THE DINNER for President Anastasiades and Dervis Eroglu that would be hosted by the UN Secretary-General’s special representative Alexander Downer will go ahead as planned even though the date has reportedly been switched to May 30. It will supposedly maintain its social character, as Anastasiades had demanded in the letter he sent to Ban Ki-moon last Friday.
In his letter the president complained that Downer had tried to turn the dinner into a political event despite having given assurances to the contrary.
He felt that Downer’s associates “had leaked to unauthorised individuals inaccurate information, with the result of the undermining of our credibility and the creation of the mistaken impression about the resumption of the peace talks.”
There has been no official explanation about the inaccurate information that was leaked. A press report claimed the straw that broke the camel’s back was the UN’s request to be informed whether the Greek Cypriot negotiator would attend the dinner despite knowing that Anastasiades had no intention of appointing one at this time. Perhaps we are unaware of the intricacies of dinner diplomacy, but for the layman this seemed like the proverbial storm in a tea-cup.
Perhaps there were other goings-on that were not specified in the letter, but even if there were, they could not justify the knee-jerk reaction and brash tone of the letter. The strange thing was that Anastasiades had always enjoyed a very good relationship with Downer, meeting regularly with him and never participating in the concerted attacks on the Australian by all other parties and leaders. Did he feel obliged to adopt a more confrontational approach now he was president, or was he trying to keep his rejectionist alliance partners happy?
His angry reaction may have had something to do with the revelations that he was in possession of a 77-page UN document, listing the convergences and divergences of the talks, about which he had kept the National Council in the dark. Perhaps he thought that sending an angry letter was the best way to shift public attention away from this omission, which the opposition parties took exception to. This would also explain why he made his letter public on the very same day he sent it, probably before anyone at the UN headquarters had read it.
Making the letter public gave the impression he was playing to the gallery rather than voicing legitimate concerns. If he had concerns these should have been conveyed to Ban in a confidential letter. By going public, he sparked another bout of Downer-bashing by the political parties and calls for the Australian’s replacement. While this will not happen, after the four years of work Downer and his team had put into the peace efforts, all the president’s letter achieved was to give more ammunition to the campaign of opponents of a settlement.
It was not a smart move, if he remains committed to reaching a deal.