By George Psyllides
Main opposition Akel accused President Nicos Anastasiades of leading the island to partition, as the rift between the two sides deepened on Tuesday following the party’s decision not to participate in a meeting of the negotiating team, which a former member described as a publicity stunt.
The president meanwhile continued to defend his handling of the negotiations, blaming their failure on Turkey, and seeking to isolate Akel in the eyes of public opinion by suggesting they were pressuring him to make unacceptable concessions to Ankara.
Akel leader Andros Kyprianou used Twitter to respond, saying words have lost their meaning.
“The person who is discussing confederation — two-state solution accused Akel of concessions. Cyprus is losing its prospect,” Kyprianou wrote. He later accused Anastasiades of adopting the vision of partition held by late Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
In an interview with Alpha television, Anastasiades suggested Akel was a supporter of any old solution.
“I’m not bothered by them pressuring but you cannot assign responsibility on the Greek Cypriot side, which was asking what they were,” the president said.
Akel has been highly critical of Anastasiades since the collapse of reunification talks in Switzerland last year. The party has turned up the heat recently after the president tabled the idea of loose or decentralised federation as settlement model. The suggestion is a sharp departure from the strong federation position held by the Greek Cypriot side in decades of talks.
The spat worsened after Akel member Toumazos Tselepis, a constitutional expert and a widely respected authority on the Cyprus problem, did not participate in a meeting of the team that supports the negotiators.
“I cannot participate in a process if I do not agree with the objective that is being pursued,” Tselepis said on Tuesday. “Of what use is presence in the team if the objective is not the same?”
He denied that Akel was pushing the president to agree to unacceptable concessions.
“What we are trying to do is prevent deviation towards partition,” he said.
Tselepis said disagreements with the president’s handling of the talks existed since 2017 but the party chose not to voice them as the negotiations were ongoing.
He said he would return to the team when they are convinced that the strategic goal was the same and “it cannot be anything else than a federal solution.”
“If we are convinced that the president is going to the talks aiming at a solution on the basis of the agreed framework, he knows where to find us.”
Former attorney-general Alecos Markides, who had been on the team until 2016, also received an invitation to participate but he declined because he disagreed with the president.
“I concluded it was a PR exercise without any substance,” he said.
Markides said from what he had seen in recent days he had no place on the team “since I strongly disagree with what the president is doing lately.”
In the past 15 months since the collapse of the talks there had been many developments, Markides said, which the president handled on his own.
There was Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci’s proposal for an agreement on the UNSG framework, the meetings with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the visits by UN special envoy Jane Holl Lute, and the loose federation.
In all these matters, Anastasiades never sought the advice of the negotiating team, Markides said.
“So, the issue is, what role does this team play? And how is this thing presented as our intensive effort to come to an understanding with Lute now when the terms of reference will be discussed?”