The UN-led talks on Cyprus in Geneva were the culmination of an 18-month long meticulous and determined effort, representing the best chance in years to put the divided island together again.
The Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci, in the presence of the three guarantor powers, Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, came to Geneva for their final push.
It did not happen. The Conference ended without agreement, due to be reconvened on 18 January at a lower level.
For anyone familiar with the Cyprus problem, it would have been truly miraculous if a gathering on Cyprus could have happened without some kind of diplomatic shadow-boxing.
The momentum that was built over the past 18 months was lost; not because the Cypriot leaders lacked the tenacity to tackle their thorniest issues, but because everyone underestimated how long the shadow of the Turkey-Greece rivalry really was.
Everyone knew Turkey could be unpredictable. Sure enough, President Erdogan did not disappoint. “Turkish forces will never leave Cyprus”, he declared, while his Foreign Minister was still at the table.
But it was Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias, who turned out to be the one that threw the decisive punch. Greece needed more time to think and act, he claimed.
Mr Anastasiades tried to play it down. He denied that there was any discord between himself and the Greek Foreign Minister, but the frustration felt by the Greek Cypriots and the United Nations, was clear for all to see.
UN envoy Espen Barth Eide dismissed the comments as “temporary war of words”. Both Mr Eide and Mr Anastasiades pointed out that all sides came to the table prepared to discuss every issue, including the most difficult topics of guarantees and troop withdrawals.
Cypriots on both sides are getting impatient; they fear that time is running out.
It seems the clock is ticking differently for everyone else.
What lies behind Greece having second thoughts will become clear soon.
As for Turkey, the Geneva Conference could not have come at a more sensitive time. The country is in flux, its region is in turmoil.
More importantly, the ruling party has put all its energy into making Mr Erdogan an all-powerful executive president. They are prepared to do all it takes to reach that goal and to guarantee their own political survival.
It is not enough to crush opposition and silence the media; they still have to convince the country, with the referendum only a few months away.
In Turkey, there has been very little reporting of the Geneva Conference and what it might mean; some of this is intentional. Public debate is discouraged on almost all important issues. It is also because Cyprus has become something of a taboo subject.
It seems easier to change the regime than to give up Cyprus.
Like the Armenian issue, Cyprus has the potential to inflame nationalistic sentiment like no other subject. It is capable of uniting the left, the right, the nationalists and Islamists of all shades, simultaneously.
The government may be able to sell its policy U-turns on Syria, Russia and Israel with little opposition. It is not so easy to do the same on Cyprus.
A wrong calculation on possible public reaction could cost the government more than it bargained for.
Given the choice, Mr Erdogan and his government would rather be unpredictable in Geneva than unelectable in Turkey.
This post is also available in: Turkish