By Angelos Anastasiou
AS AKEL’s leader Andros Kyprianou struggled to differentiate his party’s position with regard to President Nicos Anastasiades’ decision to accept incorporating the hydrocarbons issue in the Cyprus problem peace talks, Foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides yesterday asserted that the government’s position was essentially aligned with that of the communist party.
Following a party leaders’ meeting on Monday, Anastasiades had issued a statement insisting he would not be returning to the peace talks – which he withdrew from in October, after the Turkish seismic vessel Barbaros violated Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) – as long as Turkey continued to violate Cyprus’ sovereignty, but for the first time conceding that hydrocarbons could be discussed as part of the final phase of negotiations, and only after territorial adjustments have been discussed.
The move was considered a major concession by opposition parties, with the notable exception of AKEL, which refrained from offering a public position – contrary to the rest, which spared no words in criticising Anastasiades’ decision.
In addition, media reports on Monday suggested that AKEL had concurred with the strategy during the party leaders’ meeting, but this was promptly refuted by Kyprianou during the night-time news programmes. In at least two instances on Monday night, AKEL’s leader said this was “absolutely not true” and surmised a leak orchestrated by the government aimed at projecting an image of broader support by parties than what was really there.
The only party to have publicly supported the move was ruling DISY.
But while every other party criticised the government for making a “dangerous concession” with nothing to show in return, Kyprianou’s charge was precisely the opposite: that Anastasiades hadn’t been clear and bold enough.
“We suggested that the President make explicit proposals,” Kyprianou told state radio yesterday. “Turkish Cypriots have rights, solution or no solution. There should have been a clear reference that revenues belonging to the Turkish Cypriot community will be deposited to a special fund that will become available when the Cyprus problem is solved.”
“The issue of hydrocarbons is resolved, but the President’s statement did not say that,” Kyprianou added. “The only thing left to agree on is the communities’ share of the revenue.”
Kyprianou’s remarks were addressed by Kasoulides, who claimed that AKEL’s leader is “in search of reasons to demonstrate his differentiation,” and that Anastasiades’ statement was meant to offer the UN special envoy, Espen Barth Eide, a “way out of the deadlock created by Turkey.”
“President Anastasiades’ statement was not only aimed at domestic audiences – it was also intended for international stakeholders and the United Nations,” Kasoulides said.
Concurring with Kyprianou that the hydrocarbons issue is largely resolved, with the only issue left to agree being each community’s share of the proceeds, the Foreign minister said this has also been addressed in the Memorandum of Understanding, with a bill already being prepared.
“The Finance ministry is preparing a bill on this issue that will designate the percentage of the revenues that will be deposited in a fund for future generations, per the Norwegian model,” he said. “It will also designate the share allocated to each community.”
In a comment suggesting that the government has, in fact, been searching for unwilling allies, Kasoulides pointed out that the dissenting parties were “those who were never in favour of starting talks,” implying that AKEL should side with the government.
“Please allow me to comment for Mr Kyprianou – who is in search of reasons to demonstrate his differentiation – to hear, that there are those parties that were never in favour of starting talks, even before we started,” Kasoulides said. “They said the talks were being set up on a catastrophic premise – they never wanted the talks to start, and they don’t want them to resume now.”