A NEW round of bickering about the National Council was sparked by President Anastasiades’ letter to party leaders setting out his ideas and conditions for its operation. The Council had not met for a while, because of the leak of documents given to its members by the president. Before the parliamentary elections, EDEK chief Marinos Sizopoulos went a step further, calling a news conference and reading out classified documents he had obtained at a Council meeting, in order to prove to the public, as he claimed, that Anastasiades was not telling the truth about the negotiations.
Anastasiades has briefed some party leaders about the talks in one-to-one meetings since then, but has ignored opposition calls to convene the National Council. This week, however, he wrote to the leaders with his conditions for re-convening the Council. These included one representative per party, acceptance of the framework for a settlement agreed by the leaders of the two communities (bi-zonal, bi-communal federation), confidentiality and a meeting every two months. These were perfectly reasonable conditions, which, quite predictably, most of the opposition parties rejected.
DIKO, EDEK and the Alliance of Citizens thought it was unacceptable for the president to demand a commitment to the settlement framework agreed by the two sides and the unanimous decisions of the National Council because they are opposed to a federation. They are perfectly entitled to oppose a federation, but why should the President give them the right to do this at the National Council, which everyone seems to have forgotten is nothing more than an advisory body, with no legal or constitutional powers. Its existence is entirely dependent on the wishes of the president, who has every right to set the conditions of its operation.
It is not up to the party leaders to dictate how the president’s advisory body should operate. If he does not want leaders that stridently oppose a federal settlement offering their negative advice and taking information they are given at meetings to undermine the peace procedure, he is perfectly within his right to exclude them. What useful contribution could Sizopoulos – whose party is against a federal settlement – make to these meetings? The same applies to Lillikas, Papadopoulos, Perdikis and Theocharous who do nothing else but slam the procedure, demand the preservation of the Cyprus Republic and constantly criticise Anastasiades’ alleged concessions.
Anastasiades will confer with party leaders about the format, after receiving their responses to his letter, which is not a smart move as he is creating the impression that they have a say about how a body that exists to serve the president should operate. It really is none of their business.