By Elias Hazou
THE NATIONAL Council yesterday picked Andreas Mavroyiannis as the Greek Cypriot side’s chief negotiator at the peace talks, fulfilling DISY’s pre-election pledge to appoint an interlocutor other than the President of the Republic.
The selection of a top negotiator was the top item on the agenda. The National Council concluded its business after having been initially scheduled to span two days. It will convene again in September, at a date to be announced.
Mavroyiannis had been widely tipped as the frontrunner for the new position. The 57-year-old career diplomat is currently the permanent secretary at the foreign ministry. He has in the past served in a number of posts, including as Cypriot ambassador to Ireland and France, and was a member of the negotiating team in the bi-communal reunification talks between 2003 and 2008. He also served as Deputy Minister of EU Affairs during Cyprus’ EU presidency in 2012.
Yesterday’s selection of a chief negotiator was just short of unanimous, with the Greens nominating diplomat Tassos Tzionis instead. AKEL meanwhile cited reservations about the creation of the post itself.
The NC also decided to maintain the seven existing working groups which advise the Greek Cypriot negotiator on the Cyprus talks, and to establish a number of ad-hoc sub-committees that would assist the interlocutor in actual negotiations.
Speaking to newsmen later, government spokesman Christos Stylianides said yesterday’s meeting focused on the workings of the NC. The body’s next session would take place in the autumn, prior to the President’s attendance at the United Nations General Assembly, and would deal with ‘substantive issues’ such as discussing an outline for a settlement.
Negotiations with the Turkish Cypriot side under UN auspices would likely resume in October, Stylianides said.
The appointment of a chief negotiator is the first step in a new approach to the prosecuting of Cyprus talks as promised by President Nicos Anastasiades prior to his election.
Anastasiades had pledged to implement collective decision-making within a fractious National Council where consensus is seldom if ever attained.
But the mechanics of the chief negotiator-President-National Council triangle remain to be fleshed out. Under the constitution, the NC is an advisory body with no authority to take decisions – unless the President should choose to delegate his powers.
Some observers wonder whether the interlocutor will be more of a ceremonial or proxy position. One political commentator, who preferred not to be named, predicted the new arrangement would most likely complicate rather than simplify decision-making.
“One person will say ‘A’, the other ‘B’…it’s a perfect recipe for getting nothing done,” the source told the Mail.
Moreover, under the new regime at the NC, introduced by Anastasiades, any resolution is binding on the President if there is a 75 per cent support for it (each party would represent the percentage it received in the last parliamentary election).
Asked what would happen in the event the President happens to disagree with the 75 per cent regardless, the government spokesman said the President reserved to right to call for a referendum.
Also yesterday, the body rejected a request by the ‘Citizens Alliance’, a newly-created political platform, to take a seat at the NC.
Explaining the decision later, Stylianides said the group did not meet the minimum criteria. In order to be eligible for participation in the NC, he said, a political formation must be registered as a party and must have previously run in a parliamentary election and got at least one person elected to parliament.
The ‘Citizens Alliance’ is headed by former foreign minister Giorgos Lillikas who ran for president in the last general elections.
However, the President would invite Lillikas to the Palace for briefings from time to time, Stylianides added.