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Speculation mounts over new cabinet

Former foreign minister, Ioannis Kasoulides has long links with France

Speculation continues on Tuesday over who would be in President Nicos Anastasiades’ new cabinet, suggestions that Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides will step down and the president himself saying the body would contains new faces, including women.

Director of the President’s Office Michalis Sophocleous in a Facebook post all but confirmed Kasoulides’ retirement, saying “your departure would be a loss for the country.”

Sophocleous added, “You are leaving as a gentleman, as you have always been. Cyprus owes you tremendous gratitude.”

The comments follow those made by Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis at Anastasiades’ victory speech on Sunday where he said he felt his time at the helm of his troubled ministry had come to an end and someone else should have the chance to take charge.

Meanwhile in an interview with Euronews Anastasiades said “there will be more women, and new individuals.”

In the current cabinet there is only one woman, Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou. Anastasiades said the new complement of 11 ministers and the under-ministers in the process of being created will include more women.

He said the cabinet will also include people in their 40s and 50s who have already shown a significant contribution over the previous five-year period.

When asked about Kasoulides he said he would discuss his plans with him in the coming days.

Speculation is rife that he will be replaced by current government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides.

Earlier in the day on Tuesday in a statement Anastasiades said he wished to make it clear that “his main concern after his re-election is to define and prioritise a series of actions based on his election programme”.

He will deal with the makeup of the new cabinet after planning the policies to tackle the problems and challenges the new government has to face, the statement said.

Anastasiades is expected to make an announcement before the new government is sworn in on March 1 as to the new cabinet, but there is no indication at the moment as to when that may be.

In the same interview Anastasiades said he planned to call Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in the coming days.

Anastasiades responded to Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s statement on Sunday that Greek Cypriots need to “change their mentality” if they want negotiations on the Cyprus issue to resume under UN auspices.

The president dismissed changing the basis for negotiations as set by the UN Secretary-General. “Based on Mr Cavusoglu’s statements, there is no clear prospect” in sight, he said.

Talking to Akinci would determine whether there was room for “productive dialogue,” said Anastasiades, who intends to contact his Turkish Cypriot counterpart “in a few days,” after the National Council convenes.

Anastasiades accused the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot negotiating sides of not budging on their initial positions, and of not responding to the Greek Cypriot side’s proposals during talks in Crans-Montana last summer. Their refusal to compromise on the issue of Turkey’s right to intervene and on the presence of Turkish troops on the island led to “the worst” of “many [such] regressions” from progress achieved, he said, referencing recent news that the Turkish Cypriot side had withdrawn a territorial map submitted to the UN during reunification talks. Anastasiades blamed Ankara’s pressure on the Turkish Cypriot leadership for these backtrackings.

Echoing Cavusoglu’s statement on Sunday, Akinci called on Anastasiades to “follow a more realistic and constructive policy” with regards to the Cyprus issue as he congratulated the president on his re-election on Monday. Akinci has also confirmed, following Ozdil Nami’s resignation, that he will not appoint a new negotiator, spelling difficulty in restarting talks.

In spite of these developments, the president reiterated his commitment to dialogue, though he stressed that he will remain firm on his position on guarantees, rejecting any scenario that would compromise Cyprus’ “independence”. “The current, unacceptable situation is due to the presence of the Turkish army [on the island],” he said.

Anastasiades also stressed the benefits that a solution to the Cyprus problem would spell for Turkey, which would gain a close partner in the EU.

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