The leaders of two opposition parties, Edek’s Marinos Sizopoulos and Diko’s Nicolas Papadopoulos on Tuesday walked out of a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades, on the eve of a crucial leaders’ meeting on the Cyprus negotiations, saying they were tired of being kept in the dark.
The government spokesman hit back saying the president could not have given them a complete picture prior to the critical meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, which is expected to determine where the talks go from here. Anastasiades had already said he would brief the party leaders following the meeting and a National Council meeting has been fixed for Wednesday evening.
Papadopoulos was the first to leave the presidential palace meeting, which had been called to discuss a range of domestic issues such as the NHS, corruption, and the public service. The walkout also throws into doubt Diko’s future support in parliament for these reforms.
The Diko leader said on his way out of the meeting, which began at around 8.30am, that he decided to leave after Anastasiades refused to brief the party leaders regarding the settlement negotiations following a request by his party and the Greens.
“If the president is asking for national consultation on important domestic issues, then there should be national consultation on the Cyprus problem,” Papadopoulos told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA).
“We do not demand the president do what we tell him. We demand that he tells us what he does,” Papadopoulos tweeted shortly after his departure.
Sizopoulos followed suit. He reportedly had a brief chat with Papadopoulos outside the palace and then went back inside to collect his personal items before departing.
He said that since Anastasiades rejected Edek’s proposal to upgrade the National Council and insists on the institution remaining as an advisory body to the president, “we asked exactly within this context, especially today that there is a critical development as regards the Cyprus problem which is at a very serious stage, before our side submits or accepts proposals on the basic and essential issues that concern the negotiations, for a briefing of political leaders to take place, exchange views, submit positions, proposals and concerns…”
This would enhance the president’s negotiating capacity, Sizopoulos told the CNA. Last year, EDEK decided to withdraw its support from reunification based on a bi-zonal, bi-comunal federation which has served as a basis for talks for the past 39 years.
He added that an issue had arisen due to the president’s stance, “which we find it to be pejorative to some parties, mainly because our views are contrary to the bi-zonal bi-communal federation and therefore ‘why should we be heard’,” Sizopoulos said.
The role of the National Council, he said, should not be so marginal and neither should it be reduced to a level where party leaders are informed on the settlement negotiations in retrospect.
Sizopoulos was referring to the president’s final meeting today, the last of eight in a round of intensified talks under the auspices of the UN, with Akinci. The two leaders had agreed that there would be no statements until the final meeting on September 14, whereby they will make a joint announcement.
Responding to the walkout, Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides defended the president’s position.
“It would be an incomplete briefing,” he said in reference to the demand of the two party leaders. “Tomorrow there will be a more complete picture,” he added.
The spokesman also responded to Diko’s claims that a party representative was on Monday denied access to documents concerning the Cyprus problem that the parties are allowed to access at the palace under certain conditions.
“Diko’s representative arrived at 3pm without having first arranged an appointment. At that moment the cabinet’s secretary was not there and he was told that he needed to make arrangements beforehand,” Christodoulides said. He added that the representative left the presidential palace showing understanding, but later the party issued an announcement saying that he was denied access to the documents.
“There was no obstruction,” Christodoulides said. He added that there was no ‘blackout’ as regards the settlement negotiations and that parties had been given access to relevant documents. On Monday, he said, representatives of the Solidarity Movement were at the presidential palace studying the same documents.
Christodoulides also said that five Diko reps saw the documents on August 7, and on September 9 and 10.
In addition, at the end of August Diko’s deputy head was at the palace himself enquiring about a number of issues that had been discussed in the negotiations, he said.
What the other party leaders said
Akel leader Andros Kyprianou
“Akel considers that the ideal scenario would be given the documents to the political parties and that the substantive issues be discussed with the president so the National Council can contribute its views to at the negotiating table. Obviously the President does not trust… he believes if documents are given out things will be leaked to the media, weakening the effort of the negotiations. Akel is not giving a blank cheque to the president. I think it is very wrong that some political parties are trying to divide the people, cultivating fear. We are at a critical and decisive phase. The first to rise to the occasion must be the political parties themselves to show that we really have the necessary composure and the ability to manage difficult and critical situations, and to judge the final result.
Greens leader Giorgos Perdikis
“The position of the president on informing the parties is very negative. Apart from Disy we asked all parties to make the [National Council] meeting scheduled for tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday), today (Tuesday). Denied. For the documents requested, he refused. He who walks in the dark will surely fall into the ditch. Despite the justified anger and frustration of both parties [Edek and Diko] our view is they should have remained in the meeting to express their opposition. Both parties have a lot to offer.”
Solidarity Movement’s Eleni Theocharous
“We disagree with the process, the approach… we cannot submit written proposals and suggestions for the improvement of the overall situation. Certainly we should have at our disposal documents relating to the conversations, as well as the notes taken at the recent intensive talks so that we can formulate a more accurate assessment of what is happening and what direction the whole process is moving. It is a consistent position we all have that we should have a meeting in advance, but the agenda of today’s meeting, which has been known for some time, did not include Cyprus. Possibly, but it’s not my job to judge or criticise, they [Edek and Diko] should have let it be known much earlier about whether we should change the agenda today and not bring it up at the last minute.”
Citizens Alliance Giorgos Lillikas
“We express our repeated disagreement with how Mr Anastasiades handles the Cyprus problem. There is no genuine collective deliberation. President Anastasiades always informs the national council of faits accomplis and decisions taken, and doesn’t give us the opportunity to submit our concerns or our counter proposals, always recognising of course the right of an elected president to have the final say. The denial of our president to give us the document raises many questions.”
Disy leader Averof Neophytou
“He who will judge the outcome, if we have an agreed solution, is neither the president nor the political leaders, but the sovereign people. If successful, and we achieve a proper solution to the Cyprus problem within the parameters that we have set, respecting international law and European principles, we are ready to support this national effort.”