Disy leader Averof Neophytou appears to have taken on the thankless and lonely task of publicly arguing the case for a Cyprus settlement at a time when even the government is approaching the prospect of the five-party conference with caginess. Neophytou has for months now been warning that if there is no agreement soon, the Greek Cypriots will not only lose Varosha but they would also be unable to extract the natural gas from the Cypriot EEZ. Not even those protesting about Turkish plans to reopen Varosha seemed to accept that a settlement was the only way of preventing this.
On Monday Neophytou took his one-man crusade a step further, having a dig at the unrelenting negativity with which the political parties approached the Cyprus problem. “I am tired of hearing, for decades now, morning till night, regarding all issues from the national issue to the economy and to domestic matters, what we do not want. It is no solution to a problem to repeat daily what we do not want,” he said and added: “And no problem could be solved by always rejecting any ideas or views aimed at solving it.”
Yet this has been the unchanging philosophy of most governments, including the current one, and the majority of the political parties. It was so predictable that an informal British proposal conveyed by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during a visit to the island a few weeks ago and aimed at reducing the gulf separating the two sides has been rubbished by the government, through off-the-record briefings to the press. The proposal, referred to as the ‘British plan,’ has been dismissed for being too close to a confederation, which President Anastasiades brought up as a possible option about a year ago. Now he has changed his mind.
“What I cannot accept is the tendency, when the central government has too many powers, to reject this because it would be a dysfunctional entity and when we discuss the decentralised Federation to also reject it because it has, supposedly, elements of a confederation.” The Disy chief, to his credit, was challenging the government’s thinking, trying to introduce an element of rationality, welcoming the interest of permanent-members of the UN Security Council and stressing that “without international interest the Cyprus problem could never be solved.”
Neophytou did not stop there. He indirectly questioned the wisdom of Anastasiades’ oft-repeated objection to political equality. If we wanted to be rid of the occupation army, the treaties of guarantee, have Varosha and Morphou returned and settle the property issue we must give the Turkish Cypriots political equality, he said. This is the voice of reason but unfortunately our patriotic political establishment have banished reason and pragmatism from the Cyprus problem discourse.