AKEL general-secretary Andros Kyprianou on Sunday fended off criticism of his upcoming visit to Istanbul where he will meet Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu to discuss the Cyprus issue.
In a Q&A with Politis, Kyprianou said he has been to Istanbul seven or eight times for various events, and also has a personal acquaintanceship with Cavusoglu through other international fora.
“I think that would be a serious mistake to reject an invitation to discuss the Cyprus issue,” he said.
Asked if he wondered why he was invited, he said probably because AKEL plays an important role in developments to solve the Cyprus problem and this was recognised by the international community and Turkey.
“My own desire is to discuss the important chapters where there are convergences to see and what is the approach the Turkish side has. I do not know what Mr Cavusoglu expects. I think it is important to talk with Turkey on some very important issues,” he added.
One of the issues on the table would be post-solution guarantees where the two Cypriot sides have major differences. “Mr Cavusoglu has said he is ready to discuss these issues, which creates a certain very limited optimism,” said Kyprianou. “We should use this crack and try to convince them of the correctness of our approach”.
However he made it clear that AKEL from the outset said it was against any NATO guarantees. “We are happy that this no longer seems to be discussed,” he added.
Kyprianou said he would be meeting President Nicos Anastasiades before the January 23 visit.
Speaking generally on the Cyprus negotiations, Kyprianou said the election of Mustafa Akinci as the Turkish Cypriot leader had improved the climate but it would be wrong to be overly optimistic, he said.
“We are in a phase that we are debating a very crucial and decisive issue for the entire process… the property on which there has been no agreement so far, and in itself could cause serious problems for a deal.”
Kyprianou said as far as property was concerned, the less said in public about what was going on at the talks, the better because whatever is said was bound to cause a reaction from some quarter or another.
“And this in my opinion complicates the negotiation process, and causes reactions from political parties. It would be better for the leaders to focus on this at the table,” he said, adding that the more public the reactions, the more difficult to overcome those obstacles or show flexibility in the negotiations. “The less said the better.”
Kyprianou said there were some positions coming out from the Turkish side that concerned AKEL, especially what he called differing interpretation of the nature of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation but this was no reason to come down hard on Akinci as they were things that could be overcome in the negotiations.
“We have the EU on our side in these matters. There are difficulties and there will still be difficulties. The recipe is neither to surrender, nor end the negotiations. We must concentrate all the arguments we have and try to convince them of the correctness of our positions,” he said. “I reiterate that the EU shares our own opinion and does not accept permanent derogations from the acquis communautaire.”
On accusations that AKEL is being told more than the other political parties as it supports the process, Kyprianou said this was not true but there was a difference in that AKEL talks to the Turkish Cypriot parties where the other opposition parties do not.
“These are lame excuses that some parties find just so they can criticise,” he said.
Asked how the party can reconcile its support of the government in the Cyprus talks but not on economic policy, Kyprianou said the Anastasiades government was following a policy that served the interests of the rich.
“The richest 10 per cent have seen their income grow by 3.5 per cent in the last three years and the remaining 90 per cent have seen a fall in their income of around 8 per cent,” Kyprianou said.
“Based on Eurostat data we are the country with the greatest social inequality and it it is fact that the policies pursued by the government are unpopular.”
Parliament also came under criticism over the behaviour of some MPs that had recently come to light.
“This behaviour discredits us all and give the impression that we adopt laws for others but not for ourselves. We have arrived at the point where people do not want to deal with politics,” he added. He reckoned AKEL however would do well in the parliamentary elections in May.