President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday he would not accept any downgrading of the Republic of Cyprus and added that the UN had handled the Istanbul incident poorly.
When Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci was invited to a dinner hosted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday night during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, it prompted Anastasiades to shun the event and expedite his departure from Turkey. Akinci’s arrival had been unexpected and Anastasiades had been informed by the UN of the last-minute surprise, which also included a meeting between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Akinci.
Asked whether he thought he had been ‘set up’ by the United Nations, Anastasiades said on Wednesday night on the sidelines of the SEK conference in Nicosia, that it was more a matter of “poor handling “which will not be tolerated”.
“I do not accept in anyway the downgrading of the Republic of Cyprus” he said.
“A bicommunal dialogue between the two communities is one thing and the state of the Republic of Cyprus which is recognised internationally, is another.”
He added that he had the opportunity to speak with US Vice President Joe Biden, who was informed of what had happened in Istanbul, “and I want to believe that he will take action so that similar incidents are avoided”.
Meanwhile, Akinci said through his Twitter account on Wednesday that leaving the negotiations table “is a big mistake”. “Cyprus, with such behaviours, has no more time to lose,” the tweet said.
Earlier on Wednesday government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said the UN explanation for Monday’s diplomatic incident was unsatisfactory. Deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq on Tuesday claimed the UN had not organised the dinner, had not invited Akinci, and had not arranged the reported meeting between the Turkish Cypriot leader and Ban on the sidelines. But the explanation left the Cypriot government unimpressed.
“We expect a public explanation from the United Nations,” Christodoulides told state radio on Wednesday morning. “The explanation offered by the deputy spokesman is unsatisfactory.”
Akinci’s presence at the Istanbul dinner and his unconfirmed informal meeting with Ban angered Anastasiades, who decided to cancel scheduled meetings with Ban’s special envoy for the Cyprus problem negotiations, Espen Barth-Eide, and Akinci, on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
According to Christodoulides, what most vexed Anastasiades was that both the Cypriot government and the European Union had repeatedly raised the issue of whether Turkey might try to downgrade the Republic of Cyprus in some way, or upgrade the internationally unrecognised ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’, during the summit, but received assurances from the United Nations that no such effort would be made.
“Most of the responsibility lies with the United Nations, because when it delegates the organisation of a summit this important – Turkey was merely the host country – the UN had a duty to make sure that everything would go according to protocol,” Christodoulides said.
“Therefore, the assurances given were not honoured by the UN, and they were not honoured by Turkey.”
According to Christodoulides, this was the reason Anastasiades opted to skip the dinner and expedite his departure from Turkey, and cancel his meetings with Eide and Akinci.
“For us, the matter is serious, and the foreign minister will travel to New York early in June in order to discuss it with the secretary general himself,” the government spokesman said.
“Although we have not interrupted the talks, the president’s decisions send the message that we will stand for neither sneaky tricks, nor for anyone’s efforts to create precedent. The Republic of Cyprus as a member-state of the United Nations and the European Union is one thing, and the Greek Cypriot side at the negotiating table is another, and those who ignore this fact are merely undermining the ongoing talks.”
The issue sparked criticism from opposition parties for the second day in a row.
DIKO blamed the Istanbul incident on Anastasiades’ tolerance to Akinci’s international forays.
“Let us recall: the visits by foreign officials to the occupied areas, with our side’s implicit acceptance; the tours of officials of the breakaway-regime in the north, who roamed Europe and the United States; and Akinci’s participation in the Davos [World Economic] Forum, at the behest of President Anastasiades,” DIKO deputy spokesman Athos Antoniades said.
Socialist EDEK said the president was right to cancel the upcoming meetings, but reiterated its proposal for an international summit “with the proper make-up (Russia, China)”.
“It’s time for the president and his associates to realise that the Cyprus problem was never an inter-communal problem and redesign their strategy based on the true facts, instead of expecting Turkey to show good will,” EDEK said.
The Citizens’ Alliance also pinned the Istanbul incident on Anastasiades and called on the president and “Greek Cypriot politicians who identified with the Akinci joint vision” to “wake up”.
“In order to bend Turkey’s intransigence and create real conditions for constructive dialogue, we must render occupation and partition inexpedient for Turkey,” the party said.
Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris columnist Serhat Incirli remarked on Wednesday that Anastasiades was accepted in Istanbul as President of the Republic of Cyprus, with the official flag waving at the hotel where he stayed, and participated in the summit as President of the Republic.
“Until the dinner,” Incirli wrote, adding that Akinci could have declined Erdogan’s invitation on grounds that he had not been invited as a head of state from the start, instead asked to sit in a corner at a dinner – as he had done with the German Foreign minister – but he didn’t.
“The boots had shrunk,” he added.
“There were two options: upset Erdogan, or upset Anastasiades. He chose the latter.”