LISTENING to President Anastasiades explaining his decision to pursue a decentralised federation in Tuesday’s television appearance merely confirmed that he was engaging in delaying tactics, despite his assertion that the indefinite continuation of the status quo was not an option. Then again, before going to New York in September for the UN General Assembly, both he and his foreign minister made it clear that the objective was to avert a deadlock.
This was achieved, but not with a view to entering a process that would produce a deal. All Anastasiades seemed to have wanted was some engagement by the UN that would create the impression things were moving and there was no deadlock. The UN secretary-general’s envoy Jane Holl Lute has already visited once and her intention to return for more consultations was presented as a small triumph by the government, eager to show there was movement on the talks.
But if Anastasiades were sincerely committed to a reaching an agreement he would not have come up with the idea of a federation with decentralised powers, which would require a renegotiation of a chapter which was mostly agreed. In the negotiations with Mustafa Akinci he worked for an even more centralised federal government securing more powers for it than had been agreed between Christofias and Talat.
Now, after two years of negotiations, of which he was in charge, and two international conferences on Cyprus called to finalise a settlement, he decided instead that the federal government must have far fewer powers than those he had demanded and secured. He said he would seek the advice of constitutional experts and also try to secure the support of the National Council to achieve his new objective. He did not tell the people during his address how long his quest for the decentralised federation would take, but time is obviously not an issue for him – the longer it takes the better.
He said he could not agree to “any solution” as some Greek Cypriots were demanding, because we needed a workable and viable state. Not only is he increasingly using the rhetoric of Tassos Papadopoulos but he is also employing his tactics of trying to change the basis of the negotiations as a way of preventing the process from leading anywhere. That he spent most of his television address talking about the new form the federal state should take perfectly illustrated the point.
Taking another leaf out of the Papadopoulos book, he did not say anything positive about a settlement, presenting it more like a necessary evil, given that the status quo could not be maintained forever. This was a theoretical point because in practice his objective is to make it last as long as possible.