A STATEMENT made by government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides last Tuesday, I think, was adequate to show the full extent of the irresponsibility, ineptitude, sloppiness and complete lack of seriousness in the handling of the Cyprus problem.
He said: “In the last few days many statements have been made about the Cyprus issue. We will not follow the example of on air negotiating, as we do not consider it a show of seriousness and commitment to the negotiating table.” Something similar was said by President Anastasiades in his interview on Sigma TV. “If we want a settlement we must be grounded and negotiate seriously,” he had said.
Seriousness? The first to show a lack of seriousness and the first to engage in “on air negotiating” are these two. I went through the archives of the Public Information Office (PIO), which records and releases all the statements by government officials of the last two months. During that time hardly a day went by in which there had not been a statement “on air” either by Anastasiades or his spokesman. Christodoulides would do well to keep quiet instead of passing judgement on others
I had written about this behaviour last Sunday but I thought I should also give some examples to better illustrate it. For instance, one of the “red lines” drawn recently “on air” by Anastasiades was the ruling out of a rotating presidency. But this had been accepted some time ago by our side. It is one of the Christofias-Talat convergences.
In the relevant UN document of 30 April 2013 (Convergences 2008-2012, Section 1) it is clearly stipulated that that there would be direct elections for the presidency (president and vice president) and the term would be six years with four for a Greek Cypriot and two for a Turkish Cypriot. For the Turkish Cypriots the rotating presidency of the federal government is a real red line after everything that happened in 1963.
It is one of the few issues on which Mustafa Akinci has taken a hard line, saying that without it there would be no settlement. How much seriousness, under the circumstances, does Anastasiades’ “on air” backtracking contain?
Another “red line” regularly uttered by the president “on air” is the matter of guarantees. He does this fully aware that, while Turkey has shown readiness for some amendment to the guarantee system of 1960, “so that Greek Cypriots do not feel insecure”, it would not agree to their immediate scrapping.
On this, it is interesting to mention that even Tassos Papadopoulos, in the changes to the Annan plan he proposed to the UN in 2005, did not seek the immediate abolition of the guarantee system. In the relevant document submitted to the then Under-Secretary-General Sir Kieran Prendergast, Papadopoulos had proposed the continuation of the Treaty of Guarantee until Turkey became a member of the EU, but wanted the right of unilateral intervention to be ruled out. (It would be good if this is borne in mind by Nicolas Papadopoulos, who soon will demand a chunk of Turkey territory to agree to a settlement).
On the issues of property (which Anastasiades cannot stop talking about) and settlers, our side had shown considerable flexibility when Papadopoulos was president. With regard to properties, Papadopoulos told the UN that Greek Cypriots “accepted the need to protect current users that had been displaced”. As regards settlers he proposed that “a maximum number of 30,000 settlers could remain” and asked that the rest withdrew “at brief time intervals”. His son should also bear this in mind when he appears on television insisting that not a single settler should remain and that all refugees (of whom three quarters are dead) should return to their homes.
So if we want to negotiate with anything resembling seriousness Anastasiades and his spokesman should bear in mind that all the above are recorded and we cannot now backtrack and declare new “red lines” on air. Negotiations are not a game which we can switch off and start from the beginning when we feel like it. This is not “on air negotiating” but a joke and the Cyprus problems cannot be solved with jokes.