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Tales from the coffeeshop: After all the right ones, recklessly foolish moves fuel passports discord

President Nicos Anastasiades

HAVING tried to counter Al Jazeera’s attempts to harm Kyproulla’s reputation, our political leaders seem to have decided to do the job themselves, the message being we can do it better. For the last 10 days or so they have been throwing dirt, exchanging accusations and threats.

The comrades of Akel saw the citizenship by investment story as the ideal issue with which to hit Prez Nik over the head and bolster their support, which has been in decline for some time now. They have been regularly bringing it up in announcements, criticising the government’s handling of the matter and protesting about the police investigation into the leak of the documents.

On Thursday the party leader, comrade Andros decided to question the authority of Attorney-General Giorgos Savvides to appoint an investigative committee, speculating that his law office could have had passports issued for clients and claiming a conflict of interest. The only evidence the comrade had was that Savvides had a law office. The AG issued a curt statement, saying his office never acted on behalf of any investor for the issuing of a passport.

The funny thing is that in all its public statements, the comrades feel obliged to shed tears about how Nik’s government had tarnished our country’s reputation, while happily contributing to this tarnishing in the process.

 

PREZ NIK, meanwhile, made the biggest miscalculation of his political career so far in believing he could silence the comrades by threatening to release the names of people that had secured citizenship during the Tof presidency. He put the names on a document and gave it to the party leaders, certain that someone would leak it to the press.

Once the existence of the document was reported by Politis, comrade Andros decided his party had nothing to lose by speaking out. He appeared on Trito on Friday morning and claimed Nik had threatened to make public the names of those granted citizenship by comrade Tof’s government if Akel did not stop criticising the government about the citizenship programme.

At a meeting at the palace, well before the Al Jazeera reports, comrade Andros said Nik “waved these papers at me and told me ‘you know I have these papers, stop talking’.” Giving the papers on citizenships between 2008-2012 to the party leaders showed he was prepared to carry out his threat. It was a recklessly foolish move.

Would Nik be protecting the country’s reputation by releasing more names of people that received passports? While the police was investigating the leaks to Al Jazeera, the prez was threatening to leak names himself and give more ammunition to our foes to attack us.

 

THE NAMES in the presidential document were leaked to Politis and on Saturday the paper reported that two of the Russian men granted citizenships by the Tof government were clients of Nik’s law firm, before he became president and stopped having anything to do with his firm. Was our prez threatening to release the names of his own firm’s clients?

Otherwise, the government had made all the right moves. It asked the AG to set up an investigative committee to look at all the cases of citizenship since 2008, the police were investigating the leaks of the state documents and the three-member committee, under CySEC boss Demetra Kalogirou, was reviewing 12 files involving 42 individuals considered high-risk. The committee found that seven individuals had misled the authorities and should have their citizenship revoked.

It goes without saying that auditor-general Odysseas felt duty-bound to exercise his divine right to investigate even though, strictly speaking, the issuing of citizenship had nothing to do with the audit office. He made it his business by claiming he wanted to audit the government revenues from the programme, claiming some applicants had not made the required payments to the tax department.

The attention-seeking Odysseas could not pass such an opportunity for publicity. It might lead to an interview on Al Jazeera that would enable him to become an international celebrity.

Coffee2
The US ambassador sharing the good news

OUR GOVERNMENT could have done with some good news but our new friends the Yanks served it with a disappointment it certainly did not need. The lifting of the US arms embargo against Kyproulla, which the government celebrated wildly when it was announced more than a year ago, will be partial and temporary.

It will last one year and relates only to “non-lethal defence articles.” We won’t be able to use our revenue from the gas to buy fighter jets, assault choppers, ballistic missiles and submarines and thus build our defence capability. But we can buy US-made battle fatigues, bandages, belts, helmets, radar, water bottles, water pistols and the odd jeep, which we can probably purchase at half the price from other countries.

And to be able to buy these non-lethal defence articles we would have to tell Mother Russia its military vessels will no longer have access to our ports for refuelling and servicing. Presumably if we do not satisfy this condition the lifting of the embargo will not be renewed. But if we do, will we be able to purchase lethal defence articles even if we can’t afford them?

 

THE TURKS had to protest about the embargo, which was pretty pathetic of them considering we are talking about non-lethal objects that pose a threat to nobody. Still the Turkish Vice President Fouad Oktay took a stand, describing the US move a mistake and saying Turkey would protect the Turkish Cypriots, with whom “we will stop the games being played in the region.”

At least Russia’s ambassador Stansilav Osadchiy had a reason to complain. It would not reflect well on him if on his watch Russian ships were denied access to our ports. He attacked US ambassador Judith Garber on social media for saying Russia was a destabilising factor in the region, before offering us some friendly advice.

“Unfortunately, the US, which often use in their policy the principle of ‘divide and rule’, have a habit of being a friendly country only for their own interests… and not for friendship itself,” said Osadchiy, who has served us a lot of nonsense during his time because nobody ever challenges him.

The idea that Russia bases it relations with other countries on true friendship is beyond insane. Hopefully, as a true friend, it will forgive us and not hold it against us if we deny access of its ships to our ports because in contrast to the US it does not allow its interests to interfere with its friendships with other countries.

 

IT HAS NOT crossed the minds of any of Russia’s local cheerleaders that its friendship with Turkey might be even stronger and deeper than the one it shares with Kyproulla. So strong is this friendship that on Wednesday Turkey issued its own navigational warnings (Navtex) about Russian naval exercises in the Cyprus Search and Rescue Area.

In the past Kyproulla would be asked directly by Russia to issue the Navtex for naval exercises but now Russia goes through Navarea III, an organisation responsible for maritime navigation coordination based in Spain, which subsequently notifies a country.

Of course Phil, that has never written a negative word about Russia, saw this change as “a Russian message through Navtex,” implying Turkey was not happy with the situation. “Annoyed Turkey tried to muddy the water,” said the paper, which carried a report that muddied the water even more so that nobody would suspect Russia may have betrayed our friendship.

File photo: 1974

THE FINAL part of the account of the 19-year-old National Guardsman serving as a sergeant in an anti-aircraft unit in 1974. His experience of the second Turkish offensive that commenced on August 14.

“We finally arrive in Dali. Driving our truck through the village we were greeted with applause and ‘bravos’ from the locals. Felt like real heroes even though we knew we were running in retreat. The applause and ‘bravos’ came to an abrupt end when we stopped towards the exit of the village to decide where to go and what to do.

“We had no clue where the battalion had run to (in orderly retreat, of course, without letting us know). The locals were quick, to tell us, quite rightly to sod off and get out of their village so it would not become a target of Turkish aircraft.

“The only problem was that we were almost out of petrol, running on empty, so we made our way to the petrol station at the edge of the village to refuel. None of us had any money so we asked the nice station manager for fuel in return for an I.O.U, which we assured him would be honoured at some point. He did not see things our way.

“He left us with no option but to park the truck in his station, telling him we would fight our battles from there should a Turkish aircraft appear. You have never seen trademark Cypriot obstinacy melt away so quickly. He filled the truck up with beautiful diesel and we went searching for our unit.

 

“IT DID not take long for someone to tell us to head to nearby Ayia Varvara, where we stayed without firing another bullet until the ceasefire was announced on August 16. We were back in the loving care of Major Gotsis.

“I met Captain Roussos there too – the officer who wanted to execute me for the minor mishap with the UN and subsequently retreated from Mia Milia without informing my unit. In an act of total defiance I challenged him as to who betrayed who and who deserved execution. Much to my surprise he agreed that we had, indeed all been betrayed.

“My final act of the war came weeks after the fighting was over. Bored witless on a hillside outside Ayia Varvara, SK, a mean bouzouki player, and I decided to go shooting practice. Cyprus was awash with guns and ammo, taken from the presidential guard. I had a semi-automatic Chinese gun and he had an American rifle.

“We trekked about a kilometre away from the hillside, which was a kilometre away from our army base so as not to be heard and took shots at bottles. Forgetting that my gun was a semi-automatic, I almost shot SK by keeping my finger on the trigger when he was in the target area. I think he may still be swearing at me.

“On returning to the truck we could see a huge commotion at the base, which was preparing to defend the motherland. Our shooting was heard and the officers thought the Turks were attacking again. We played dumb, hid the guns and never told anyone.

“Having survived the war both my life’s ambitions – to see Spurs and the Rolling Stones live – have since fulfilled.”

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