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Our View: Huge gulf between actions and words over the talks

File photo: President Anastasiades and Antonio Guterres in New York

A GULF between words and actions has marked the Anastasiades government’s handling of the Cyprus problem in the last year. While constantly repeating his commitment to the peace process and underlining his desire to find a settlement in his public speeches, President Anastasiades’ actions did not support his words.

There are many examples illustrating the point such as the deliberate delay in revoking the school enosis bill, which Mustafa Akinci demanded for the resumption of the talks. Once the UN secretary-general announced the conference in Switzerland, he set conditions for attending, demanding the withdrawal of the UN special envoy’s document on the agenda and insisting he dictated the order in which chapters should be discussed.

These were the actions not of someone keen on securing a settlement but of someone that wanted to avoid engaging in what was expected to be the final phase of the negotiating process. This attitude was also evident in Crans-Montana, even though he returned blaming the collapse 100 per cent on Turkey’s intransigence. Last week, Greece’s foreign minister Nikos Kotzias spoke about a non-paper submitted by UNSG, Antonio Guterres, which he described as a conquest for the Greek Cypriot side, as it referred to the scrapping of guarantees and the unilateral right of intervention.

Anastasiades admitted to not giving much attention to the document, because there was tension at the final dinner at which it was submitted. He was too busy demanding Turkey submitted all the concessions in writing it told Guterres it was willing to make, something that he knew could not be done while negotiations were in progress. He cited this as proof of Turkey’s intransigence that led to the collapse of the talks, for which he was blameless.

Like all his predecessors, Anastasiades took the easy way out by blaming his fear of reaching a deal on Turkish intransigence. It is an excuse that needs no hard sell to the Greek Cypriots. This lack of honesty regarding his objectives continues to this day. While he assures us of his commitment to resuming negotiations, he knows his conditions would never be accepted by the Turkish side.

Yesterday, his government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides came up with another popular excuse used by the government – Turkey had other priorities and was not interested in returning to the talks. The same excuse was used back in April when the talks were interrupted over the enosis bill and Anastasiades was not keen on a resumption. Again, Turkey was to blame.

Is Anastasiades interested in returning to the talks? All his actions indicate that he is not, as his priority is his re-election, but we are supposed to believe the rhetoric. This is what suit his election campaign which does not want to alienate pro-settlement voters.

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