OUR POLITICIANS always feel they have an obligation, if not a duty, to tell their audience what it wants to hear. They would rather ignore the truth, knowingly mislead and make empty promises than talk about harsh realities and unpopular choices which would not go down well with their audience. The approach has always been to ‘tell people what they want to hear’, even if what is being uttered is hot air, because the audience determines a politician’s views.
It is in this context that President Anastasiades’ speech to Cypriot expatriates in Chicago at the weekend should be viewed. He felt it was his duty to have a dig at Turkey during his speech, because he knew it would be appreciated by his US audience who came expecting a little patriotic uplifting from the president. He therefore criticised Turkey, the intransigence of which he said was considered a given, for not showing the will to withdraw its troops and the Turkish settlers nor to make the necessary territorial re-adjustments. Everything depended on Turkey, he said.
In his scheduled meetings with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, he would ask the US to exert its influence on Turkey to make her change stance he told the gathering. This revealed another common trait of our politicians – the conducting of diplomacy in public. Even if he planned to raise the issue with Biden and Kerry what purpose had making his intentions public actually serve? Diplomatic consultations and talks between governments are held in private, behind closed doors, and should never be the subject of after-dinner speeches as it also indicates a lack of seriousness.
How else could the president’s comments have been interpreted? Peace talks are currently in progress and many issues remain unresolved – this is why talks would be intensified in November – so how can he talk about Turkey’s stance while it remains unclear? He has only been talking to Mustafa Akinci, conceding in his Chicago speech that there had been progress in the negotiations, but Turkey has had no involvement so far, so on what has he based the evaluation he shared with his audience?
This seemed more like a return to the blame game that the two sides had agreed not to engage in. Was it in any way necessary, especially as talks are in progress? More importantly, what had the president gained, in practical terms, by lashing out at Turkey? If anything, it might encourage the intransigence that he was publicly complaining about. Was this what he wanted? By all means he should seek the help of Kerry and Biden, but this should be done privately and not be announced at a dinner party. After all, Cypriot expatriates do not vote in the Cyprus elections so they did not need to be pandered to.