A majority of the House plenum on Friday rejected a proposal by Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos to discuss the issue of settlers – mainland Turks – in the Turkish-occupied areas, following public outcry earlier this week over President Nicos Anastasiades’ remarks that agreement for 90,000 to remain post-solution to the Cyprus problem, a figure he revised the next day to 40,000, attributing the mistake to physical exhaustion.
Prior to Friday’s plenary session, Papadopoulos had tabled a proposal for parliamentary discussion on “illegal settling, the demographic issue following a solution to the Cyprus problem, and Turkey’s efforts for ethnic cleansing in Cyprus”, which was scheduled for November 11.
On Thursday, however, it emerged that Cyprus problem negotiations between Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci will move into the next crucial phase of territory at a yet-to-be agreed overseas location from November 7 to 11.
Anastasiades pledged to ask party leaders to join him in the talks.
As a result, Papadopoulos argued, in light of the scheduled negotiations on territory, discussion of the issue of settlers by parliament should be brought forward.
His proposal was defeated by the votes of ruling Disy and main opposition Akel.
House Speaker Demetris Syllouris said he would contact party leaders to seek consensus for discussion to be held either on October 24 or 31, though Syllouris himself will be abroad on an official visit on the latter date.
Papadopoulos said that the issue of settlers is a serious aspect of the Cyprus problem and parliamentary discussion could be useful to Anastasiades at the negotiating table.
“It is obvious that some want to mislead the public on the issue of settlers, and there is no trust toward the figures supplied by Anastasiades, backed by his reluctance to brief the Cypriot people [on the state of the negotiations],” Papadopoulos said.
The president has pledged to brief the public on the latest developments at the negotiating table on November 4.
Papadopoulos added that, had Diko known about the planned talks on territory, it would not have accepted November 11 as the date to discuss the Cyprus problem.
He attacked Disy, scornfully submitting that “they are the only wise ones, and the rest of us are fools, and we have no right to demand discussion on an issue the public needs to be informed about”.
He said Diko is prepared to accept a suggestion by Disy MP Nicos Tornaritis for open-ended discussion to be scheduled for Saturday morning.
Responding, Tornaritis said there is no doubt that settling is a crime of war, but argued that Papadopoulos’ intention is not to be briefed, noting that those who truly wish to learn have every opportunity to do so.
“Parliamentary party leaders have been invited by the President to be briefed on October 30,” Tornaritis said.
Asked by Syllouris whether his proposal for discussion on Saturday should be put to a vote, Tornaritis replied he was merely being rhetorical.
In a statement after the plenary session, Diko said the issue came up when Anastasiades “publicly admitted that it has been agreed that all settlers will remain in Cyprus, including those with the Turkish Cypriot ‘nationality’ and those here on ‘work permits’”.
“The Democratic Party will insist on educating the public, and on public dialogue, so that the public can be aware of the views each of us holds,” the party said.