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Our View: President is correct to take a stand against party distortions

IT WAS VERY reassuring to hear President Anastasiades speak forthrightly on Wednesday night about his commitment to the peace process and his determination to reach an agreement. It was also encouraging to hear him have a go at the salesmen of negativity and fear of the small, hard-line parties which have already started an unrelenting misinformation campaign against the peace process aimed at frightening people.

Anastasiades told the gathering of Kyrenians that although he avoided responding to the relentless criticism, for the sake of maintaining a united home front, his patience was wearing thin. “I cannot keep hearing, from morning till night, some people repeating their concerns about the dangers we face,” he said. “We will face many more dangers if we do not give the fight to rid the island of the occupation and re-unite the country,” he warned.

His message was very clear and timely – he would not be intimidated by the opponents of a settlement. This was a very important point to make as the hardliners have been using intimidation tactics, since the 2004 referendum, to subdue all those that disagreed with them and questioned their pro-partition agenda. The hardliners are trying to revive the poisonous climate we lived through during the Papadopoulos presidency during which anyone who supported a peace agreement was labelled unpatriotic, an agent of foreign interests or a supporter of Turkish positions.

Anastasiades, who was leader of the opposition at the time, was regularly accused of “speaking like a Turk” and of “promoting Turkish interests” by the Papadopoulos government and the hard-line parties. A couple of days ago we heard this sophisticated argument used against AKEL, with a spokesperson of DIKO, the custodians of patriotic rectitude, accusing the party of having “adopted the Turkish positions.”

This was an indication that the intimidation campaign has begun. So has the distortion of the facts which was highlighted by Anastasiades on Wednesday night, asking where the people disseminating alarmism were getting their information from as they were not present at the negotiations. He said he would not allow the “distortion of what was agreed at the negotiation table” by informing people directly whenever there was something worth announcing. This is a good move even though it will not stop his opponents from interpreting what is announced in whichever way they choose.

The important thing is that the president has decided to take a stand and made it clear to the career hard-liners that he will not be intimidated by their alarmism and distortion of the truth. It is a positive first step, because things are certain to become nasty as the talks progress.

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