PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday appeared not to rule out calling a halt to briefing party leaders at the National Council following the breach of protocol by EDEK leader Marinos Sizopoulos who publicised parts of the minutes on Wednesday.
Anastasiades who was asked to touch on the subject during a televised interview on public broadcaster CyBC on Thursday night, which for the first time featured questions from the public via Twitter, said: “I am thinking hard about whether to continue briefing party leaders at the National Council, or to hold private, one-on-one meetings with them.”
He slammed Sizopoulos for acting ‘irresponsibly’ though EDEK has threatened to go public with even more inside information from the regular briefings to party leaders by the president.
“We cannot air what we discuss among us,” said Anastasiades. “Do you know of any other major negotiations, for instance the US-Iran talks, which were made public even as they were happening?”
It was not a case of revealing classified information, but rather of honouring a gentlemen’s agreement to keep certain matters confidential for the time being, he added.
Actions such as Sizopoulos’ played into the hands of Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, Anastasiades said.
“They provide Mr Akinci ammunition, as Akinci has argued that he does not wish to discuss issues like territorial adjustments until the end-stage of the talks, because he claims that otherwise the details would be leaked on the Greek Cypriot side.”
At any rate, he said, Sizopoulos had made no major reveal, as he himself [Anastasiades] had gone into far greater detail about the negotiations during his briefing to parliament last month.
And, he added, the public would be given ample time to be informed about a settlement agreement if it were struck.
The bulk of the interview covered the Cyprus peace talks, with Anastasiades brushing off the notion he was making concessions to the Turkish Cypriot side without reciprocation.
On the issue of the rights of the users of occupied properties in the north, he dismissed claims by detractors that he had gone soft on the issue or had been outmanoeuvred by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.
“It is not the President of the Republic who has accepted the rights of the user. Rather, these rights were recognised by the European Court of Human Rights in the Demopoulos case,” he noted, adding that this set a precedent.
But, he hastened to add, the Greek Cypriot side is driving a hard bargain at the negotiating table, insisting that priority is conferred on the rights of property owners.
Owners, he said, would be offered a range of options for restitution, including exchange and full or partial compensation.
Anastasiades sought as well to sound tough on the issue of the return of the occupied township of Morphou under a reunification settlement.
“For us, the return of Morphou is a red line. Mr Erdogan can say what he likes. At the end of the day, if this is the Turkish position on the issue [not ceding Morphou], then there can be no solution.”
The president vehemently dismissed criticism that the political parties and the public are being kept in the dark about the ongoing negotiations.
Anastasiades looked confident as he tackled questions relating to the austerity policy necessitated by a bailout from international lenders in 2013, following a banking meltdown.
His government has never claimed that the country’s economic performance has been a success story, he noted.
“This phrase has been used by our international lenders, not by us,” he said, answering criticism that whereas macroeconomic data appear to be robust, the average person is still feeling the sting.
“We are about to exit the memorandum, but the crisis is not over.”
The president was also asked why, three years on, no one has been indicted for the financial meltdown and why investigations are taking so long.
One of the three reporters asked whether he feared what Greek financier Andreas Vgenopoulos – the former boss of now-defunct Laiki Bank – could reveal about ties with the Cypriot political and financial establishment.
The implication concerned Vgenopoulos’ close associate, Greek businessman Michalis Zolotas, whose company channelled funds to Cypriot parties in the run-up to the 2008 presidential elections.
Anastasiades’ DISY party, which he headed at the time – though he was not running for president – was a recipient of a large chunk of the cash.
“Why should I be afraid?” Anastasiades retorted, adding that wherever the evidence pointed, the guilty parties should be brought to justice.
On the issue of the bondholders who are demanding compensation, the president said he could not make promises.
If at some future date the state should afford it, then it would consider compensating this group of people who saw their investments wiped out.
Regarding the failure to introduce a National Health Scheme (NHS), the problem lies not with special interests opposing it, but rather the cost of funding it.
However, said Anastasiades, it would not be impossible to raise the funds for the NHS, especially if the government can generate savings from elsewhere, for example from the recently-announced reorganisation of the National Guard.
Anastasiades neither denied nor confirmed that he would be running for top office again, saying his top priority remains to see through his administration’s programme and to focus on solving the Cyprus problem. He insisted he was all about the work, not the glory.
“I do not concern myself with these things,” he said, asked if he would run for president come 2018.
He responded in the same manner to a question on whether he is considering standing in elections for a federal Cyprus, if reunification were achieved during his term.