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Party leaders warn of risks in next round of talks

IN what can only be described as a paradoxical exercise, parties used up all of Friday’s plenary session in parliament to discuss the latest developments in the Cyprus problem, even as they were scheduled to be briefed by President Nicos Anastasiades on Saturday.

As expected, each party leader used his allotted time in the marathon session – the body sat from 9am to 8:30pm, with a 1.5-hour lunch-break at 1pm – to repeat previously made arguments in favour or against the solution being negotiated by Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.

With the exception of socialists Edek and Solidarity, which were invited by Anastasiades to the palace for a briefing later on Friday, due to previous engagements on Saturday, all party leaders will line up to be briefed on Saturday, prior to the president’s departure for a second, possibly final, round of negotiations in Switzerland over post-solution territorial adjustments.

Addressing the legislature, Disy leader Averof Neophytou said that while other parties view the future with caution and scepticism, “we choose to view it with optimism and hope”.

“The strategic national goal of Cyprus’ Hellenism is to safeguard human rights, fundamental freedoms, and European principles, through a solution to the Cyprus problem,” he said.

Akel leader Andros Kyprianou said the reason such progress has been achieved thus far in the peace talks is because the convergences reached by former President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat offered the basis on which the leaders built further convergences.

“For us there is still a long way to go before reaching the desired solution to the Cyprus problem,” he said.

“Things are not easy – they are extremely difficult.”

Kyprianou referred to one of the Christofias-Talat convergences, according to which each of the two communities in Cyprus will be responsible for its own debts since 1963.

Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos said that the first article in the new constitution of a federal Cyprus must explicitly state that the new state is a continuation of the Republic of Cyprus, and warned that the decision-making mechanisms agreed will cause the new state of affairs to collapse within months.

He argued that rejecting the rotating presidency – a demand of the Turkish Cypriot side – is a “red line”.

“And the reason has nothing to do with racism, it is about the security of our peoples,” he said.

In turn, he added, this will cause tension, an increasing sense of injustice to Greek Cypriots, maybe even inter-communal strife, and “the state will not break down in a few years, as it did in 1960, but in a few months”.

The kind of bizonal, bicommunal federation being discussed is the worst kind of legitimising partition, Edek leader Marinos Sizopoulos said, adding that what is being discussed is a two-state solution in the guise of a federation.

“In a democratic solution, what would be established as an unnegotiable prerequisite is the political equality of citizens, not that of constituent states, which is a divisive and confederational element,” he said.

“A solution like the one under discussion poses risks for the disbanding of the Republic of Cyprus and the virgin birth of a new state.”

The issue of the continuation of the Republic of Cyprus cannot be resolved with vague phrases, but must be clearly and explicitly stated in any agreement, Yiorgos Lillikas of the Citizens’ Alliance said.

“The talks are being conducted under the ‘solution by the end of 2016 or annexation of the occupied areas by Turkey’s blackmail, and this blackmail comprises an asphyxiating timeframe,” he said.

“We are not going to allow Mr Anastasiades to turn this risk, which he failed to avert, to a gun pointed at the Cypriot peoples’ head.”

With so many crucial issues still pending, Anastasiades should not consent to a “Burgenstock-type” conference, Solidarity’s Michalis Yiorgallas said.

“Upon his return to Cyprus from Switzerland he should convene the National Council, in order to achieve the required unity,” he said.

The Greens’ leader Yiorgos Perdikis said that the “decision of the Cypriot people should not be taken for granted”.

“No peoples can be taken for granted, particularly when they feel neglected, ostracised, and oppressed,” Perdikis said.

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