The government’s foreign policy has collapsed
Interview of the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL A. Kyprianou to the weekly “Kathimerini” newspaper, Sunday 21st July 2019
Is the President’s move to accept Akinci’s invitation for an informal five-party meeting a tactical move or a U-turn?
AK: Developments themselves will provide the answer. If Mr. Anastasiades really does mean what he says, then he must engage in this procedure well-prepared, with the aim of going to the very end on the basis of the Guterres framework. That is to say, so that we can agree to a solution based on principles, provided that the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey too will rise to the occasion. It goes without saying that if, unfortunately, the effort were to fail, the situation and developments will be more than difficult and critical.
Given the intensity of Turkey’s provocative actions, why should we return to the negotiating table?
AK: We must first convince the United Nations, but also other important factors on the international political scene, that we really do have the political will to discuss and arrive through an intensive dialogue at an agreement within the Framework of the UN Secretary General, provided of course, that there will be the necessary response from other sides too. I am referring primarily to Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership. Given that, there will be increased interest and mobility. This mobility will either force Turkey to find a way to end even temporarily its provocative actions in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or it will be exposed before the international community.
Shouldn’t we raise an issue about the Guterres report and all the talk about recognition, but also on intentions towards the UN Secretary General?
AK: I expected that we would reach the point where from the initial position that was being expressed that Antonio Guterres is wise, experienced, competent and objective, he is now being attacked by certain forces and circles in Cyprus. Of course, we are not satisfied by his positions. We wanted them to be clearer.
But we have to reflect on why the UN Secretary General expresses his position in this way, as we must also be concerned about why the reaction of all those forces who support us on various issues is lukewarm. For example, Russia, a country that always supported Cyprus on these issues, today appears to adopt a differentiated position. No matter how many explanations may be given by Russia concerning the stand on sanctions against Turkey, it remains a fact that Russia has moved from the position it had until today on the Cyprus problem. This worries us and we are reflecting on the matter.
As AKEL, you have always had good relations with Russia. What is the reason behind this shift?
AK: Big countries are undoubtedly guided to a great extent by how their interests are served. Everyone, whether Russia or the US, take into account how their interests are best served when formulating their position on international issues.
For a long time, the Anastasiades government, and especially the Foreign Minister, were acting triumphantly because of the bilateral contacts they had forged with the US, discussing the issue of lifting the US embargo on arms sales on Cyprus and having intense talks with the Americans.
The result was the Rubio-Menendez bill, which in effect states that the Republic of Cyprus, Greece and Israel are the countries that the US will cooperate with in our region to remove the bad Russian influence.
If you were Russia wouldn’t you be disturbed by these positions?
Is this consequently the reason for the rupture between the two countries?
AK: I cannot say that there was a rupture. But take into account that it is a country that offered political and financial support to Cyprus during critical times and is concluding that Cyprus accepts to participate in a cooperation that aims at removing it from the region because it is considered a bad influence. How would you feel?
Has Russia’s stand disappointed you?
AK: It saddens us and we are concerned about the fact that there was a country supporting Cyprus in the UN Security Council. If it turns out in the evolution of developments that this support will be lost for any reason, I believe that it must concern the Anastasiades government. And it has to think not twice but three times about how it is acting not only on matters of substance, but also communication.
For example, the Foreign Minister was coming and going to America frequently. He was telling us that he was having discussions with them and that the path towards the lifting of the US arms embargo was proceeding well. As a consequence, we had the specific Rubio-Menendez bill. Who doesn’t believe that this specific bill wasn’t formulated without the participation of the Foreign Minister?
That is to say, you believe that the Foreign Minister is responsible…
AK: Logically everyone can draw some conclusions. Let us not forget that the first reaction of governing DISY party and the government was celebrating about this very bill. Indeed, DISY tabled a resolution in the House of Representatives to greet the adoption of the Rubio-Menendez bill, and when we reacted strongly, they concealed it. So they6 shouldn’t tell us today that they disagree with provisions of the bill.
You have stated that the measures approved by the EU against Turkey fall short of the circumstances. Given the stand also taken by other countries, doesn’t this mean that the EU is our only ally?
AK: It’s one thing to say in retrospect that “this is the best we could have achieved” and it’s something else to what was being said until the government agreed on the specific measures. I remind you of all the government’s declarations about the shielding the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) having been secured, all the pompous titles, press headlines that the Cypriot EEZ is protected. They weren’t, of course, statements made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, but where did the journalists get their information from? What were the sources of these positions? I think everyone can draw his/her conclusions…
The Foreign Minister stated publicly that the government has established the necessary counter mechanisms and that Turkey cannot cause us problems in the Cypriot EEZ. When Turkey began drillings, the government changed its line and narrative, saying that what it did say was that it could not rent vessels for drilling. Ridiculous assertions, as you understand.
When the issue came up initially, both Mr. Anastasiades and Foreign Minister Mr. Christodoulides were saying that they would attempt to get severe sanctions approved against Turkey which would force it as I understand it to terminate its provocative actions. We have now come to the point where some measures were approved that everyone considers as falling short of circumstances.
Now they are telling us that the EU should have some measures in reserve if Turkey provokes again, basically to impose additional sanctions. That is to say, the EU should have some sanctions ready that it could impose if Turkey proceeds to more provocative actions. I appreciate the EU’s support at the level of proclamations and thank it for the support it has given.
But what was the result of the measures adopted, given that measures are judged by their effectiveness?
The result was the arrival of Turkey’s 4th drilling vessel to the region.
Where are the measures in reserve that were supposedly ready on the sidelines, as the government was saying but weren’t employed when Turkey once again engaged in provocative actions?
Should we perhaps look at the idea of resuming the talks without the footnote referring to the need for an end to Turkey’s provocative actions?
AK: Turkey has an obligation – if it means what it says that it wants to contribute to the efforts to reach a solution to the Cyprus problem – to help towards diffusing the situation. We cannot go back to the negotiating table with any threat hanging over us. This is very clear.
What is the purpose of the letter you sent to Mr. Anastasiades?
AK: We must have a counter-proposal and the counter-proposal must move in two directions. Namely, that we are ready for a substantive resumption of negotiations aiming at intensive talks to come to an agreement as soon as possible in order to open the framework, to solve the other issues on the Cyprus problem and secondly, to put forth thoughts on how to alleviate the concerns of the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey on the natural gas issues; both justified, but also unjustified concerns.
Do you agree with the informal five-party meeting being proposed by Akinci?
AK: It depends on what will be discussed at this five-party meeting. If we will go to this meeting to make a clarification of principles with the intention of resuming the negotiations from where they had remained at Crans Montana and based on the Framework of the UN Secretary General with the aim of discussing a solution within the framework of a Bizonal, Bicommunal Federation, then we believe it might be the way to unlock the whole procedure.
However, if we will go to discuss something else, namely so-called “new ideas” or a two-state solution, this will be catastrophic.
Given that you have said that Nikos Anastasiades is in danger of becoming the President of partition, how do you trust him to return to the negotiating table and handle a framework for a solution?
AK: If and provided that the two leaders will resume negotiations on the Cyprus problem and reach an agreement, we will judge its content. Even back then when we were backing the procedure, we made it very clear that we were not giving Mr. Anastasiades a free hand and a blank cheque; that we will judge the conclusion from its content. That is to say, whether the conclusion satisfies us and not what Mr. Anastasiades and Mr. Akinci will say. That is what we will do today as well.
We have reservations about Mr. Anastasiades’ intentions because it’s not just the many foreign diplomats here in Cyprus who say that Mr. Anastasiades has confided in them in one way or another that a two-state solution must be discussed as the feasible solution to the Cyprus problem.
Whether out of incapability or deliberately, Mr. Anastasiades is bringing us increasingly closer to the definitive partition of Cyprus. I don’t care why this is being done, but I care about the result. If we go to partition, he himself will bear huge responsibilities.
At the recent meeting of the political leaders you were the only Party with the most objections to the joint communiqué…
AK: AKEL insisted that our response to Mr. Akinci’s proposal should not be restricted to a mere “No”. The other political parties believed we had to simply reply that the proposal was unacceptable.
Why should I have to agree with their own view? Why should AKEL agree that all the parties must agree for the sake of unity?
But what kind of unity? A unity leading to disaster.
If I consider someone’s approach leads to catastrophe, should he decide and tell me that in order not to ruin unity, you must agree with me?
For unity to exist, there must be agreement on a strategic goal, a common goal. I told them at the meeting that five out of the eight political leaders present don’t agree with the solution of bi-zonal bi-communal federation.
There must be an understanding between us, and not the policy of “I decide and you support me”. That’s not how unity is forged and how a minimum mutual respect is developed.
For that reason, AKEL’s objections began from this starting point.
Is AKEL alone in this direction?
AK: Let’s see how things will evolve. At the meeting of the political leaders other leaders also expressed positions that were in a direction similar to mine. Regardless of how strongly or not they were involved in the debate surrounding the joint communiqué, others also took a similar position.
Do you think you are being vindicated by developments?
AK: Time will show who is right.
When we left Crans Montana and I began to express some concerns and doubts about what happened there. Everyone was telling me that I am an “agent of the Turks” and that I “serve Turkish interests”. In the course of time, things are clearer.
Both with regards all that has occurred in the EEZ as AKEL had predicted and also on the issue of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), time will show how the situation will evolve.
Intervention of Georgos Koukoumas, member of the C.C. of AKEL and the International Relations Department, at the Hearing “Palestine: What’s Next?” organized by GUE/NGL2015-07-1
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