The country’s political elite rubbed shoulders, traded jokes and kept themselves busy snapping selfies as they awaited President Nicos Anastasiades’ entry into the parliament building on Thursday evening.
Attending the President’s briefing on the Cyprus talks were MPs, ministers, government officials and mayors.
The briefing took shorter than anticipated, and its content – an account of the convergences in the negotiations – could in no way be called spectacular.
This was largely to be expected, as the event was an open one, covered by the media, despite initial thoughts of holding the briefing behind closed doors.
Anastasiades stated that progress was being made in the talks, but stressed that an agreement should not be expected anytime soon.
Later, the initial reaction from the parties, too, held no surprises.
“We have heard nothing new here today,” DIKO spokesman Christiana Erotokritou told the state broadcaster on the parliament steps.
“What we heard is the President’s interpretation of the joint statement of the leaders of February 11, 2014, but this is simply our side’s position.”
The President, said Erotokritou, gave no fresh insight into the issues of security, guarantees and the refugee question in a post-settlement Cyprus.
“Except for the fact that these issues have yet to be discussed substantively.”
In a similar vein, EDEK spokesman Costis Efstathiou said “we are none the wiser today.”
According to Efstathiou, the lack of detail overall in the President’s briefing was disconcerting.
“We were concerned about hearing about the various options, beyond compensation, which will be available to the refugees.”
Anastasiades had just outlined five ways of redress to be offered to property owners: resettlement, partial restitution, alternative restitution, exchange of properties, and compensation.
“There was nothing about how we will rid ourselves of the [Turkish] settlers,” Efstathiou noted.
Andreas Apostolou, spokesman for the Citizens’ Alliance – also seen as hard-line on Cyprus – said the President’s speech failed to assuage concerns over the future of the Republic.
He was alluding to the contentious issue about the status of the Republic once reunification is achieved – the so-called matter of the ‘virgin birth.’
The fact alone that, as agreed, the new state emerging from reunification would not have to re-apply for EU or UN membership is not reassuring, said Apostolou.
In his speech, which lasted for about an hour-and-a-half, Anastasiades hit back at criticism that the new state post-settlement would downgrade the Republic or upgrade the north’s breakaway regime.
Andros Kyprianou, leader of main opposition AKEL, kept it low-key.
The briefing, he said, made it clear that despite the progress in the peace talks, difficulties remain.
His one gripe was that there was no time for a Q&A.