It would be cowardice not to make a final push to solve the Cyprus problem by resuming the talks, President Anastasiades said on Saturday as he faced an onslaught of criticism from opposition parties.
He said he was fully aware of people’s concerns, but he would go ahead until the end.
“No one wants to see the continuation of Turkish guarantees, nobody wants to see the continued presence of the occupying army, no one wants to see our country divided by dividing lines, which as time goes by, unfortunately become fixed,” he said.
“What I am doing, I will continue to do until the end,” he said, reiterating that it was not he who would decide on the solution but the people, “who will be given time to know what the elements of the solution are and to vote, which they will either approve or reject”.
In his televised address on Friday night Anastasiades explained the landmark decision he had reached with the Turkish Cypriot leader on Thursday to restart the talks which would lead to an international conference involving the guarantor powers scheduled for January 12.
His address included a plea for unity which specifically targeted the political opposition, saying that it was a vital requirement as negotiating in public would confuse crucial issues which voters had to understand.
His call for unity was taken up by House president Demetris Syllouris on Saturday who said the Cyprus problem was entering its most critical phase since at least 2004 and the process required mutual respect and understanding.
“I wish to believe that however many differences there may be with regard to the policy or the process, they will be able to be put aside for the next 40 days, so that we present if possible some minimal common position, even if very large differences exist,” he said.
But their appeals were ignored as Diko, Edek, the Greens and the Citizens’ Alliance launched a series of scathing attacks.
Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos was the first into the ring accusing Anastasiades of contradicting himself and saying he could not be trusted.
“Nicos Anastasiadis clashes with Nicos Anastasiades and we cannot trust him,” Papadopoulos said, adding that he had left unanswered questions especially in terms of explaining what had changed in the week since his previous announcement.
“Mr Anastasiades did not explained to us why he has set aside all the conditions he had set for himself a week ago, accepting a five-party conference,” he said. “How can he explain that within seven days, he has accepted all the Turkish conditions for restoring the negotiation process?”
He said that what would follow would be horse trading and that Turkish President Erdogan would blackmail the Greek Cypriots into accepting the occupation army remaining on the island.
Edek made similar accusations saying Anastasiades had said he would advocate the convening of a conference only if an agreement was made on the criteria and put on a map.
“Instead, he accepted the meeting without agreeing on criteria and without the agreed map.”
Edek said the president had supposedly rejected timelines but then accepted them first by accepting a meeting and then a conference, without knowing if there would be any form of conclusion on the territorial issue.
“He had assured that there would be no linking of the territorial and other issues but in essence he accepts the rotating presidency, with a numerically increased Turkish Cypriot participation in issues of governance, guarantees and security.”
Edek said that Anastasiades had repeatedly said that he would not accept a five-party conference but had essentially accepted one in which, at best, would include the participation of European Union.
“Worst of all is that according to (foreign minister) Yiannakis Kasoulides, the Republic of Cyprus will be represented in the conference by the foreign minister and the president will represent the Greek Cypriot side,” their statement said.
“This essentially means the absence of the Republic and degradation of the status of the president to that of a representative.”
The Green party and the Citizens’ Alliance said Anastasiades was continuing along the dangerous path that he himself had put the Cyprus talks on, saying he had decided without explaining the reasons, to draw the Greek Cypriots into a process with unpredictable consequences.
Pro-solution parties, ruling Disy and opposition Akel, both issued statements which strongly supported the resumption of the talks.
Disy described the continuation of the negotiations as a positive development saying the resumption of dialogue from where it left off in Mon Pelerin was the main condition set by the president.
“Dialogue is the only way to solve the Cyprus problem. The fact that it will continue, without having met the demand by the Turkish side of two parallel tables is the best development for overcoming the obstacle that arose,” said Disy MP Demitris Demitriou.
“For the first time, the Turkish side has committed to delivering a map on specific date.”
Akel said the agreed process opened perspectives for a solution and that regardless of the different views and disagreements, all political forces should lower the tone of their criticisms and support the efforts to achieve a solution.
According to the agreement reached on Thursday Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci will immediately resume intensified talks, leading to a crucial conference involving the guarantor powers scheduled for January 12, with meetings taking place on the 9, 10 and 11 in Geneva.
On January 11, the leaders will present maps on the territorial aspect of the solution, which will be followed by a conference with the guarantor powers and any other involved parties the next day.
Anastasiades said in his televised address that the decision to resume the talks was an important development because it overcame the problems created at Mont Pelerin.
He said the two sides were restarting from the point they had left off and reaffirmed his pledge that the conference would be preceded by intensive and substantive discussion of all outstanding matters, including territorial criteria, in an interdependent way.
“The Turkish side has accepted and pledged that submitting a map on territory at a specific date is a precondition of this procedure,” the president said during the televised address.
Achieving progress in the issues in question would allow the sides to come within reach of an agreement, creating the conditions and prospects for a successful conclusion during the conference.
He said any solution would be the result of his and Akinci’s free will and re-emphasised that no plan would be put to the vote if it didn’t satisfy Greek Cypriot expectations and address their reasonable concerns.
Monday will mark the beginning of the procedure, which will start with intensive talks between the two sides’ negotiators, with the leaders’ intervention where necessary, to fill in the blanks, to overcome difficulties in the four previous chapters, so that discussion on territory would be concluded in Geneva and followed by the multilateral conference.
The agreement between the two leaders is to discuss all six chapters by January 12.