President Nicos Anastasiades on Saturday backed down from asking party leaders to agree to a confidentiality clause as part of the National Council’s operation, a proposal made after one of them published the confidential minutes of two meetings earlier this year.
Anastasiades wanted leaders to sign a confidentiality clause before re-convening the advisory body whose function was put in doubt after EDEK chairman Marinos Sizopoulos made public the confidential minutes of two meetings, saying the people had a right to the truth as regards reunification negotiations.
“In the framework of the president’s desire for consensus, his desire for the body to be effective… he accepted some of the parties’ recommendations,” government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said after a meeting Saturday between Anastasiades and party leaders.
The president also briefed party leaders on the ongoing reunification talks.
According to the spokesman, Anastasiades decided that only the leaders of parliamentary parties will take part, former presidents of the Republic, and the House president, if they are not a party leader.
To date, parties were represented by two people at the National Council.
Discussion and any information provided to participants will be confidential, the spokesman said.
“Party leaders can make public the positions of their parties,” he said. In the past some participants disclosed other people’s positions in a bid to score political points.
Anastasiades also agreed to set up sub-committees to discuss particular issues.
“If such matters will be discussed at National Council level, party leaders can be accompanied by a second person,” the spokesman said.
Sizopoulos’ action prompted Anastasiades to rethink a promise to allow documents from the talks to be circulated at meetings and in the meantime said he would brief party leaders separately.
Christodoulides said party access to documents had been suspended for some time because of the leaks.
However, after Saturday, they could study the documents pertaining to the briefing and present their views in the next meeting of the National Council after the summer recess.
“It is up to the parties to ask to see the documents from the National Council secretariat and they can do that immediately,” the spokesman said.
“The matter was discussed extensively today… parties can look at the documents regarding the briefing conducted by the president today. Parties will return with specific views, (and) suggestions,” he added.
The National Council was set up by president Makarios after the coup and subsequent invasion in 1974.
It was and continues to be an advisory body whose decisions do not bind the president.
Ruling DISY chief Averof Neophytou said the president had the first and final say over the National Council and the way it operates.
“The decision eventually lies with the president and I think this is the most orthodox decision that could have been made,” he said.
Main opposition AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou said the president withdrew some of his demands on the council’s operation following the parties’ reactions.
Kyprianou said confidentiality could not be ensured by signing a protocol but “it is a matter requiring political maturity, a sense of responsibility towards the country, and the gravity of the period Cyprus was going through.”
Sizopoulos said he was not happy with the proposed operation of the council, adding that his party would inform the people when it saw fit “and the president has the right to make his own decisions.”
“The proposal for upgrading the National Council to a body that can adopt a national policy is effectively rejected,” Sizopoulos said.