A dinner could be on the cards next week between the leaders of the island’s divided communities, their first meeting since talks stalled in February over a controversial parliamentary decision to commemorate the 1950 Enosis referendum (union with Greece) in public schools, the Cyprus Mail has learned.
President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci could meet on March 29 or 30, provided that Anastasiades does not travel to Malta.
If it goes ahead, the dinner will take place before a vote in parliament, scheduled for Friday week, essentially to neutralise the decision that became the reason for the reunification talks to stall.
Ruling Disy’s proposal to shift decision-making power on school celebrations from parliament to the education ministry was approved by the House education committee on Wednesday with the help of Akel.
The bill is an indirect way for the government to revoke parliament’s decision for a brief commemoration in public schools of the 1950 Enosis referendum, thereby easing tension between the two sides.
Anastasiades had admitted that the move was wrong, but had said that he could not take any actions to have the vote rescinded.
He also accused the Turkish Cypriot side of overreacting and using the matter as an excuse to stall the talks.
Akinci withdrew from the talks, saying he would not return to the negotiations unless the decision was corrected.
Turkish Cypriot spokesman Baris Burcu welcomed the education committee’s decision.
“We would like to indicate that the necessary steps to be taken shortly in the plenum, and the elimination of the celebration of Enosis plebiscite in schools, will pave way to the resumption of the talks,” he said.
According to Burcu, Akıncı has informed the UN Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide that he will be ready to meet Anastasiades in a social setting at the end of March after the decision of the committee.
Deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said Akinci’s decision to participate in a meeting in a social setting was a positive development.
He expressed hope the two sides would now concentrate on a substantive dialogue, away from the claims of third parties that did not serve the interests of the two communities.
“Our will was, and still is, to find a lasting, functional, and viable solution that will meet the reasonable concerns of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, and won’t deviate from the basic principles and values of the EU and the European acquis.”
Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos was not so pleased however.
He accused Disy and Akel of doing Turkey’s bidding, humiliating the parliament and Greek Cypriot people.
“It is crystal clear that the leaderships of Disy and Akel succumbed to Turkish blackmail and demands, and proceeded to change the parliamentary decision,” he told state radio.
Papadopoulos said Greek Cypriots understood what happened: “Ankara gave the order and the leaderships of Disy and Akel obeyed.”
“These actions humiliated the institution of parliament, but above all, they humiliated our people’s dignity,” he said.
The controversial proposal to introduce an annual commemoration in public schools of the Enosis referendum, in which 96 per cent of Greek Cypriots voted their preference for the island to be annexed to Greece, was voted by parliament early in February.
Just 19 votes from the smaller parties – excluding ruling Disy, which abstained, and main opposition Akel, which opposed – were enough for the proposal, tabled by far right Elam MP Linos Papayiannis, to be approved.
The proposal made it to the plenum through the education committee, with three votes from Disy and one each from Diko, the Citizens’ Alliance, and Solidarity.
The desire for ‘enosis’, or union with Greece, is considered one of the main reasons for the breakdown of the Republic of Cyprus, established in 1960.
Akel parliamentary representative Giorgos Loukaides accused Diko of siding with the “Nazis of Elam.”
“The people are not dumb,” he said. “They understand that it wasn’t normal, amid critical negotiations, the only procedure that could lead to a solution … to decide to honour the policy of Enosis on the initiative of the Elam Nazis, and those who yearn for Enosis, Grivas, and Eoka B.”