SOMETIMES it is difficult to distinguish between politics and comedy, but the foreign ministry’s note verbale to all Cyprus-based embassies advising them not to attend events at archaeological sites in northern Cyprus falls clearly in the second category. Many of these archaeological sites are restored through EU funding, which is approved by the Cyprus government, while the projects contracted to the UNDP are the responsibility of the bi-communal technical committee on cultural heritage that has the support of the president.
Next Tuesday there will be a ceremony for the completion of the conservation work at the Ravelin bastion in the walled town of Famagusta, which all ambassadors of EU member-states have been invited to attend, as the project was funded by the EU. Was our foreign ministry’s missive telling the ambassadors not to attend the ceremony? Not directly, but the note verbale reiterated the foreign ministry’s “position pertaining to the illegal use of monuments and archaeological sites” in the occupied area.
This illegal use of monuments is funded by the EU with the approval of the Cyprus Republic so why had the ministry not sent a memo to the president censuring him for giving his consent to this illegality. And how could the ministry issue this note verbale to ambassadors, bearing in mind that President Anastasiades attended a concert at the Othellos Tower in Famagusta back in the days when he was on good terms with Mustafa Akinci? Should we also mention the staging of Antigone by the state theatre company Thoc at the ancient Salamis amphitheatre, attended by many Greek Cypriots.
To add a surreal touch to the comedy, foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides, a few hours after the publication of the report about the note verbale, said, “I am taking the initiative to find the appropriate solution,” even though conservation of monuments “has nothing to do with the foreign ministry”. The man whose ministry created the problem with its high-handed missive will find the “appropriate solution”. Who had approved the note verbale before it was sent if not the minister? Perhaps, realising after the event that it was not such good idea, Christodoulides decided to solve the very problem he had caused.
There was an attempt to blame the head of the antiquities department for what happened, as the note verbale to the embassies was accompanied by a letter she had sent to the foreign ministry “regarding the illegal use of monuments in the occupied areas”. She noted that all archaeological sites were under her department’s authority and those located in the north were consequently closed. This type of legalistic idiocy constitutes patriotic policy. The head of the antiquities department is happy for valuable archaeological sites in the north to be completely ruined in order to prove that her department is in charge of them. And our foreign minister agrees with the department even though he will now find the appropriate solution to this diplomatic comedy.