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New leader pledges support

Nicolas Papadopoulos on his way to his first National Council meetingafter narrowly defeating Marios Garoyian to become DIKO's new leader yesterday

By Stefanos Evripidou

NICOLAS PAPADOPOULOS supports the president’s handling of the Cyprus problem to date, he said on Monday following his first attendance of the National Council as new DIKO leader.

Just a few hours after beating the outgoing Marios Garoyian in party leadership elections early Monday morning, Papadopoulos attended the national council at the presidential palace with Education Minister Kyriacos Kenevezos.

After the meeting, Papadopoulos met with President Nicos Anastasiades for a private meeting.

The question on many lips was would Papadopoulos remove his party from the government? Or if he stays, would he fight the government on its Cyprus problem policy, given his highly critical stance so far on the national issue.

The answer, at least for now as the peace talks continue to stall and stutter, is no.

Speaking after the national council meeting, Papadopoulos said as far as the latest developments in the peace process are concerned, “we agree with the handling of the president”.

“As regards the joint communiqué, the president must insist on his position that we should not sacrifice content for the sake of form. The basis of the talks must be clarified.

“Constructive ambiguities over the content of the communiqué simply help the Turkish Cypriot side depart from the framework of the negotiations. If we proceed with an unclear communiqué and unclear basis, we will simply delay apportioning blame because we will not be able to have any real progress in the talks,” he said.

The new DIKO leader further argued: “The joint communiqué is not a formality, it is an essential clarification on the basis of the talks. And we will support this position of the president. We seek to strengthen his negotiating position.”

Regarding his meeting with the president, Papadopoulos said he assured Anastasiades that DIKO will use all means to strengthen the negotiating position of the president on the Cyprus problem and to help efforts to restart the Cypriot economy.

“And for my part, I have pledged to undertake every effort to improve further the cooperation between DIKO and the presidential palace.”

Asked about seeking a replacement of DIKO ministers in cabinet, he said: “There is no such issue. A reshuffle has not been discussed nor do I intend on raising such an issue at present.”

According to government spokesman Christos Stylianides, Anastasiades briefed the national council on all meetings, letters and discussions held with various stakeholders since the end of October on the Cyprus problem.

These included conversations with the Prime Ministers of Finland and Sweden, following their discussions with Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan; a meeting with UK Minister for Europe David Lidington, with UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer, and on the “very important conversation” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The president also briefed the parties on an exchange of letters with US Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as on the latest efforts to bridge the gap in the peace talks over the joint communiqué.

Party representatives also heard the latest from Brussels, following Anastasiades’ recent meeting with the Presidents of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso regarding the Cyprus problem.

Stylianides said the president planned on keeping party leaders continuously up-to-date on any developments regarding the formulation of a joint communiqué.

The national council will meet again later this month mainly to discuss the issue of Greek Cypriot owners of property in the occupied areas applying to the immoveable property commission in the north. In January a meeting will also be set to discuss issues of strategy related to the Cyprus problem, added the spokesman.

“The climate that prevailed was very consensual and positive. There was clear support for the president as far as the necessity of the joint communiqué,” said Stylianides, adding that this was “very positive” as it sent a clear message to the international community.

Asked about AKEL’s proposal to launch an international campaign next year within key decision-making centres to highlight 40 years of occupation and 10 years of EU membership, he said a decision would be taken after seeing how the issue of a joint communiqué develops.

Asked about the president’s meeting with Papadopoulos, Stylianides said the government welcomes the democratic procedures of every party, noting that collaboration continues with DIKO.

Meanwhile, efforts to agree on a joint communiqué continue. Downer is about to do a five-day stint on the island, arriving this Sunday.

It remains to be seen how much Papadopoulos’ election victory will serve to tie the hands of the government in terms of how much flexibility and willingness to compromise can be shown on the joint communiqué, which has become a precondition of the Greek Cypriots for the resumption of talks.

And as is often repeated in the peace talks, it takes two to tango.

Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu was yesterday quoted addressing Turkish Cypriots at a festival, saying that establishing a state has always been the main target of all their struggles.

He described the breakaway regime as “our most powerful weapon”.

“If we had no state then it would be impossible to sit at the negotiation table. If we had no state we could not have the possibility to tell the world about the realities and we would be in a weak position at the negotiation table,” he said.

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