President Anastasiades, quite clearly, is not happy with the way the opening of the fenced area of Varosha has been partly blamed on him, and made his feelings heard during the anti-occupation gathering in Dherynia at which he was the main speaker.
He was heckled by a section of the crowd and described as a guilty party for the current state of the Cyprus issue. This hostility was evident in the run-up to the gathering with members of the Famagusta municipal council having expressed reservations about Anastasiades being the main speaker.
The tone had been set by the municipal council with a resolution that strongly condemned the “latest illegal and provocative actions by Turkey”, but also believed, “that a share of the responsibility, for being in this tragic situation today, belongs to the government.” Acknowledging that several actions had been taken at diplomatic level, it said results proved the strategy had failed to thwart Turkey’s designs.
A municipal council openly criticising the government for its handling of the Cyprus problem is not something we have been accustomed to, but it is a strong indication of the despair felt by Famagustans, who realise that Turkey’s decision to open the fenced area meant the end of the slim hopes they had of returning to their town. They may still be able to return, but under Turkish Cypriot administration.
Anticipating he would receive a cold welcome, Anastasiades prepared a speech that was aimed at silencing his critics. He went through a list of seven occasions when the return of Varosha was offered and had been turned down by the Greek Cypriot side, starting in 1978 and ending with the rejection of the Annan Plan in 2004. Were the criminal blunders of previous governments an excuse to miss another opportunity offered for the return of Varosha?
This was what Anastasiades’ peculiar reasoning seemed to imply, although he also argued that at Crans-Montana in 2017, the final opportunity for the return of Varosha, Turkey’s insistence on maintaining the system of guarantees and the presence of troops made it impossible for him to reach a deal. In short, like all previous presidents, Anastasiades has no responsibility for the unpleasant developments in the Cyprus problem, all of which are dictated by Turkish intransigence.
Greek Cypriot presidents never have to take responsibility for opportunities they have missed, because they have always had Turkey’s intransigence as an excuse for not doing so. Anastasiades is keeping this cowardly tradition alive, even though some people are no longer prepared to accept it, as the gathering in Dherynia showed. It is progress, but it has come too late in the day.