By Jean Christou
Opposition AKEL has been waging a relentless battle against the government’s foreign policy since Turkey last week stated its intention to carry out seismic studies in licensed offshore blocks in Cyprus’ southern exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
While the party supported President Nicos Anastasiades’ decision to subsequently pull out of the Cyprus negotiations, it has accused the government of alienating traditional ally Russia by turning to the West.
Yesterday on its front page, party mouthpiece Haravgi published a tirade against Anastasiades and the government’s “one-dimensional foreign policy”, which it described as “dangerous” in its undermining of Nicosia’s relations with Moscow.
“As AKEL, we welcome the government’s call for unity but we call on it to first implement this in practice,” said party spokesman Giorgos Loucaides. This meant that the government needed to take into account the concerns of all parties without exception “unless the leaders continue to perceive unity as imposing its views on the majority,” said Loucaides.
He questioned whether in declaring Cyprus an “outpost of the West”if the government was then in agreement with Western sanctions on Russia? He also said the response of Cyprus “strategic allies”, the US, UK and EU to the Turkish provocations had been sluggish and bland.
Referring to a speech given by Anastasiades on Sunday at a Morphou event, Loucaides said the president had tried to defend the current foreign policy by saying he expected Cyprus’ allies to exercise their influence on Turkey. But this new role in upgrading relations with the US and the West came at the expense of relations with Russia and China, he said
On Friday after Russia had issued a statement on the Turkish actions, which had been hailed by all of the opposition parties, Loucaides said the Russian announcement was welcome, though delayed, and in stark contrast to the lack of response from EU institutions and the “neutral” response from Cyprus’ so-called strategic allies, the US and UK.
He expressed hope the government would abandon its “delusions and return to a multi-dimensional foreign policy”, rather than its one-dimensional attachment to the US, NATO and the West.
In his speech on Sunday, Anastasiades said the upgrading of relations with the US did not mean it was at the expense of relations with Russia or China. He said as a full member of the EU, Cyprus wanted a practical and essential role in what was happening in the region. He also said that in parallel, Cyprus was continuing to deepen relations with traditional friends.
Anastasides was quoted on Monday in Simerini as saying that even though the Russian response to Turkey appeared harsher than those of the US and UK, such diplomatic communications did not always spell out only what people wanted to hear. “In the background there are important diplomatic efforts underway to end this intolerable situation,” he said
He said the welcome position of Russia was in itself an answer to those who say the government’s foreign policy had affected Cyprus’ relationship with Moscow and the ensuing criticism “that we put all our eggs in the basket of the West or entirely on the Americans”.
“There is West and East, but mostly there are just large countries with highly strategic interests whether they are called Europe or America or Russia,” he said. “Therefore we choose not West instead of East but we have made a choice of closer relations with America that have not in the slightest been detrimental to the traditional friendly relations we have with Russia.”
Commenting on the stalling of the peace process, Anastasiades said the suspension of his participation in the talks was only for as long as it was necessary or for as long as Turkey continued its current behaviour when it came to the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone.