The government on Monday announced the successor to Andreas Mavroyiannis as chief negotiator for the Cyprus issue, while speculation tied Mavroyiannis’ resignation to the 2023 presidential elections.

In a written statement, government spokesman Marios Pelekanos said the new chief negotiator for the Cyprus talks will be Menelaos Menelaou, a foreign ministry official.

Menelaou will take on his new duties on May 15 – the same day on which Mavroyiannis will formally leave the post.

In the past Menelaou has served as a member of the negotiating team in Cyprus negotiations, in stints during the administrations of Tassos Papadopoulos and Demetris Christofias.

News of Mavroyiannis’ imminent departure first circulated on Sunday, with local media reporting he had submitted his letter of resignation on Friday. The reason he cited was the absence of any developments on the negotiations front.

The government confirmed the resignation hours later on Sunday.

In a press communique on Monday, the government spokesman said President Nicos Anastasiades accepted Mavroyiannis’ resignation, thanking the diplomat for his service and his “outstanding, honourable and sincere cooperation”.

In a missive responding to Mavroyiannis, the president referred to their long-running collaboration, adding that “together they experienced both hopes and disappointments, at times due to progress [in the peace talks], at other times due to the backtracking of the Turkish Cypriot side.”

Anastasiades also thanked Mavroyiannis for his contribution in shaping the Greek Cypriot side’s proposals during the Cyprus talks, and especially at the crucial 2017 summit at Crans-Montana, Switzerland.

The president further said he agreed with Mavroyiannis’ assessment regarding the “inability to achieve a positive outcome from the talks, owing to the lack of political will and intransigence on the Turkish side, rather than to mistakes or omissions by the Greek Cypriot side, much less to any mistakes on the part of Mr Mavroyiannis.”

The 65-year-old Mavroyiannis had served as chief negotiator since September 2013. He had also been part of the negotiating team from 2002 to 2008.

During a television programme on the state broadcaster aired recently, the diplomat had dropped a hint that he might quit should there be no forward movement in the Cyprus talks.

Meantime speculation swirled around the event. Daily Philelefheros linked Mavroyiannis’ departure to the ongoing debate about whom the main opposition party Akel will field for next year’s presidential elections.

The paper said Mavroyiannis’ letter of resignation came on the same day that Akel’s political bureau discussed the party’s options, following the apparent demise of prospects for an electoral alliance with Diko.

The political bureau powwow on Friday reportedly lasted eight hours, with three names mentioned as possible candidates: Mavroyiannis, economist Stelios Platis and lawyer Achilleas Demetriades. Only the latter has openly declared his intention to run, and is understood to be looking for a sponsor.

Phileleftheros said Mavroyiannis’ name was brought up at Akel’s political bureau after news of the resignation broke.

Akel had considered Mavroyiannis as a possible candidate to back in previous elections, but the idea had been dropped due to concerns he is a hardliner on the Cyprus issue.

The paper also noted that Akel MP Irini Charalambidou is very popular among the party base. Charalambidou is deemed to be a figure around which the party faithful can rally, helping ease Akel into the runoff ballot.

But the party leadership is not considering her for the moment.

Akel’s political bureau are set to convene anew over the next few days. At that meeting, they will reportedly finalise a proposal for the 2023 elections and forward it to the central committee – the party’s top decision-making body.

Next the proposal – whatever that may be – will filter out to the party base for feedback. A final decision on which candidate Akel will field is expected at an island-wide party conference scheduled for late May.

Also on Monday Achilleas Demetriades and the Dipa party – a splinter from Diko – met to sound each other out. The independent candidate held talks with Dipa leader Marios Garoyian, during which the latter explained his proposal for a ‘national unity government’ or a ‘government of broad acceptance’.