A DAY DOES not pass by without President Anastasiades making public statement defending his stance on the Cyprus problem and implying that those who criticise him for having given up on a federal settlement, were prepared to give everything to the Turkish side. Initially he insisted he could not accept “any solution”, which became a slogan used unflatteringly against his critics that were dismissed as “supporters of any solution.”
“It is not only by giving that you will find a workable settlement,” was another soundbite he used to disparage his critics, that quite clearly were not as resolute and patriotic as the president in defending the Greek Cypriot interests. He has also taken the role of victim, protesting a couple of days ago that “they are trying to pin the blame on me or the Greek Cypriot side,” for the collapse of the talks in Switzerland last year, when he had told us that Turkish intransigence was exclusively to blame. “It is impossible to tolerate being blamed because I do not accept Turkish demands.”
Anastasiades quite clearly does not like being questioned or criticised about his handling of the Cyprus problem, something that Akel has been doing quite regularly of late, upsetting his narrative that he is sincerely interested in a settlement but “not any settlement” and certainly not one achieved “only by giving,” and “accepting Turkish demands.” And of course he denies accusations that he ever discussed a two-state solution with Turkey’s foreign minister or anyone else for that matter despite evidence that contradicts him.
There is no denying however that Anastasiades sounds very much like hard-line predecessors such as Spyros Kyprianou and Tassos Papadopoulos. Like them, he pays lip service to the need for a settlement while at the same time creating a negative climate, avoiding talks by setting conditions, playing up the other side’s intransigence and obsessing about procedural details rather than the substance. These tricks are as old as the Cyprus problem and were also played masterfully by Rauf Denktash, who supported a two-state solution or confederation, openly and consistently.
Anastasiades is neither open nor consistent – privately he expresses a preference for two states, publicly he has supported federation with a strong central state, a loose federation and confederation, even though he subsequently dropped the latter. And he has the audacity to complain that he is being unfairly criticised for starting out as a champion of a settlement and ending up as another Tassos, also demanding unity. He does not realise that he has lost all credibility with his erratic behaviour and that it is impossible for people to unite behind a president that they have difficulty believing.