrageously legalistic questions, such as whether the Republic of Cyprus will be present in the talks or whether the final agreement will be signed by the RoC or the newly-formed state.

Both Anastasiadis and Akinci are wise enough to know that such legal minutiae are not going to be decisive in securing, or undermining, the viability of new Cyprus. Even if those broaching these matters are sincere, they are just beating about the bush.

The glue that will hold everything together, or tear everything apart, is the presence or absence of real commitment to the new bizonal and bicommunal political reality, to the new unified Cyprus, on the part of both the Greek- and the Turkish-Cypriots, on the level of leadership as well as in the grass roots.

This is what was mostly lacking in 1960: sincere, practical commitment to the Zurich Constitution and to the success of the new state by both communities.

The Greeks were entertaining delusional, destabilising hopes of Enosis until July 20, 1974, sometimes giving the impression that they regarded independent Cyprus as an interim state of affairs in anticipation of the real desideratum, comparable to the short-lived Cretan State (Κρητική Πολιτεία, 1896-1913). Turkish nationalists on their part were subversively preparing for armed conflict long before the events of December 1963, importing guns, organising local militias and proliferating the ideology of taksim.

The 1960 constitution did not collapse because it malfunctioned; it malfunctioned because it was scorned by both communities just as much.

This is where the true peril lies, not in the legal minutiae; it is the steadfast, no-nonsense implementation of the agreement we need to worry about and work the hardest to secure. The commitment, the historical conscience, the sincerity of it all: this is where we went awry before. Doing better is the task enjoined on us by the past and by the future.

If there is a (destructive) will, there always will be a (legalistic) way. On the contrary, if we are determined to make this work, we shall, no matter the challenges. Nitpicking over the fine print is bound to yield causes for complaint. But patriotism is making delicious lemonade out of history’s Bitter Lemons.

Happy New Year to the Greeks and Turks of Cyprus.

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