Veteran negotiator at various rounds of Cyprus talks should think twice about running for president
Andreas Mavroyiannis recently told a journalist that he does not rule out the possibility of being a candidate in the 2023 presidential elections. In response to a related question, he said: “Having ambitions is not necessarily a bad thing.”
Andreas Mavroyiannis is a soft-spoken diplomat, who has focused his professional career on the Cyprus problem. He has served as Cyprus’ ambassador to the United Nations, the European Union, France and Ireland. From 2002 to 2008, he was a member of the Greek Cypriot intercommunal negotiating team and from 2013 to date he is “the negotiator” acting for the Greek Cypriot side.
Without doubt, he is intimately familiar with the Cyprus problem. However, throughout his protagonistic involvement in the negotiation processes and especially in the talks held in Switzerland in 2016/17, he proved unable to prevent them ending in total failure. Obviously, Andreas Mavroyiannis carries a good part of the responsibility for this lamentable turn of events.
Of course, it is not difficult to blame this failure on ‘Turkey’s intransigence’ and on the ‘lack of solidarity on the part of our partners’, but no objective observer can buy these blame-shifting tactics of the Greek Cypriot leadership. Right now, the Cyprus problem is at its worst state ever.
So, when I recently heard Andreas Mavroyiannis publicly making the following statements, I genuinely wondered who could be the addressee of his exhortations. He said: “We need to be careful not to embark on a process of wishful thinking. Things are very difficult because we have to deal with Turkish intransigence, which has been getting increasingly worse over the past two years. We need to step up our efforts in order to succeed in getting the negotiation process back on track. … We must do everything possible to make things happen.” Either he could not see what he did wrong (in which case he clearly lacks the qualifications needed to successfully lead the negotiation process), or “the negotiator” was blindly following instructions even though he did not agree with them (in which case he is not a leader). In either case, the person concerned is obviously not qualified to take over the helm of this country.
However, I was also unpleasantly surprised by the positions taken by Andreas Mavroyiannis in a recent televised debate on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In this discussion, after stating that an invasion is an act of aggression that must be condemned in absolute terms, he then qualified his statement by saying that “the Ukrainian regime does not comprise an angelically created world and certainly it is not blameless”, while stressing, yet again, that “under no circumstances can this be an excuse for the Russian invasion of Ukraine”. He concluded with the following important statement: “Given that Nato had given assurances – albeit verbally – that it would not expand eastwards, it should not have done so, since in international law there can be no differentiation between verbal and written assurances.”
Andreas Mavroyiannis then asked himself the following rhetorical question: “Was it right to give such assurances, given that they were violating the sovereignty of an independent country and its right to determine its own future?”
He then answered that question as follows: “Surely, in terms of international law and in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, every country has the right to be a sovereign state and to be able to make its own decisions as to where it belongs and what it wishes to do. From the point of view of international law, Ukraine was entitled to make its own choices and Nato was entitled to respect Ukraine’s wishes. From a legal point of view, it is true that they can say this. But we must always have a sense of pragmatism in our thinking, and we must realise that these principles and values can take us up to a point beyond which the limits of realism come into play. It was, therefore, inevitable that there would have been a negative reaction on the part of Russia to Nato expansion. What is Russia asking for? The neutralisation of the Ukraine. Is this a valid position from a legal point of view? No. But from a geopolitical point of view, it is something we should have expected. Also noteworthy is the fact that, at the end of the day, Nato conserves a Cold War approach, which is undesirable.”
I do not see the need to underline that Nato’s expansion to the east was the consequence of the free choice of the former members of the Soviet Union. Nor will I invoke the argument that, after the collapse of the “iron curtain” Nato never threatened Russia to install missiles at less than 100 kilometres from the Russian border (as the Soviet Union attempted to do in 1962, in Cuba). On that occasion, did the United States attempt to replace by the force of arms the communist government of Cuba with a government of its own choice? Certainly not.
What I would boldly say to Andreas Mavroyiannis is that the right to shape the future of Cyprus is exclusively confined to the people of Cyprus, to the exclusion of everybody else. The involuntary alienation of rights (which Andreas Mavroyiannis seems prepared to accept) is one thing, and the voluntary surrender of certain rights (for example, within the framework of an alliance, such as the European Union) or the voluntary foregoing of certain rights of lesser importance in order to secure or safeguard other significant rights, in the context of a negotiation process, is another thing. The acceptance of the position that certain third parties may decide the future of Cyprus in the absence of the Cypriots is a dangerous, slippery road, especially when it is promoted by persons in official positions.
All the above arguments have led me to the conclusion that Andreas Mavroyiannis is a person unsuitable for the position of the president of the Republic of Cyprus. The next president of Cyprus must have a clear vision for the future of Cyprus, must have the determination and the courage to strive for the attainment of his/her goals and must have the ability to secure the support of the electorate and of the international community in his/her struggle. Andreas Mavroyiannis does not have these attributes.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Sunday Mail and Alithia