By Angelos Anastasiou
One would have to be “mentally deficient” to not realise the certainty of an economic boom that would follow a solution to the Cyprus problem, President Nicos Anastasiades said in an interview with daily Politis on Friday.
“There is no doubt that a boom will ensue in terms of economic recovery, driven by investment,” he said. “I was recently at an international business conference in Sharm-el-Sheikh, and on the first day alone there had been announcements for investments in excess of €40 billion for Egypt from Arab countries.”
“Right now, any hesitation relating to Cyprus is owed, at least in part, to Turkish or Turkish Cypriot interventions aimed at blocking such investments.”
In the interview, Anastasiades said he expected the Cyprus problem talks to resume immediately following the election of a Turkish Cypriot leader later this month, and that their pace would likely pick up.
“If and when the messages brought to us by [UN special envoy] Mr Eide materialise, combined with the departure of the [Turkish seismic vessel] Barbaros, there is nothing preventing the resumption of the talks,” he said.
The President explained that the new round would be faster-paced, with more frequent meetings, as was “agreed in setting the agenda for the October 9 meeting” – before which talks were interrupted due to Anastasiades suspending his participation in protest of the issuance of a Turkish NAVTEX and the dispatching of the Barbaros for seismic research in Cyprus exclusive economic zone.
He added that in the interest of giving the talks a much-needed boost, he was considering certain confidence-building measures.
“I am considering announcing confidence-building measures, even unilaterally, in order to send a clear message that I mean what I say – namely, that my aim is a solution to the Cyprus problem as soon as possible,” he said.
“For example, for the 28 minefields we left behind in [mountain range in the island’s occupied area] Pentadaktylos, I don’t see why we can’t give maps so they can be destroyed, since they no longer serve a defensive purpose.”
Anastasiades repeated his disappointment with the stance of the US on the issue of Turkish violations of the Cypriot EEZ.
“We must speak the language of truth – the Americans disappointed me,” he said. “Not in their efforts to help in a settlement of the Cyprus problem, nor in the adoption of confidence-building measures, but the mere reference [they made] to Cyprus’ sovereign rights, without any reaction towards ending the violation.”
In contrast, he said, despite Russia’s unwillingness to involve itself in a Western problem, President Valdimir Putin had exemplified his support at the Security Council.
“I must say that this is appreciated, as will be any effort by the Americans to nudge Turkey in a positive direction towards a solution,” he said.
And in an attempt to put rumours of Russian demands for a military or naval base in Cyprus to rest, Anastasiades referred to his February visit to Russia. “I must say [Putin] was very clear,” he said. “They did not ask for anything – regardless of what the ambassador says.”
He was referring to Russia’s ambassador to Cyprus Stanislav Osadchiy, whose remarks prior to Anastasiades’ Russia trip hinted at such demands. “I am telling you what Mr Putin said,” Anastasiades insisted. “They had no demands – the ambassador did.”
The President’s interview drew harsh criticism from opposition parties DIKO and the Greens, which issued statements attacking his arguments.
“The President is trying to take advantage of the financial crisis, for which he bears much of the responsibility, to argue in favour of a hasty settlement to the Cyprus problem,” DIKO said.
“But he fails to point out that a bad solution will cripple the island’s economy forever. A bad economy can be fixed if handled properly, but a bad solution will be perpetually bad, with no prospect of being fixed.”
Meanwhile, the Greens took offence to Anastasiades’ “mentally deficient” remark.
“President Anastasiades used inappropriate characterisations to tempt the bankrupt Cypriots with the dream of ample economic growth and prosperity that a solution to the Cyprus problem will bring,” the Greens’ statement said.
“We will not tell him that only the mentally deficient fail to see where Turkey is leading the solution.”