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Our View: Cyprus ‘friendly’ goes well for player Tsipras

THE NEW Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras compressed the maximum number of meetings into yesterday’s visit to Cyprus, the first port of call of his tour of European capitals during which he hopes to spread his anti-austerity measures.

From Larnaca airport, Tsipras was taken straight to the presidential palace at which he had a private meeting with President Anastasiades before both were joined by ministers for the broadened talks. After speaking to journalists, he went to the Archbishopric where he met Archbishop Chrysostomos and from there to the legislature where the president of the House was waiting for him; while there, he also met all the leaders of parliamentary parties, separately.

He returned to the House last night in order to address the plenum, before attending the official dinner in his honour at the presidential palace. There were other meetings yesterday afternoon, Tsipras seeing representatives of non-governmental organisations, as well as his fellow-traveller Demetris Christofias.

Although there had been a meeting between the delegations of the two sides, this could only have been of an informative nature as there had been no time for the preparation of an agenda for substantive discussions. The visit was announced four days earlier and Tsipras has only been in office for a week.

The Prime Minister’s public statements inevitably focused on the obvious, such as the Cyprus problem. He said everything he was expected to say. The strategic objective was a Cyprus settlement based on principles and the resumption of peace talks was a necessity, but first the dispute over the Cypriot EEZ had to be resolved. He also underlined that Greek-Turkish relations were dependent on a viable Cyprus settlement. The platitudes on the Cyprus problem were welcome as these indicated that Tsipras was not here to mobilise support for his anti-austerity campaign.

He brought up his anti-austerity message but only in general terms, calling for the abolition of the Troika, which had no legitimacy, and the need for the EU to adopt a growth and development agenda. He did not try to stir opposition to the memorandum or involve Cyprus in his campaign against Brussels. After all, this was a ‘courtesy visit’, part of the new Prime Minister’s familiarisation with his new job. Cyprus was the ideal place for him to start his foreign visits as it is a familiar country that was guaranteed to give him a warm and friendly welcome and help him gain some experience of foreign visits without being under pressure.

It is what is described in football as a friendly and a friendly invariably goes well. The real test for Tsipras will be his next visit, which will not be as easy and relaxed as the Cyprus trip.

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