President Nicos Anastasiades is ready to attend the scheduled leaders meeting on Thursday, the government spokesman said on Monday and expressed the hope that Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci would also take part.
But it was clear from statements coming out of the north that Akinci was not ready to commit and likely not until he has met Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu who was due to arrive on Monday night.
Last Thursday’s leaders’ meeting left the talks up in the air after a vote the previous week by parliament that would see the anniversary of the 1950 Enosis – union with Greece – referendum commemorated in schools, brought an abrupt end to the proceedings.
Akinci wanted Anastasiades to publicly disavow the vote, tabled by far-right Elam, and have it annulled. The president conceded on Saturday he believed it was a wrong move but said he could not compel an independent legislature to reverse it. He also reiterated that the Turkish Cypriot side was overreacting.
Ruling Disy – which had abstained from the vote thus allowing it to go through – is tabling a new proposal that gives right to decide on school commemorations to the education ministry, which may or may not satisfy the Turkish side. Akinci said on Sunday the president’s mind was divided between the talks and next year’s presidential elections.
In the meantime, the way forward was discussed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide at a meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Sunday. Eide also discussed the situation with high-level EU officials.
The UN said there was strong interest and support for the process but tellingly as regards Thursday’s scheduled leaders’ meeting, Eide’s return to the island has not yet been decided, according to CNA, citing the UN. Negotiators meetings and working groups have also stopped at the behest of the Turkish side.
Speaking on CyBC’s morning show on Monday, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said Anastasiades was ready to get back to work and the two sides now needed to “concentrate on the essential issues and disagreements before us and see the prospects for further progress”.
He said the continuous public statements and the constant personal references to the president’s positions were not accurate. “Everything will be judged in the discussions at the negotiating table and no one can challenge the president’s readiness to solve the Cyprus problem,” said Christodoulides.
Asked if he thought the Turkish side had been convinced by the president’s stance that the Enosis vote had been wrong, Christodoulides said the president does not make statements on the basis of what the Turkish side wants to hear from him, but rather expresses his own views.
He had clearly stated his disagreement with the substance of the vote and cited the reasons why he disagreed. Christodoulides referred to the National Council declaration that the Turkish side had overreacted, saying the president had been the one to raise the vote issue at the meeting.
“Since then, ten days have passed during which the Turkish Cypriot side has cancelled the meetings of the negotiators and working groups and Mr Akinci created a problem with his departure from the last leaders’ meeting,” he said
Referring to Cavusoglu’s visit to the north, Christodoulides said it remained to be seen what the outcome would be as far as the talks were concerned.
Akinci said on Sunday that Anastasiades currently has his mind pulled in two directions, one focused on a solution and the other the presidential elections next year.
In an interview with Kathimerini, Akinci said that there were dark clouds forming and it was up to Anastasiades to dissolve them.
“The mind of Mr Anastasiades has been divided into two parts, one thinks of the solution and the other elections,” Akinci was quoted as saying and he wondered how under the current circumstances steps could be taken towards a solution.
Monday’s Turkish press reports from the north had Akinci repeating his two demands even though Anastasiades has conceded the Enosis vote was wrong but to try and have it annulled would pit him against parliament, and party leaders make up the bulk of the National Council.
“If this step is taken, we will re-evaluate the situation,” said Akinci.
He added that Enosis has been “the source of all the problems we have experienced”, referring to past history that ultimately led to the island’s division.
The Turkish Cypriot leader questioned what would stop the same political parties from coming together post-solution and asking for an amendment to the constitution, just like President Makarios had done in 1963.
“This event has shown us that even a small party with two seats could drag the majority with it,” said Akinci. “It has shown us how necessary security and the deterrence of Turkey’s effective guarantees are and how right the Turkish Cypriots are when they ask for these guarantees.”
And now, he said, Anastasiades was calling on him to return to the negotiating table.
“They [Greek Cypriots] still find it difficult to accept the political equality of the Turkish Cypriots. If they continue… no result will come out from the negotiations anyway. Correcting this is in their hands.”
Disy leader Averof Neophytou on Sunday conceded that the Enosis vote in the House over a week ago, from which his party abstained rather than oppose, might have been untimely given the status of the Cyprus negotiations but said the over reaction by the Turkish Cypriot side could give the impression that others were trying to get out of the talks.
“I want to be very clear that using a mere informative reference to an historical fact as an excuse… even though we recognise that it was untimely… or to create an impasse in the negotiations, either to be used as an excuse to justify the outdated system of 1960 guarantees is not just an overreaction, but gives the impression that others are trying to find a way to get out of the negotiations,” he said.
This, he added, was regardless of whether “we believe that it is not for the parliament to determine what historical references should apply to schools.”
“Our job is to keep alive our history…and already our party has filed a law proposal to transfer this responsibility to the ministry of education,” he added.
Neophytou said historical memory should not be a barrier to the Cyprus problem. A viable solution could only be based on mutual respect and not brinkmanship, he said.