“There’s no room for pre-election considerations on the Cyprus problem”
Interview with the General Secretary of AKEL Andros Kyprianou
“SIMERINI” newspaper, Sunday 26th March 2017
Those who followed the meeting of the House of Representative’s Education Committee on the draft bill proposed by DISY with regards the powers to decide on anniversaries in schools, talk about a seemingly self-contradictory effect. AKEL on the one hand insists that it supports the draft bill and to be precise for political reasons, namely invoking the Cyprus problem, while DISY, the party that submitted the proposal, declaring that there is no political connotation in the proposal. So which assertion is true?
AK: I want to clarify from the outset that the only reason that we back DISY’s draft proposal is to remove every possible argument from the Turkish side so that the negotiation procedure will continue in order to find a solution to the Cyprus problem. At the same time however, AKEL maintains its opposition to powers being transferred from one elected body to an appointed person, let alone when this refers to a person (Note: the Education Minister) which under specific governments still needs the approval of the Church to be appointed. Unfortunately, however, the House’s handling has provoked the problem and obliges us to make these moves.
When this issue was discussed in the plenary of the House, we said that the House is committing a big mistake that would indeed provoke problems to the negotiations. Regretfully, developments have vindicated AKEL. DISY since then has tried to convey the message that this is a purely a matter of a lack of time in school.
From the very beginning AKEL took a different and explicitly political approach and perspective to the issue of the Enosis day school celebration vote. It is political schizophrenia to honour the policy of Enosis, at the same time as the Greek Cypriot side wants to convince the Turkish Cypriots that our future is common. The idea of Enosis as far as we are concerned is buried since 1960, with the declaration of Cyprus independence. Certain circles and forces remained fixed on the idea of Enosis and provoked through their actions a terrible disaster, preparing the coup d’état, which in turn subsequently brought the Turkish invasion and the occupation of our territories by the Turkey which is still continuing.
How do you judge DISY’s stance? Do you think it is a sincere position?
AK: There is no need for me to characterize DISY’s stand, let the people judge themselves. People have opinions and can understand precisely what occurred as far DISY’s stance is concerned.
Do you expect that the Minister of Education will proceed with the removal of the reference to the Enosis referendum from the relevant list of anniversaries? Have you received some assurances that it will be used in a way that you want for you to support the bill?
AK: Let me say that if the Turkish side continues to insist even after this development, then it will have lost every support. The Minister should simply make it clear that it will not seek to honour the policy of Enosis in schools. It is a statement that was made in the past as well. I see no problem in doing so.
Have there been contacts and consultations with DISY on this issue before the debate in the House? Have you spoken face to face, either at the level of political leaders, or at a House of Representatives level?
AK: Consultations are always ongoing with all parties when a particular issue is due to be discussed in the House. On this issue, however we stated our position in public too. DISY knew our position on this issue.
“Over recent weeks there’s been no communication with the President”
AKEL talks about the necessity for the waging of a substantive dialogue on the Cyprus problem. The President also referred to a substantive dialogue in New York. Have you spoken with him? Is AKEL finally on the same line as the President on the Cyprus problem? What’s the truth?
AK: We have no contact whatsoever and haven’t spoken with the President of the Republic in recent weeks. We had no and have no briefing about what will be discussed with the UN Secretary General in New York. AKEL’s position is clear. We must focus on how the negotiations will resume. Secondly, but a main goal, must be to ensure the talks are substantive in relation to the issues to be discussed.
Our appeal to President Anastasiades was that he should seek to defuse the tension and take initiatives without making concessions on issues of principle. He himself unfortunately didn’t take initiatives. In 2010, however, he used exactly the opposite rhetoric than he is using today and we remind him of that. Both Mr. Anastasiades and Mr. Akinci are aware of our positions and views. For us, it is an essential prerequisite that there be a discussion of the key issues and an exchange of views on core issues.
What did you propose to the President of the Republic for the continuation of the negotiations?
AK: Given that one is afraid of the other, in relation to what one side might make concessions without a response from the other side, we proposed a free discussion on the prior agreement that nothing that will be discussed will apply, that no side will not be committed to anything if there is no convergence on all the points. That is, nothing should apply if there is no conclusion, that nothing should be recorded so that, in case of disagreement, it would even be as if nothing at all has been said.
What do you see as the key and core issues for discussion?
AK: Certainly the issue of security, an issue, however, on which there can be no conclusion just between the two communities. We will need to discuss this issue with the guarantor powers and the permanent members of the UN Security Council, but also with the EU. Another core issue is the territorial and the property issue. For us these issues are connected. The question of effective participation, political equality and executive power are also important and essential issues.
If there is indeed room to arrive at a conclusion, then we should proceed. If not then perhaps the best thing would be to take a break to reflect on the next steps. But these issues must be discussed in depth.
“Let all those who say that we act to serve election motives test us”
They blame you for adopting a more aggressive stand towards President Anastasiades on the Cyprus problem because of the upcoming presidential elections. What is your personal relationship with President Anastasiades and what you think about the tactics he has followed on the Cyprus problem?
AK: We should clarify that AKEL determines its stand according to how President of the Republic handles the Cyprus problem. At the beginning of his term and for a whole year we were opposing him and exerting strong criticism, because we felt that the policy he followed was a dead-end policy. Unfortunately since then we have been vindicated by developments themselves.
After April 2014, and particularly after the assumption of Mustafa Akinci of the leader of the Turkish Cypriot side, we backed the procedure as Nikos Anastasiades continued the discussion to a great extent on the Christofias-Talat convergences. We considered that this move was in the correct direction. When, however, we saw that President again changed his stand after the approval of the amendment tabled by ELAM in the House, we again took a clear position and upheld our positions.
Let those who claim they we are acting guided by pre-election expediencies test us. Let Mr. Anastasiades operate in a way that really aims at achieving a solution of the Cyprus problem, and not simply to keep the negotiation procedure going for the sake of argument. Let’s work with a view towards reaching a conclusion at the dialogue and he will see how AKEL will behave. We have demonstrated in recent years that we have the ability to separate the Cypriot problem from all the issues. The solution of the Cyprus problem is a matter of survival of our people and we have an obligation to act patriotically.
With regards our personal relationships, we have no problem, we are politicians, policies are our positions. He could have contacted us over these last few weeks, but he didn’t. If he felt the need to do so he would have contacted us, I guess.
The “intermediate centre political spectrum” and AKEL’s criteria
The intermediate centre political spectrum aims to agree on a common candidate for the presidential election, a candidate based on specific criteria, which have seen the light of day. Does AKEL have criteria for the candidate it will support and, if so, what are they?
AK: I haven’t seen the criteria that the so-called intermediate centre political spectrum has elaborated. But frankly I wonder how they will manage to cooperate together. Some of them seek a unitary state solution, others want federation. Either they are fooling one another, or they are lying to each other, or they are lying together to the people. One has a problem with federation, the other with bizonality, the other with the content of federation. How do they agree on the Cyprus problem? Where is their basis for their convergence on the Cyprus problem?
However, they also have problems on economic issues, as DIKO voted with DISY on almost all the Memoranda legislation, while the others frequently voted against them together with AKEL. I think this is deliberate attempt to fool the people in relation to the policy basis of their convergence, which in our view does not exist.
What are the criteria for the candidate AKEL will support?
AK: As AKEL, we decided at our Programmatic Conference that cooperation/alliances must be forged based on principles so that they are sustainable and do not mislead the people. For us, the positions on the Cyprus problem are of crucial importance, but also on internal matters. The candidate AKEL will support must be characterized by integrity, quality and be a figure whose primary concern should be to serve the country and people, and not his/her own personal ambitions through his election to the Presidency.
This candidate must be able to operate by consensus, be capable and have experience and knowledge to take the country forward. The key objectives must be to solve the Cyprus problem based on all that we have supported over so many years and to pursue a socio-economic policy for all the people and not just for the privileged few.
Could AKEL support a candidate who will either be against the sought solution, or one that is against part of it?
AK: Under no circumstances can AKEL support a candidate who disagrees with the strategic objective of the solution, namely a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution; who disagrees with everything we as AKEL have been saying and supporting over the years.
Does the timetable you set for taking your final decisions until late June-early July still apply?
AK: After Easter we will start the discussion on the presidential elections. We will see if we will initiate contacts with some political parties, which ones and with what proposals. We’re going to the grass roots of our party membership, to hear opinions. We need about two months to complete the whole procedure after it commences. The decision will be taken at an extraordinary Party Congress to be held specifically for this purpose.
In the ability of the candidate to listen to the young generation also a criterion?
AK: We are dealing very intensely with the issue of young people. Our position is that the policies to be pursued must be the key issue and not just the role of the individual. Young people feel that they are being marginalized, that no one cares about them, that they can’t be understood and that we do not include their demands in the policies we are pursuing. We must see how we can change this, because if you don’t take steps in this direction, you will not only lose them only for an election, but for much more as well, unfortunately.
We are striving to be consistent on issues of principle and approach young people with a sincere desire to genuinely listen to them. Sometimes politicians become examples to be avoided. Political involvement shouldn’t be seen by certain politicians as a theatre in which they act according to circumstantial interests.
“The Government has failed yet again”
AK: You reacted strongly to the government’s appointment of the new Ombudsman. Did you expect a different approach from the President on this issue?
AK: I want to be clear on this issue. Under no circumstance was it our intention to come into conflict with Mrs. Lottides. We don’t question neither her capabilities, nor her knowledge or personality.
On the contrary, we respect her. However, what we are judging is the decision of the Ministerial Cabinet. It is generally admitted that there was another person who had the necessary capabilities, knowledge and experience to be appointed to this post. This person has been at the Ombudsman for 25 years, working professionally in his post, being effective in his duties and with the necessary sensitivity.
This naturally should have been the proposal to the House. Unfortunately, yet again, the government has failed to correctly rank its priorities and demands. Instead of choosing the most appropriate priority, it has made other options. Everyone can have his/her thoughts about the reasons why it acted in this way. We believe that there was a better proposal that should have been tabled.
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