Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

How Anastasiades’ tactical manoeuvres went wrong

By Loucas Charalambous

FROM WHAT has become known so far regarding events in Mont Pelerin, it emerges that in the first phase of the talks which ended on November 11 two things had been agreed: first, the three criteria for territory, and second, that the territory under the control of the Turkish Cypriot constituent state would be between 28.2 and 29.2 per cent. Nothing else.

According to President Anastasiades, the number of refugees that would be able to return based on these percentages were “calculations of the United Nations”. The Turkish side had not spoken about numbers until then. Therefore, the only things that remained to be agreed at that moment in time was the exact percentage of territory of the Turkish Cypriot constituent state and the areas marked for return that would have been put on a map. Once these had been agreed, a date would have been set for a multi-party conference that would deal with security and guarantees. This was the procedure that had been agreed.

At this point Anastasiades asked for the interruption of the talks with the excuse that he wanted to return to Cyprus to brief the political leadership and the Greek government. He returned home with his entourage, none of them hiding their enthusiasm over the expected outcome. They told us that almost everything had been agreed. He went to Athens, where supposedly he briefed Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, he then briefed the party leaders and on Saturday evening returned to Switzerland.

In the meantime, Greece’s foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias, had distributed his silly ‘non-paper’ in which he threatened that the Greek government would not attend a multi-party conference if there were no agreement between Greece and Turkey beforehand on security and guarantees. He also made comments saying that Greece would attend only if the purpose was the abolition of the guarantees.

These schizophrenic actions constituted a blatant reneging on the agreement that had been repeated exhaustively in the past that if the criteria on territory had been agreed and transferred to a map in Switzerland the date would be set for the conference.

On his return to Switzerland last Saturday, Anastasiades encountered a different Akinci, furious over Kotzias’ actions which had clearly given the Turkish side a pretext to harden its stance on territory with the aim, according to Anastasiades, of now linking it with the guarantees issue and referring it for discussion at the international conference. There is no doubt that Anastasiades with the idiotic tactical manoeuvre of interrupting the procedure at a critical point – as he said, the two sides were very close to a good deal – and Kotzias with his paranoid ‘patriotic’ initiatives made a complete mess of everything.

In the president’s televised news conference on Wednesday evening, unfortunately, none of our smart news bosses asked the only question he had to answer – why had he quit before the first talks had been concluded and not stay to complete them, given, as he said, that they were going so well? He had said in his introduction that he had to see Tsipras to receive Greece’s approval to participate in the conference, because supposedly he could not make that decision for him.

Anastasiades thinks we are all fools. Why did he need Tsipras’ approval? Before they had left for Switzerland Anastasiades and his spokesman had made countless statements that this procedure had already been agreed. Is he now telling us that he had agreed to this procedure without informing Tsipras? And what type of briefing did he have to give Tsipras and the party leaders in Cyprus at that stage? That they had agreed the three criteria and the 28.2 to 29.2 per cent? Even if this were necessary, could he not just have called them on the phone?

Those who know our president understand his behaviour well. As I have written in the past he is a clumsy tactician. At the same time, he is a risk-averse – I do not want to say cowardly – politician. He plays the tough guy, but when he has to take difficult decisions he chickens out. His thinking is overcome by fears of what Papadopoulos, Sizopoulos, Perdikis, Lillikas and the other demagogues would say about his actions.

His fleeing from Mont Pelerin at the most critical stage of the talks, was just another tactical manoeuvre. Afraid to take any decision, he thought of leaving and going first to Athens and meeting Tsipras so he could tell the party leaders in Cyprus that he had the Greek PM’s full backing. But his tactical manoeuvre backfired because of Kotzias’ intervention that turned everything upside down.

In fact Anastasiades took the responsibility for Kotzias’ appalling behaviour, telling us that everything the Greek government had done was with his full co-operation. Once again, our ineptitude and stupidity worked their miracle, working for Turkey. Erdogan must be having a laugh.

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