ALL GREEK Cypriot parties applauded President Anastasiades’ rash reaction to being informed about the presence of Mustafa Akinci at Monday night’s dinner in Istanbul. Anastasiades had been under the impression that Akinci was not invited to the World Humanitarian Summit and was taken aback when the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor Espen Barth Eide called to tell him the Turkish Cypriot leader, unexpectedly, was to attend the Monday night dinner for participants, hosted by President Erdogan.
Barth Eide, according to Cyprus News Agency, received a curt reply from Anastasiades, who reportedly told him, “Have a good dinner, I will not attend.” Anastasiades had felt he had been deceived by the Special Advisor, reported the CyBC correspondent, as Barth Eide had allegedly arranged Akinci’s presence at the dinner. Had the president attended he would have been crucified by the opposition parties in Cyprus for condoning, with his presence, the alleged upgrading of the pseudo-state, as the dinner was for heads of state and government attending the summit.
Evidently, it was not enough for him to make his point by snubbing the dinner. He also brought forward his departure, leaving Istanbul on Tuesday instead of Wednesday, called off his scheduled Thursday meeting with Barth Eide and subsequently announced he would not attend Friday’s talks with Akinci. The Cyprus government also expressed displeasure about the meeting Akinci had on Monday night with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Anastasiades’ decision not to attend the dinner was understandable but declining to meet the Special Advisor and staying away from the Cyprus talks on Friday was taking things too far. What did he hope to achieve and who was he punishing with these unhelpful decisions? Was he engaging in theatre in order to appease the Cyprus political parties and limit their criticism of him, now there are more hardliners in parliament? If he felt he had been fooled or deceived by Barth Eide, he should have raised his grievance privately at Thursday’s meeting and not turned it into an issue for domestic consumption. This was not a sensible and mature way for a president to conduct himself. And the same could be said about his decision not to attend Friday’s meeting, which was expected to see important decisions about the intensification of the peace talks taken.
Was this an excuse to pull out of the talks or will he change his mind by next week, in which case he would be proving correct the theory that his overreaction was a bit of political theatre for domestic consumption? In a way, he has made things difficult for himself, because he would need to offer some kind of explanation if he decides to meet Barth Eide and Akinci next week.