THE COMMENTS made by President Anastasiades at the archbishopric on Tuesday night made it very clear that he has given up on the peace process and his only concern now is his drive for re-election. The language of conciliation and compromise has disappeared from his public speeches, replaced by a more antagonistic style of discourse designed to push Mustafa Akinci away and present the prospective failure of the talks as inevitable.
Commenting on Akinci’s suggestion that confidence-building measures should be discussed at Sunday evening’s dinner, Anastasiades said: “I want to make clear that if the goal or the aim is to discuss confidence-building measures, the effort by those who seek to create the conditions for a fruitful dialogue to restart are doomed.” There was no need for such a dogmatic stand on what was nothing more than a suggestion by Akinci.
He could have expressed this view privately at Sunday’s dinner or if he felt obliged to speak publicly he could have used more diplomatic language, expressing doubts about the usefulness of Akinci’s proposal. The strident way he responded suggested that he was preparing his escape route, creating the conditions for walking away from the dinner and blaming Akinci’s proposal for the probable failure to agree anything.
A clue about his intentions was provided by the remark that followed. “Should we discuss confidence-building measures, for example the Navtex Turkey issues on a daily basis? Or like the celebrations of July 20, when they invaded Cyprus? Or November 15, 1983?” He had never brought these issues up when he was discussing confidence-building measures with Akinci at the beginning of the talks’ process, but has remembered them now that the talks are on the brink of collapse. How helpful is this?
There is little doubt that the president has given up on the talks. He is even borrowing the rhetoric of Papadopoulos, Lillikas and the rest of the rejectionists, about the Cyprus Republic, as he prepares for the election campaign.
“The Republic of Cyprus is our shield against efforts to partition our country, our defence on every diplomatic and political level and an inseparable part of our own identity,” he told his audience at the archbishopric on Tuesday.
Anastasiades’ electoral transformation is puzzling. If he thinks by stepping up his patriotic rhetoric he will win the votes of the ‘patriotic space’ and enhance his re-election chances he is committing a mistake. He may pick up a few votes from the rejectionist camp, but he will lose all the support of the pro-settlement voters who had believed that he was sincerely committed to reaching a deal with the Turkish Cypriots. Even if he has the audacity to pledge that he would work for a settlement if re-elected, we doubt anyone will believe him.