Last week’s unannounced dinner with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci was not the only contact Disy leader Averof Neophytou has had, and he will continue his efforts to help revive the dialogue between the two communities, he said on Saturday.
Following a barrage of criticism from opposition parties and part of the press since Friday, when it was revealed that he had had dinner with Akinci in the north earlier this week, Neophytou defended his actions with the need to “talk with and listen to each other, rather than speak publicly about each other”.
“This was not the only contact or dinner I have had,” he said at a news conference on Saturday.
“I’ve had other important contacts, with Turkish Cypriot politicians, foreign diplomats, and Espen [Barth Eide] himself. Always in my effort to talk and understand each other.”
Neophytou’s dinner with Akinci, organised by the Greek and Turkish Cypriot chambers of commerce, was designed to help resume the intercommunal dialogue for a solution to the Cyprus problem, which was disrupted after the Turkish Cypriot leader withdrew from the talks in mid-February.
Among other things, Disy’s leader received flak for going rogue and talking to the Turkish Cypriot leader without informing President Nicos Anastasiades.
“Anyone following politics in this country knows my excellent relationship with the President,” Neophytou said.
“We have complete cooperation on all issues, and I couldn’t keep him in the dark on the most important of all.”
He said it was everyone’s “duty and obligation” to make every effort possible for the talks to restart.
“There is an ongoing effort to resume the dialogue,” Neophytou said.
“Do we want to send the message that we are comfortable with the impasse? Never. We have made, are making, and will continue to make, every effort at all levels to help resume the dialogue for a proper solution to the Cyprus problem.”
Earlier, the Citizens’ Alliance demanded that Neophytou make public what was discussed at the dinner, but Neophytou remained tight-lipped because “I am not authorised to disclose what [Akinci] said, I can only tell you what I said”.
In a statement, the Green party said Neophytou “crossed the line” by discussing a possible roadmap for the resumption of the talks.
“We call on President Anastasiades to rein Mr Neophytou in and denounce his meddling in the talks,” the party said.
Meanwhile, socialist Edek said it would oppose a legislative proposal tabled by Disy to bring decision-making privilege over school celebrations to the education ministry instead of parliament, a move aiming to address Akinci’s concern over a House decision to commemorate the 1950 Enosis (union with Greece) referendum in state schools.
“Edek will not back Disy’s proposal at the House Education committee,” the party said.
“Education matters were transferred to the House of Representatives in 1965 and could not possibly be transferred to the education minister just because the Turkish side is demanding it.”