AKEL was the only political party that took a sensible line about Disy chief Averof Neophytou’s dinner with Mustafa Akinci last week. It said it “welcomes initiatives undertaken in the direction of the solving of problems for the resumption of the talks on the Cyprus issue.” All other parties viewed what they sinisterly described as the ‘secret dinner’ as suspicious, condemning Neophytou for his initiative and speculating that he had given Akinci assurances that the amendment on the Enosis referendum, which led to the latter’s withdrawal from the talks, would be revoked.
Nobody expected anything else from the rejectionist parties, but it was very surprising to read a weekend press report claiming that the presidential palace had been in the dark about the dinner. Even if it was, what did it matter? The dinner had been organised by the two chambers of commerce and Neophytou and Akinci were both guests. Did the Disy chief need the president’s permission to attend or should he have been given a list of the topics of conversation he should have engaged in? One party issued a statement demanding in all seriousness that Neophytou would have to brief the National Council about what was said.
Perhaps, all the fuss was in anticipation of the discussion of the Disy bill that would prevent the legislature from deciding what anniversaries and special days would be marked by public schools. The bill, which is expected to be discussed at the House education committee on Wednesday, would give this authority exclusively to the education ministry that would thus have the power to annul the Enosis referendum amendment. All the parties, in their statements of censure, expressed the view that Neophytou had ‘capitulated’ to Akinci over the Enosis referendum, presenting it as an unconditional surrender to Turkish diktats.
While it is correct that the Greek Cypriots would be giving in to the condition set by Akinci for the resumption of the talks, if the Disy bill is approved, some perspective is necessary. This would be a concession of no negative consequence as it would allow the resumption of the talks and show that Greek Cypriot side is committed to the peace efforts. It would also prove that we are not willing to derail the peace process over a triviality that had been blown out of all proportion by the Turkish Cypriot side. The alternative would be to dig in our heels and allow the process to end for the sake of what is, essentially, playground-type boasting rights – we are so tough we resisted doing what Akinci was demanding. And then?
The Disy chief, rather than allowing the cementing of the deadlock, has taken action that could lead to the resumption of the talks. The bill that will be discussed at the House education committee had been prepared some time ago – long before his ‘secret dinner’ with Akinci – showing that some party leaders have the maturity to correct their mistakes. And Disy’s abstaining from the Enosis vote was certainly a mistake.