Cyprus Mail
Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Saudi visit eclipsed by EEZ blunder

Nicos Christodoulides always tries to attach much greater importance to his contacts than they actually have

STUDENTS and ministers who had gathered for the presentation of Prez Nik’s masterplan for the next five years were getting rather twitchy on Tuesday waiting for him to arrive. He eventually showed up over an hour late, wobbling a bit and sporting the sort of grin that raised suspicions he may have had a little too much of his favourite tipple.

He slurred a little as he presented the “10 pylons” of his masterplan that will fight corruption, reduce NPLs, compensate haircut victims, introduce minimum wages and make Kyproulla the best run country in the world.

And it was after the presentation speaking to hacks outside the auditorium that he spoke about Turkey “choosing protecting the rights of the Turkish Cypriots in a separate independent entity”, and adding that “they should limit themselves to whatever they are entitled to in the EEZ of the illegal entity.”

It was a rather unfortunate theoretical point, but it was seized on by his rival candidates who claimed that he was ceding Cyprus’ EEZ to Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots and that he had written off half of Kyproulla.

Intoxicated by their self-righteous indignation, his opponents mercilessly laid into Nik, demanding he apologised, withdrew his comments and went to confession. The saintly, smooth-talking government spokesman, Nicos Christodoulides, tried to fix things but in the end Nik decided to make a statement himself to clear up the matter.

He neither apologised nor withdrew what he said. Worse still, he could not resort to his usual tactic of accusing the person who made the unacceptable comments of lying.

 

OUR ESTABLISHMENT asked a close aide whether his slip could be blamed on the infamous grouse, but she attributed it to the fact that he had lost his rag before the presentation.

Apparently, he had made corrections to the speech a palace aide had written for him but these were not properly incorporated in the final draft, causing him to fly into a rage. And when this happens, he cannot control himself said the aide. This was why he was so late for the presentation and not in full control of his thoughts.

But it was entirely possible that while waiting for the corrections to be made to the speech, smoke still coming out his ears, he may have had a calming drink or three so as not to go to the presentation in a nasty, foul mood.

There was another tell-tale sign of inebriation. The prez shook hands, embraced and kissed former foreign minister Nicos Rolandis twice, when he entered the auditorium and again when he left. I have no scientific proof, but I am sure you would not embrace and kiss Nicos Rolandis twice in the space of an hour if you were not a bit tipsy.

 

THE EEZ outburst had another negative consequence for the Prez. One of the 100 signatories of his candidacy, Greece-based Cypriot academic Christodoulos Yiallourides, issued an announcement withdrawing his support for Nik.

This was much less of a surprise than the fact that the Cyprob super hardliner Yiallourides had ever backed Nik’s candidacy in the first place. In his statement of repentance for backing Nik, the self-regarding academic said: “I applauded the change of direction of President Nicos Anastasiades, as a result of the adoption of my perennial and repeated positions, primarily regarding the handling of the Cyprus issue….”

It is amazing how Nik’s crude transformation into a Cyprob hardliner for electoral reasons that our establishment has been banging on about for months could have so easily fooled such a smart member of the bash-patriotic intelligentsia like Yiallourides.

He concluded his repentance by saying that “whoever of the presidential candidates asked for my symbolic support, after announcing a similar position (on the Cyprob), he would have it unreservedly.” What a shame Junior did not think of going to Athens to ask for the great man’s symbolic support which his new strategy thoroughly deserves.

 

LAWYER and former advisor to Nik, Chris Triantafyllides, who abandoned him over disagreements on the Cyprob and is now one of his critics, offered the most colourful put-down for the EEZ comments. Speaking on Radio Proto he demanded that the statement was withdrawn “today and not tomorrow” and wondered “under what circumstances it was made”.  A subtle hint?

He rather angrily said, “In effect, it constitutes a haircut of the Cyprus Republic. As in 2013 Mr Anastasiades participated in the haircut of the Cyprus economy, with this statement he has subjected to a haircut the rights of the Cyprus Republic…. It is inconceivable for the president, at the end of the election campaign to effectively call on Turkey to protect illegal, non-existent rights of a non-existent pseudo-state.”

The host gave the lawyer poetic licence and did not ask how it was possible for non-existent rights to be illegal.

 

THE FALLOUT from the EEZ comment overshadowed our Prez’s historic visit to Saudi Arabia, which his flunkeys, advertising a total lack of perspective, presented as some ground-breaking event that would change the course of history.

Christodoulides, who has set his sights on the foreign ministry if his boss wins the elections, spoke like a foreign minister, declaring that “our relations enter a new level and it relates to one of the basic pylons [a lot of pylons in government policies] of our foreign policy – strengthening our relations with the countries of the Gulf.”

Foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides, felt the invitation from the Saudis was recognition of Nik’s threesome diplomacy. “I am sure that this regional policy did not go unnoticed by Saudi Arabia, hence its invitation for an official visit to the president. A historical act.”

“A great national success was recorded,” Disy chief Averof Neophytou proudly announced and explained that “a trustworthy Cyprus not only in the European area, but a country that is becoming a bridge for co-operation in our broader region”.

Nik’s cheerleaders put the visit to Saudi on a par with President Nixon’s 1972 visit to China. Soon there will be an opera, ‘Anastasiades in Saudi Arabia’, to celebrate this momentous event.

 

THE MAIN reason for government rejoicing is that we can now use our new best friends, “a leading country in the Arab and Muslim world” to cause problems for the Turks. As Kasoulides informed us, the Saudis have changed their stance towards the Turks at the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation and “it is no longer a walk in the park for Turkey at this organization”.

Averof said it was “a great success that Cyprus today has more support at the Islamic Conference than Muslim Turkey.” With Wahhabism, the reactionary branch of Islam embraced by the Saudis, on our side victory is assured.

Kasoulides interestingly classed Saudi Arabia as one of the “moderate” Muslims countries.

Perhaps he was unaware that in 2013 the European Parliament identified Wahhabism as the main source of global terrorism.

According to an article in the Daily Telegraph, “The US State Department has estimated that over the past four decades Riyadh has invested more than $10bn into charitable foundations in an attempt to replace mainstream Sunni Islam with the harsh intolerance of its Wahhabism. EU intelligence experts estimate that 15 to 20 per cent of this has been diverted to al-Qaida and other violent jihadists.”

Perhaps we could ask our friends the Saudis to invest in some madrassas in the Paphos region. This would not only help our developers and piss off the Turks but would also speed up the “upgrading of relations” that Kasoulides has forecast.

 

WHEN a newspaper reported last week that Comrade Tof owed the foreign ministry €48,000, he issued an immediate denial and said he would sue for libel. He had every right to do so as he had been wrongly named as the debtor.

On Tuesday, auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides announced that the ex-president with the debt he had mentioned in his annual report on the foreign ministry was in fact George Vassiliou, who had been given the money in 2000 when he went to London for the removal of a brain tumour.

Vass was deeply hurt by the revelation because nobody had informed him about the debt and after all these years “I saw my name, reputation and integrity tarnished in the press and social media.” He also had a dig at the way Odysseas operates, prompting the self-righteous auditor to issue another announcement ruling Vass’ comments “unacceptable”.

“All the facts relating to the case were explained in yesterday’s announcement,” raising the question of why he issued a second announcement. It is because he cannot pass an opportunity to get on his high horse and do some moralising. He now also employs the royal plural in his official sermons, reinforcing the view that power has gone to his head.

 

AS FOR VASS, he did not exhibit great eagerness to repay the debt he did not know about once he was informed of it. An excellent president and smart businessman, Vass was never known for his generosity with money. In fact, some people who know him have likened him to one of the heroes of a well-known Moliere play, and it is not Don Juan.

His medical bill had been paid by the government, but the 48 grand related to hotel bills for his wife, two daughters and their husbands who were staying at some of the most expensive hotels in central London and did not pay a penny. Even their expenses, tips, telephone calls and laundry were paid for by the foreign ministry.

Speaking to the media he tried to justify not paying back this debt he did not know about. At the time of his operation he was working as Cyprus’ chief negotiator in EU accession talks without pay. As he said, “I turned down a proposed (financial) reward worth a lot more than €48,000.” Asked whether he would now pay back the money he refused to give a straight answer, offering the taxpayer the privilege of settling the debt instead.

“I will only accept paying back this amount if the foreign ministry says I owe them this money and the government refuses to pay.”

 

ONLY IN Cyprus could government and the parties have come up with the ludicrous idea of a transitional period for implementation of a law. Do we need to practise obeying the law before it is fully implemented? This seems to be the case regarding the law that would eventually oblige a shop to charge five cents for every plastic bag it hands out to a shopper.

On January 1, a transitional joke-law by which shops should charge two cents per plastic bag came into force, but there is no penalty if they choose to charge nothing. In reality, the law is a non-law, or perhaps a pseudo-law, as nobody is obliged to comply with it and the authorities have no power to enforce it.

On June 30 the transitional period of practising obeying this law comes to an end. In theory, from July 1 shops will have to charge 5 cents per plastic bag they give out, even though an extension of the transitional period cannot be ruled out as we might need longer than six months to learn to respect the law.

 

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