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Cyprus Talks

‘Election focus should not trump Cyprus talks’

Disy leader Averof Neophytou

Prominent senior officials of ruling Disy, including leader Averof Neophytou, have criticised President Nicos Anastasiades’ apparent cooling off with regard to pushing forward with the Cyprus problem talks, especially following his decision to refer a law designed to address concerns raised by the Turkish Cypriot community to the Supreme Court.

Speaking on state radio, Neophytou voiced carefully-worded disagreement with Anastasiades’ apparent shift of focus, which critics – most vocally, main opposition Akel and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci – claim was driven by his entering the race for re-election in February next year.

“In this latest ongoing effort to solve the Cyprus problem through negotiation, high expectations were cultivated among the people because the president managed to achieve substantial improvements, even on the 1960 constitution,” Neophytou said.

“But lately, through no fault of our side’s, we have seen an impasse and the public opinion – regrettably, on both sides – has been poisoned. The dialogue has restarted but we must all realise that talks are the only way to break the stalemate.”

Expressing alarm over the prospect of a permanent breakdown, Disy’s leader said “we must take advantage of every second of every minute of every day”.

He then went off into a tirade against focusing on next year’s presidential election while “ahead of us lies our number-one issue, the Cyprus problem”.

“I worry because with the Cyprus problem ahead of us, we have started the race on who sits in the chair in a divided country,” he said.

“If we feel that it is normal for us to focus on the presidential elections, how can we expect the Americans, the Japanese, the Germans, to care about the Cyprus problem?”

We have a responsibility to “keep trying” to solve the Cyprus problem, despite the difficulties, he added.

Still, Neophytou said, he did not feel abandoned by Anastasiades over his referral of a bill Disy tabled and supported.

“The president had a legal opinion by the attorney-general on his desk,” he said, referring to a clause in the bill the AG found to be in conflict with the constitution.

“He judged that he should refer to the Supreme Court – he was under no such obligation, but he said he wanted to heed the AG’s advice. He could have looked at it politically and avoided referral or vetoing.”

Meanwhile, other senior Disy officials also made their disagreement with Anastasiades’ manoeuvring public.

Deputy leader Giorgos Georgiou told a TV talk show that the president’s decision to refer the law had been a “political mistake”.

Τhis invited criticism from Disy MP Andreas Kyrpianou – one of the two MPs from the ruling party that opposed the bill at the plenum – who wrote on Facebook that criticism should be levelled against Akinci, not Anastasiades.

“Let us all focus on the behaviour of Mustafa Akinci, even after the legislative proposal was passed, which irreparably exposes those who tried to get the talks to start again, rather than politically shoot our own president!” he wrote.

In response to mounting criticism, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides, who is in India accompanying Anastasiades on a week-long official visit, addressed the issue.

“The President has no interest in entering a blame-game,” Christodoulides said.

“We are in a process which requires soberness, and we expect to see that soberness from everyone.”

The government’s goal is to end the Turkish occupation and solve the Cyprus problem as soon as possible, the spokesman added.

Asked whether the president had options other than referring the Disy law to the Supreme Court, Christodoulides said the AG’s opinion could “not be ignored”.

“The President had no other options. He is obliged to respect the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus.”

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