By Stefanos Evripidou
THE GOVERNMENT yesterday called for “moderation” in comments on the Cyprus problem after a number of politicians cried foul over recent Turkish Cypriot contacts with the US government in Washington.
President Nicos Anastasiades yesterday chaired a meeting of the National Council to brief parties on the meetings of the two negotiators in the peace process this last month, as well as their parallel visits to Athens and Ankara. He also discussed the EU’s positions on the Ukraine crisis, and his recent phone conversation with US Vice President Joe Biden.
Asked by reporters why more was being heard from the Turkish Cypriots about the negotiations than the Greek Cypriots, government spokesman Christos Stylianides said the Greek Cypriot side would not negotiate in public, because this was not in the national interest.
“The president will provide a comprehensive briefing to the people of Cyprus when he has something specific to say. After all we just started. We are not close to a solution of the Cyprus problem, but at the beginning of a tough negotiation,” he said.
The majority of party leaders came out of the meeting at the Presidential Palace bemoaning continued Turkish intransigence, while crying foul over the recent visit of Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Ozdil Nami with White House staff.
Asked to comment, Stylianides said: “As the government, which is responsible for the negotiations, we will wait to see how things develop at the negotiating table.”
Asked whether Nami’s US visit represented an upgrade of the breakaway regime, the spokesman said these visits needed to be viewed through a historical lens.
“We have all lived through, unfortunately, after 2004, the upgrading of the Turkish Cypriot community worldwide,” he said, referring to former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat’s meeting at the State Department, and other high-level EU meetings.
“Let’s compare and see if anything has changed now. I would say now it’s better because they take place in a more discreet way,” he added.
The spokesman noted he wouldn’t even need to refer to these issues “if there was more moderation, which is needed from all of us right now. Moderation is not a weakness, it is a strategic strength and should not be construed by anyone as weakness. It is confidence in one’s arguments and views. So let’s not be afraid of moderation”.
He also called on the media to assist in the peace process and not resort to gossip. “The Cyprus problem cannot be a toy in the hands of publicity.”
Coming out of the meeting, opposition AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou said it appeared there remains a big gap in the positions of the two sides in the negotiations.
He called for consensus and collective action among the Greek Cypriot leadership to achieve the most possible in the talks, as opposed to engaging in intense public rows.
AKEL, apart from ruling DISY, was the only party which gave its support to the joint declaration of Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu on February 11, which paved the way for the resumption of talks.
Now that the talks have started, said the opposition leader, different opinions should be expressed in a constructive way so as to help the president in his difficult task.
DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos said the president’s policy of making “generous offers” and playing the “good child” has brought negative consequences, such as a negative resolution passed in the European Parliament on Wednesday, the upgrading of the breakaway regime despite continued Turkish intransigence, and violations of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by Turkey.
Despite disagreeing radically with the president’s policy, Papadopoulos said his party was ready to offer support to the president’s efforts to strengthen his negotiating position.
EDEK leader Yiannakis Omirou also argued that the Turkish side has not budged from its known positions, and warned of the dangers of enhanced status given to the breakaway regime.
Greens leader Giorgos Perdikis said the Greek Cypriots need to convince the international community that they want a solution as soon as possible, adding that it is the Turks that remain intransigent, “sticking to the same extreme confederal positions and partitionist proposals”.
EVROKO leader Demetris Syllouris said Turkey’s diplomatic activity and actions in Cyprus’ EEZ do not show good will for a solution.
According to sources, Anastasiades also briefed political leaders that during his phone talk with Biden, he asked the US Vice President to intercede with Turkey so that the latter refrains from harassing offshore gas drilling in Cypriot waters.
To date the Turkish navy has not impeded or harassed any vessels prospecting in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.
But Turkey has dispatched the Barbaros, a seismic research ship, in waters west of the island. There were also reports in the past week that the Barbaros was being shadowed by a Turkish military vessel.
Previously, Anastasiades had warned he would abandon peace talks in the event of Turkish “provocation” in the EEZ.
Coming out of the National Council meet, DISY leader Averof Neofytou told reporters that no violation of Cypriot sovereign territory had occurred forcing the President to make good on his pledge to walk out of peace negotiations.
Turkish vessels were operating in international waters, he said, and in any case there is nothing prohibiting a ship of any country to pass through another country’s EEZ.
What would constitute a violation, added Neofytou, would be any attempt to obstruct gas drilling in one of Cyprus’ offshore blocks.