It is becoming more difficult by the day to take seriously anything the Anastasiades government says regarding the Cyprus problem, usually in response to criticism from Akel, the only party that does not buy its shabby rhetoric. On Friday, after the letter sent last month by President Anastasiades to the UN Secretary-General was made public, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou felt obliged to issue a written statement to explain that the president had set no conditions for the resumption of the talks.
He included an excerpt from the letter, which said: “I have repeatedly reiterated my commitment to the process and resuming the talks the soonest possible from the point where they were interrupted at the Conference in Crans Montana.” This was presented as proof that no conditions had been set for the resumption of the talks, according to Prodromou, who said: “He [Anastasiades] sets no condition nor does he make the resumption dependent on any pre-condition, but just informs the UNSG that our position remains the resumption of the talks. Provided, of course, that the illegal interventions by Turkey in the EEZ of the Cyprus Republic are terminated, as is the position of the national council.”
The government has become so accustomed to contradicting itself it is not even aware it is doing it. Is the termination of Turkey’s drilling not a condition for the resumption of the talks? It may be a legitimate condition or pre-condition, especially as it is the position of the national council in response to Turkey’s illegal drilling, but this does not stop it being a condition. How could Prodromou state that Anastasiades “sets no condition” while then adding the condition that Turkey stop its drilling for the resumption of the talks. Anastasiades avoided explicit reference to this condition in his letter to the UNSG, which listed a host of proposals aimed at showing that he was committed to a resumption of the talks.
This is all part of the Anastasiades government’s Cyprus problem theatre, which is primarily intended for the domestic audience. The letter was leaked to the press so that Greek Cypriots could be shown how hard the president was working for the resumption of the talks and, in this way, to neutralise Akel’s criticism, which argues that the worrying situation in our EEZ and the continual bellicose rhetoric by the Turkish government was caused by Anastasiades’ unwillingness to pursue a settlement. He had miscalculated Turkey’s reaction to the decision to exclude Turkish Cypriots from the Republic’s energy planning.
The letter supported this view as it was not a letter from a leader that was eager to persuade Antonio Guterres he was sincerely committed to a resumption of the talks let alone a settlement. It was instead a continuation of the blame-game Anastasiades has been playing very successfully for the benefit of domestic audiences for the last two years. The message that the Turkish side was exclusively to blame for the lack of progress, blocking the earnest attempts by Anastasiades to engage in talks through its aggressive and provocative behaviour.
It would be interesting to know whether the UNSG has replied to the president’s letter. Three weeks have passed since it was sent and there does not seem to have been a reply, or if there was, it does not suit the government to make its content known. The truth is there was nothing in the letter that would have convinced Guterres there was a sincere commitment on the part of Anastasiades to finding a settlement. Even on the less ambitious target of the talks’ resumption, which is his sole objective, he was not convincing as the letter made no constructive proposal, being more concerned about promoting our supposed efforts to break the deadlock.
With Turkey having started drilling in the Cypriot EEZ and stepping up its threats – a submarine was sent to Kyrenia last week – the government has to reassure Greek Cypriots that we are not in this situation because of Anastasiades’ erratic decisions and miscalculation that we could proceed with our energy plans undisturbed by the Turks thanks to the alliances forged by the government. This has clearly proved not to be the case and is the reason Prodromou never allows Akel comments pointing this out to go unanswered. Akel is pointing out the holes in the narrative that is being successfully peddled to the local audience. Outsiders, like the UNSG, unfortunately, do not buy it.