Cyprus Mail

Debate focuses on ‘lost opportunity’ in talks (Update 4)

Which candidate will have the upper hand by the end of the day?

President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday he would make public the proposal on a rotating presidency that he presented last summer at the settlement talks in Switzerland.

Anastasiades, who was challenged by his presidential contender Stavros Malas on last year’s collapse of the talks during their TV debate, said that he would publish his proposal on Thursday to prove that the Greek Cypriot side had made constructive proposals.

He said that Malas was misinformed, as the source of his information was Akel leader Andros Kyprianou who got it from Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.

A big chunk of the first part of the debate was focused on discussing the Crans-Montana talks and whether the Greek Cypriot side lost an opportunity to solve the Cyprus problem.

Anastasiades reiterated that this was not the case and that, on the contrary, Turkey has been intransigent for the last 43 years.

It was the first time, he said, that the Greek Cypriot side succeeded in putting on the table the abolition of the guarantees and engage the international community and the European Union.

The Greek Cypriot side, Malas said, had lost the opportunity to discuss the informal document tabled during the dinner of July 6 to 7 at the Swiss resort by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres outlining a mechanism for a solution.

Kyprianou hinted in October last year when Guterres issued his report on Crans-Montana that the Turkish side may have been willing to meet the Greek Cypriots halfway in Switzerland, because otherwise the UN chief would not have submitted to the sides the document in question.

This contradicted Anastasiades’ assertion that the fault for the stalemate lay entirely on Turkey, he noted.

Malas said that he would not agree to a settlement solution that would leave Turkish troops on the island, did not abolish guarantees and did not allow the return of Morphou.

He added that he would be willing to discuss a rotating presidency if this included cross-voting.

As the debate turned to energy, Anastasiades refuted Malas’ criticism that the country’s energy plans had been delayed, arguing that his administration had taken several steps and that a range of factors had to be considered for the construction of a liquefaction terminal.

“We had to estimate the price of the natural gas, and the cost of the terminal, and if the investment was justified,” Anastasiades said.

He refuted claims that energy plans had stopped due to the settlement talks. He put hiccups down to the energy companies’ reluctance to assume research costs. Only after large quantities in Egypt’s Zohr were discovered, he said, did energy giants express interest in exploratory drilling in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.

Malas said that energy plans should not just include the sale of natural gas, but a road map, which the Anastasiades administration did not have. He added that the current administration’s blunders had led Israel, which was considering using Cyprus as its base for exporting its own natural gas to other countries, to get cold feet and consider Turkey instead.

Coming to the president’s rescue, Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis tweeted that Malas was not well informed as Israel had approved its natural gas export policy in 2013, and not in 2012, as the Akel-backed candidate said.

Tensions rose when discussion turned to the economy, after Anastasiades told Malas he was the last person to criticise his administration’s policies on the economy as the outgoing Akel administration “left chaos” behind in 2013.

Malas criticised the Anastasiades administration for the haircut on deposits, which he said, it was “trying to dump on the parliament”.

He also said that Anastasiades’ administration had brought about “mediaeval conditions in the labour market” with monthly salaries as low as €500, and that he had no plan for the problem of the non-performing loans.

The president adopted a condescending tone toward Malas on several occasions, claiming his opponent’s ‘views’ were understandable because he had not been included in decision-making procedures over the past five years. Malas’ absence from public affairs during the Anastasiades’ administration has been one of the main arguments of his election opponents.

Staying within the time given to them was an issue, especially for Anastasiades, prompting the moderator of the debate to keep reminding him of the rules.

When Anastasiades was asked to keep to his time limit, he half-jokingly asked, whether the TV stations were more interested in the popular reality show ‘Survivor’ that was scheduled to be aired by one of the TV channels after the debate.

In his final statement, Malas said that he had spoken honestly during his campaign and that he would continue to do so as president. He added that he would clamp down on corruption and would work toward a settlement of the Cyprus problem.

Anastasiades said in his closing statement that he had been and would continue to be the “president of all Cypriots”, regardless of party affiliation.

He reiterated that his administration has achieved stable growth and pledged to continue efforts to reduce unemployment rates, and to continue work for the modernisation of the state and of the local government.


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