Presidential candidate and leader of the Citizens’ Alliance, Giorgos Lillikas has said that if he is elected he will hold a referendum to allow the people to decide the basis of the settlement of the Cyprus problem.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency ahead of the January 28 elections Lillikas, who is running as an independent candidate for the second time, said that people should have a say on the basis of the reunification of their country.
So far, negotiations under the UN aiming to reunite the island under a bi-zonal bi-communal federation, have failed to yield any result.
“If the people decide to reject the bi-zonal bi-communal federation as the basis of the settlement of the Cyprus problem, the EU and the international community should be informed and we should declare our readiness and will to start a new dialogue, a new undertaking on another basis,” he told CNA.
Turkey, he said, will not concede to a bizonal bicommunal federation or any other model of a solution in Cyprus, such as a unitary state, if the solution does not secure Ankara’s absolute control throughout the island of Cyprus.
“This is the type of settlement Turkey is seeking and this is why no Cypriot president, so far, even the ones who came close to a deal, has been able to solve the Cyprus problem. At the end of the day, they all realised what Turkey’s real intentions actually were,” he said.
Lillikas believes that the only way Turkey would consider a solution in Cyprus is only if it came as a cost, one that would affect its vital economic and political interests.
“This is my view. Those who believe that we can convince Turkey with arguments and unilateral concessions to accept a just and fair solution to the Cyprus problem are very much mistaken,” Lillikas said.
Lillikas also said he believes negotiations should not resume from where they left off at the Conference on Cyprus in Crans Montana, Switzerland, in July last year, which ended inconclusively.
“My view is that if talks resume from where they left off, we will be faced with the dilemma either to accept a solution based on Turkish demands for the sake of a settlement or face a new deadlock,” he said.
Referring to the economy, Lillikas called for a new economic model which would not solely rely on the services sector, and said that investment should be channelled to research and innovation, something which would compensate Cyprus’ lack of competitiveness in industrial and agricultural products.
He also said that Cyprus should make the transition to digital governance, a move which would help eradicate bureaucracy which he described as one of the main reasons that obstruct the inflow of foreign investment to Cyprus.
“The time has come to make radical reforms in our country, if we want to become an attractive destination to foreign investors,” Lillikas added.
On the problem of non-performing loans, which weigh on the banking sector following the 2013 financial crisis in Cyprus, Lillikas proposed the setting up of an organisation that would purchase non-performing loans from the banks, aiming at protecting primary residences.
Replying to questions on the Cyprus hydrocarbon exploration programme, Lillikas said the government should insist that the companies granted exploration license in blocks of the republic’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) should adhere to their timeframes. Noble, he said, the operator of Aphrodite reserve carrying an estimated 4.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, did not meet its timeframe concerning the development of the plot in question.
He said he favours the creation of a natural gas liquefaction terminal (LNG terminal), as this facility would provide Cyprus with more options, besides the option to transfer natural gas to Europe via a subsea pipeline connecting Cyprus with Greece and Italy.