By Stefanos Evripidou
THE PRESIDENT was given a taste of what’s to come should peace talks start after announcing the “serious prospects” of resuming peace talks yesterday and finding traces of support from only one party bar his own, main opposition AKEL.
President Nicos Anastasiades, who put his weight behind the latest draft text on the joint communiqué, told party leaders yesterday that Turkish Cypriot approval was the only thing left to kick start substantive peace talks.
In response, main coalition partner DIKO came out all guns blazing, describing agreement on the text an “extremely negative development”.
With internal elections for the remaining positions in the party leadership scheduled for Sunday, DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos called the draft text a “bad basis” for talks that would lead to a “bad solution”.
He argued that provisions of the draft text, a version of which was leaked by numerous media yesterday, return to clauses and the phraseology contained in the rejected Annan plan of 2004.
Papadopoulos charged that the draft communiqué was full of constructive ambiguities. The text hints at prior agreement on a number of issues between the two sides, thereby acknowledging the document of convergences tabled by the UN following Anastasiades’ election, and rejected by DIKO.
The draft text grants separate sovereignty to the Turkish Cypriots, reintroduces the notion of “double citizenship”, and refers to the dissolution of the Cyprus Republic and “virgin birth” of a new federation, said the DIKO leader.
Papadopoulos further argued that the text provides new concessions to the Turkish Cypriots on governance issues while containing no reference to matters of primary interest to the Greek Cypriots, like security, the withdrawal of Turkish troops, return of refugees, withdrawal of settlers and the property issue.
“In simple words, with this agreement, the Turkish side achieves most of its long-standing ambitions, and all that, before talks have even started,” he said.
Junior coalition partner EVROKO was perhaps less scathing, but equally on the ‘nay’ side of opinions. EVROKO leader Demetris Syllouris said his party considers the latest draft text “wrong”, hinting that Turkish positions trumped human rights and the principles of the EU and UN.
“If the president decides to proceed, he needs to take into account all the dangers, concerns and observations of the political parties,” said Syllouris, adding, however, that his party would assist the president in his efforts once negotiations begin.
EDEK leader Yiannakis Omirou strongly encouraged the president not to enter into negotiations based on this draft proposal, saying his party explicitly objected to the finalised version.
He referred to the dangers of “three-headed sovereignty” and “triple citizenship” allegedly found in the draft text, in which there were clear imprints of the Annan plan.
Greens leader Giorgos Perdikis said yet another page was written yesterday in the long book of political concessions made by the Greek Cypriots.
Asked if the Greens would support the president in negotiations, he replied: “It’s God’s support he needs more, because he is embarking on a road that will not be strewn with rose petals, but with traps and mines and the Greens’ support will not help him with anything.”
Citizens’ Alliance leader Giorgos Lillikas, though not a member of the national council, can claim one MP in parliament, former EVROKO deputy Nicos Koutsou.
Lillikas accused the president of making “catastrophic concessions” before the talks even start and called for the establishment of a common front of resistance to reverse Anastasiades’ plans.
Providing a silver lining for the president’s approval of the unpopular text was opposition AKEL.
AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou said his party disagreed with the president’s decision to seek a new joint communiqué instead of simply reconfirming the joint statements of previous leaders.
However, he added: “We told the president that the decision is his and if he decides to begin negotiations, on the proviso that (Turkish Cypriot leader) Mr (Dervis) Eroglu responds positively, we will support him.”
The opposition leader called for a collective front against the pitfalls ahead.
“We have to operate as collectively as possible, understand how critical this moment is, and rise to the challenge.”
Kyprianou said it was hugely important for the Greek Cypriot leadership to act responsibly and constructively and avoid another rejected referendum.
Regarding those who argue against starting negotiations, he asked what the alternative is. “If you convince me there is something workable, I’ll support it. But there is no convincing reply to what we will do next.”
As time passes and the talks don’t start, Cyprus comes ever closer to de jure permanent partition, he warned.
“AKEL will never accept partition. I say it clearly to all. If some have come to terms with this idea, they should say it clearly and honestly to the Cypriot people, to engage in dialogue and let the Cypriot people decide where it wants to go. We, however, will never support such an eventuality.”
DISY leader Averof Neophytou said if Eroglu agrees on the draft text, the president should begin peace talks.
He called on those who disagree to take it as a given that everyone has the national interest at heart, even if they hold different views. “We do not need fanaticism, since this country has paid dearly as a result of fanaticism and populism.”