It was reassuring to hear some voices publicly question President Nikos Christodoulides’ vague utterances about the Cyprus problem during the speech he gave at the European Parliament on Tuesday morning. Once again, he made a big issue out of his proposal for a more active role for the EU in efforts to resume Cyprus talks and linking the peace process to EU-Turkey relations.

These declarations have been repeated ever since his election, creating the impression that he is actively pursuing the resumption of the talks, when the fact is the EU has shown no interest in taking a leading role. Even if there was an interest, a more active role would require the approval of Turkey, which had made it clear it did not consider the EU an objective player, because the Republic was a member.

Akel chief Stefanos Stefanou expressed the view that greater EU involvement and the appointment of an EU envoy would not create the necessary dynamic, especially as these proposals were not seen positively by Ankara. More importantly, the president’s pleas did not have as the recipient the person, “whom we would expect to undertake an initiative based on the UN Security Council resolutions – the UN Secretary-General.”

This position was echoed in a written statement issued on Wednesday by former Disy leader Averof Neophytou, who was more specific. Describing the president’s fine words about EU involvement as “wishful thinking,” Neophytou said: “We must knock on the door of the Secretary-General of the UN and persuade him with positions of substance about the resumption of talks.” Since the departure of Espen Barth Eide in 2018, the UNSG had not appointed a special advisor on Cyprus, he pointed out.

Neophytou referred to “specific dynamic initiatives such as inclusion in the agenda of energy and regional security.” Stefanou had also said that a dynamic would be created by the “utilisation of energy resources of the region.” It is generally accepted that energy could unlock the talks and bring the Turkish side to the negotiating table, but this is an option the president has calculatingly ignored, for fear of upsetting his Diko and Edek allies.

The fact that anti-settlement parties like Edek and Diko have supported his EU initiatives is because they believe these create a good impression abroad while leading nowhere. This is why it was important for Akel and Disy to challenge the EU initiative and persist with the UN option. The pressure appears to have yielded a result, as Christodoulides had a telephone conversation with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday.

Nothing came of this, although the government spokesman said the two “had exchanged views about the next steps in the direction of efforts for resumption of talks.” It was however a change of direction by the president, a change that was forced on him by a little political pressure.