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Cyprus angered by UN chief’s comments (Updated)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

By Jean Christou

‘VERBAL improprieties’ and ‘perversions of the truth’ were among the more colourful adjectives used by Greek Cypriot political parties on Monday to describe comments made by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Cyprus problem.

Although also clearly angered, the government’s response was less abusive, but it believed the comments to be insulting enough to warrant an official demarche to the UN in New York.

Ban’s faux pas? On Saturday he said of the talks: “Unfortunately, these negotiations [were] suspended because of a change of government in the Greek Cypriot community of Cyprus. After that, there was an economic crisis. This kind of a political and economic situation has not been helpful in resuming the negotiations”.

In the eyes of politicians on the island Ban managed in one sentence to ‘blame’ the Greek Cypriots for a delay in negotiations, and to ‘downgrade’ Cyprus from a UN member state to a mere ‘community’.

Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said the remarks were ‘unfounded’, firstly because the talks stopped before June 2012 when Cyprus took over the six-month EU presidency due to the Turkish Cypriot side’s ire. Secondly, when the presidency ended in December that year, the government was six weeks away from presidential elections, and it was again the Turkish side which said it was not worth re-starting talks with then President Demetris Christofias who was not standing for re-election.

As far as being a ‘community’, Kasoulides said: “I am wondering how many years a Secretary-General needs to be in the post before he knows the number of UN member states there are.”

“I would like to believe that these statements were not made deliberately,” he said, suggesting Ban was so busy with other issues that he was not paying attention. If he had, “he would have avoided these mistakes”.

The foreign minister’s comments paled in comparison with those of the political parties however.

A statement from ruling DISY condemned any “verbal improprieties” that downgraded or “de-recognised” the Republic of Cyprus as a UN member state.

EDEK, Demetris Papadakis went a step further. Also using Ban’s “impropriety”, he added that it was a “perversion of truth” and a “thunderbolt from the blue”.

“This is a product of the tolerance shown for years to a slew of impropriety, lapses and violations of both the Charter and the Security Council resolutions on Cyprus,” he said, referring to the previous and current governments. If the government didn’t act, he said the situation would be “repeated, grow and multiply”.

The European party’s Andreas Televantos decided to blame Ban’s Special Adviser Alexander Downer.
“This unacceptable statement by the UN Secretary-General reflects the unbalanced stance in favour of the Turkish position, which has been Downer’s stance from the outset in dealing with Cyprus. This statement is product of Mr Downer. It’s clear that he has transmitted to UN headquarters his beliefs and philosophy,” he said.

DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos spoke of “bitterness, frustration and disappointment” and said it was a form of pressure on the Greek Cypriot side to “accept new unacceptable concessions just to bring Turkey to the table”.  “It’s all well and good to be the good guys but it’s better to safeguard our national interests,” he said.

Sources close to the talks said Ban may have been distracted with concerns over Syria, and added that the Greek Cypriot reaction in this instance could only serve to annoy him. Also, the sources said, it is well known and accepted in Cyprus that in the context of the negotiations, the two sides are always referred to as “the two communities”.

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