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Opinion Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Cyprob salesman in the US sees hope in Trump win  

Pseka's Philip Christopher

IT DID not take very long for one of our long-serving, US-based Cyprob salesmen, Philip Christopher, to authoritatively declare, that Donald Trump’s election “signifies hope that, at last, there could be a change in US foreign policy, favourably affecting our affairs.”

Within a few hours of Trump’s victory, the self-important president of the International Co-ordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (Pseka) was giving his barber-shop-grade opinion (lower than Coffeeshop-grade) about its implications for Kyproulla to Phil’s correspondent in New York.

“If the new president goes ahead with a co-operation with Putin and US-Russia relations improve, then Turkey would not be able to play games between Washington and Moscow in order to reap benefits,” Christopher said.

His authoritative guess-work concluded with a subtle plea to Prez Nik to avoid agreeing a settlement. “It is preferable that there were no hurried decisions in the Cyprus problem,” because based on what “Trump said in his campaign, he could bring about a radical change in the country’s foreign policy.”

If Kyproulla avoided committing to the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, “it would not be impossible that we would find understanding from the new government,” Christopher concluded. Trump would only have to look at Kyproulla’s sexy backside and shapely boobs and a just solution of the Cyprob would be guaranteed.

CHRISTOPHER has been served very well personally by the Cyprob and would be nothing without it. Every summer he comes to Cyprus for the annual jamboree of expat Cypriots and is treated like royalty by our government and the media. He has meetings with the president, appears on TV, holds news conferences and his simplistic views about US policy are given prominent coverage by the media.

Pseka is funded by the Cypriot taxpayer so it can enlighten US decision-makers about the justness of our cause, a mission in which it has spectacularly failed if the results are anything to go by.

But it is not just the lobbying and the influence that has been exaggerated it is also the man’s claims to be some expert on US foreign policy, which naïve Cypriots buy wholesale. He is as much an expert as anyone who lives in the States and follows the news. Christopher is not a political scientist, he is no expert on international relations and he is no analyst on foreign affairs, so why are his views about US foreign policy taken seriously?

Christopher is in fact a president and CEO of a US company that deals with telecommunications, so he is more qualified to advise us about Cyta, when he opens his big mouth than he is on Trump’s foreign policy.

ONE THING the Pseka chief and his fellow campaigners in the US like to boast about is their ties with the movers and shakers in Washington.

In Phil’s above-mentioned report he claimed the Greek community had “developed channels of communication with Trump’s staff”. I can only guess that the receptionist at Trump HQ eats at a Greek restaurant in Astoria or one of the president-elect’s drivers uses a Greek barber in Queen’s.

Trump-Cyprob silliness also manifested itself in Kyproulla. The most astute comment was by lawyer Simos Angelides, a member of the Alliance of Lillikas, who appears to have inherited the intelligence of his super-patriotic lawyer father Andreas.

He said: “We hope that the US as a permanent member of the Security Council, with a new, more contemporary foreign policy which will be based on international justice and not on interests, will exercise their influence to apply pressure on Turkey for the termination of the continuing occupation and colonisation of the Cyprus Republic.”

I just hope Prez Nik does not do anything rash like agreeing a deal with the Turks now that the Trump will follow Putin’s example and base his foreign policy on international justice rather than interests.

A VERY good reason for a settlement ASAP emerged this week. It would lead to Dr Eleni Theocharous’ withdrawal from politics (presumably she would live off her three state pensions) according to a post on her Facebook page. She revealed this in a conversation with two “Turkish Cypriot deputies” in Brussels.

“After the exchange of greetings, I asked one of the two ‘deputies’ if he was training to become an MEP. He replied: ‘Certainly not, I want to go to the Senate, because the situation here is very boring.’ He then asked me if I would seek a seat in the Senate and I categorically replied NO, explaining that after a settlement of the Cyprus problem I would withdraw from politics and live in my father’s village, Orka. He asked what the Turkish name of Orka was. I replied that Orka does not have a Turkish name and we would never allow it to have one, whatever happens.”

How a pure Hellene like her could live in a village in the Turkish Cypriot constituent state, ruled by the horrid Turks, is a mystery. But the revelation she comes from a village named after the killer whale explains a lot.

STAYING on social media, warmonger-accountant and former Disy deputy Christos Rotsas, who back in July lamented our failure to take advantage of the coup in Turkey to recapture the occupied areas, was this week crying about our failure to defend our EEZ against incursions by Turkey’s seismic research vessel Barbaros.

“If we arranged to buy, as we should have done, some extra Exocet missiles, on the grounds of its (Barbaros) previous tour, they (Turks) would not be able to mock and blackmail us now unconcerned,” he tweeted. We have a telecom solutions salesman as our advisor on US foreign policy, so it makes perfect sense to listen to the defence strategy expertise of an accountant.

How lucky we are to have these guys advising our state as we do not have to rely on ignorant barbers and taxi-drivers.

AKEL felt obliged to issue an announcement clarifying things after last weekend’s press reports claiming that former deputy and member of its hierarchy, Nicos Katsourides, was set to return to the warm embrace of the party from the cold, political Siberia he was banished to for unspecified disciplinary offences.

There was no truth to the reports and no decision had been taken on the matter, the party said. It explained that according to the rules of the party, “a member of Akel under disciplinary punishment retains his obligations emanating from his identity as a member and is obliged to comply with the decisions of the party.”

Akelites still follow Stalinist practices, but with a Christian touch. Kats is in purgatory, but once his comrades are convinced that his sinful communist soul has been purified they will welcome him back to the fold. Akelites are prisoners of the party for life, reminding me of the Hotel California lyric, “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

ALL THIS nonsense is not unrelated to talk about Kats being a possible presidential candidate for Diko. Worried by this possibility, comrade leader Andros had a meeting with Kats a few weeks ago to tell him that he expected him to behave like a party member.

Knowing that the devious Kats could not be trusted, the comrades decided to take further action, arranging meetings with the principled opportunist that dreams of being prez – Yiorkos Lillikas. Press rumours that the meetings discussed the presidential elections, were not denied as the exercise was intended to frighten Junior into abandoning his plans to back Kats.

The plan may have worked but it could still backfire if the snake-oil salesman from Paphos eventually persuades the dumb comrades to back him for the presidency.

PUBLICITY-MAD Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides continued to build his profile as the God-like force of good by taking on Finance Minister Harris Georgiades over the Co-op Central Bank (CCB). Harris is the third member of the government the mighty moral crusader Odysseas has decided to put in his place, by insisting on carrying out an audit of the CCB.

As it was state-owned, Odysseas argued, he had the right to carry out an audit. He was prevented from doing so last month, but sent his minions to the CCB again this week. They were not allowed into the bank. Was it necessary to do this, knowing that a couple of days later (last Friday) the legislature would approve a bill preventing the auditor-general from carrying out any audits of the CCB?

Maybe it was part of his ongoing, self-aggrandisement drive. It all ended in a farce at the legislature on Friday, when Diko and Akel deputies, who had amended the government’s bill so it would allow Odysseas to carry out an administrative audit, voted in favour of a second bill, by mistake, which stipulated that CCB would not submit any financial statements to the auditor-general. Five minutes after the vote they realised their gaffe – approval of the second bill meant Odysseas could not carry out any audit of the CCB – but their demands for a second vote were rejected by the speaker.

ODYSSEAS’ persistence on the audit may have been related to a desire to embarrass Harris who is a rival in the ‘clean-cut official’ stakes and was behind a glaring case of rusfeti at the CCB.

When the state took ownership of the CCB, by injecting €1.7 billion into it, Harris made Nicholas Hadjiyiannis, who had very limited experience of banking, chairman. Hadjiyiannis had an undistinguished career in Laiki’s private banking department but was made chairman because he was a close friend of Harris.

When the experienced CEO of the bank Marios Clerides, fed up of government interference and nepotistic appointments, stepped down, a rather suspect procedure was followed for replacing him. The vacancy was advertised only on the bank’s website for just a week, Hadjiyiannis applied and the board of which he was chairman appointed him CEO, even though he did not have the banking knowledge and experience required for the post.

He is paid an annual salary of 200 grand per year, but a second person, on 100 grand per year, to provide the banking knowledge Harris’ friend did not have, was hired to help him out. Odysseas had mentioned the absurdity of the decision in the past, but would have gone to town on the dodgy recruitment procedure followed for the smooth-talking, apprentice banker that was a friend of the minister, had he had carried out a proper audit.

THE FUNNY thing is that Disy chief Averof, who drafted the bill that would bar the auditor-general’s access to the CCB, argued that this was necessary for the bank to be able to compete. It would not be able to compete if it followed slow bureaucratic procedures that apply to public sector in order to pass Odysseas’ audits, he claimed. But how able would it be to compete in the cut-throat banking sector when it has a CEO with a limited knowledge of banking? As for Harris, entrusting a bank that owes the taxpayer €1.7 billion to someone with limited banking experience because he is his friend constitutes rusfeti of Diko proportions.

THE CYPROB circus returned safely to Kyproulla yesterday, but will be heading back to Switzerland – Geneva this time – next Sunday to complete its unfinished business. We were very naïve to think that it was remotely possible for the territorial issue to be agreed and a date for a multi-party meeting set, in the space of five days, which in Cyprob time is just about adequate for the two sides to air their disagreement over the procedure to be followed.

Espen Barth Eide’s team should have known that bickering over the procedure is the foreplay both leaders need in order to be able to perform – neither is young man – and should have factored it into the schedule. Instead, the first day was wasted on everyone schmoozing with the UN secretary-general and the second going over the four chapters already discussed.

The next two days were devoted to the foreplay, Prez Nik insisting he wanted a map from Mustafa before a date for a multi-party meeting was agreed and Mustafa insisting he wanted a date before the a map was submitted. The original plan was to set a date once the criteria for the territorial re-adjustments were completed, but Nik refused to play along preferring to stick to the foreplay, which is so loved by Greek Cypriot, male lawyers and what makes them such sought-after lovers.

Only on Thursday night did the UN come up with a formula to end the foreplay and move on to the actual negotiations, but only one day was left. So Nik and Mustafa ended up negotiating until midnight on Friday without reaching agreement on the criteria.

They will be in Geneva on Sunday for only three days. The UN guys are making a big mistake again if they think Nik will go there and start negotiating criteria for territory, without any need for foreplay. He might heed Philip Christopher’s advice and wait for the changes in US foreign policy that would favour Kyproulla, in which case he might stick to the foreplay.

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