The short visit of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis gave President Anastasiades the support he was seeking ahead of the informal five-party conference that is expected to be held next month.
Anastasiades has been urged by the small opposition parties not to attend this conference, because there would be traps for the Greek Cypriots and provide Turkey with the opportunity to change the framework for a settlement.
Although he has the support of the two biggest parties – Akel and Disy – which represent the big majority of the Greek Cypriots, he still feels the need to justify the decision to attend the five-party conference to the small parties that are opposed to settlement. It was therefore helpful that Mitsotakis endorsed all the positions mentioned by Anastasiades and repeated that “a comprehensive, workable mutually acceptable settlement remains a top priority for Greek foreign policy”.
Mitsotakis reiterated the positions of the Cyprus government, regarding the abolition of guarantees and the unilateral right to intervention as well as the withdrawal of the occupation troops while underlining that there could be no alternative to the bizonal, bicommunal federation, Turkey’s proposal for two states having been ruled out not only by Greece and Cyprus, but also by the UN and the EU. He also spoke about the political equality of the two communities as an “inviolable feature” of a settlement, despite the fact that Anastasiades had in the past openly questioned this equality.
There is little doubt that Mitsotakis could be a very positive influence at the conference, assuming the Turkish side would adopt a constructive stance and not dig in its heels on the two states. His open backing for the conference and the federal settlement would also help Anastasiades deal with the domestic attacks that will be stepped up as the gathering approaches. In the two previous conferences, in 2017, Greece’s role that was shaped by the unpredictable foreign minister Nikos Kotzias was not helpful. The fact that all the rejectionist parties praised his contribution says it all.
There is no such danger from the Mitsotakis government, whose commitment to solving its differences with Turkey is a given. It also knows that a Cyprus settlement, which seems very unlikely at present, could boost the Greece-Turkey talks on maritime differences. Whether Turkey is prepared to engage positively in talks on a federal settlement remains to be seen, but if it does Anastasiades might not get cold feet, knowing he has the full support of the Greek prime minister.