Excerpts from the interview with the General Secretary of the C.C. Andros Kyprianou
Sunday 21st June 2020, POLITIS newspaper
“We must create the preconditions and cultivate the idea among public opinion, that the solution of the Cyprus problem is imperative because partition will be catastrophic; that partition will not be the end of the road, but the starting point for new adventures for Cyprus and the Cypriot people as a whole”
Why do you criticize President Anastasiades so much for closing the checkpoints, when it is Mr. Tatar and Mr. Ozersay who don’t allow them to open?
AK: What AKEL was criticising from the first moment was the carelessness/shoddiness with which the government acted. I would like to remind you that one day the President of ruling DISY was stating that the checkpoints will not be closed, and if they will close both the airports and ports will also be closed, while the next day the decision was taken unilaterally to close only some checkpoints and in the end the coronavirus arrived from the airports…
It was the Anastasiades government with its sloppiness and spasmodic actions that politically charged its decisions, forcing us to react. Subsequently, of course, the illegal pseudo-government of Mr. Tatar and Mr. Ozersay in the occupied areas) closed all the checkpoints. I understand Mr. Tatar and Mr. Ozersay, because their priority is the solution of the Cyprus problem through partition. They are taking steps to realise this goal. Our priority isn’t partition, at least that’s what is being declared by the government, and for that reason our own actions must move in another direction. And it shouldn’t annoy when AKEL says that the government must take initiatives to open the checkpoints.
I repeat that we want to reunite Cyprus, and if that is our goal, then our actions must be aim at precisely that. The most important thing is what perceptions are being cultivated in people’s minds. If they cultivate the notion that we cannot live together and that it would be better if we lived separately, well, then we will unavoidably slide towards partition.
More than 70% of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers come from the occupied territories, according to figures released by the Minister of Interior.
AK: I’m not sure the numbers are correct. Even if this were the case what does that mean – that the checkpoints should be closed forever? Obviously, the Minister of the Interior means that they are passing through other parts of the division line. It is one of the many issues that arise because of the occupation and that’s yet another reason why we insist on the solution of the Cyprus problem. Beyond that, no one should forget that we have international obligations with regards the respect for human rights, the provision of asylum, etc. The Interior Minister frequently appears to forget this.
What we all need to do is to look in the mirror and think that by chance we aren’t among the millions of people who are being uprooted and displaced as refugees. Let’s look in the mirror and consider the hypocrisy. Now, at the political level, the government, their Ministers and ruling DISY party must immediately stop facilitating racism and intolerance. They should understand the given situation and view the refugee and immigration issue objectively. The EU bears grave responsibilities for the situation that has evolved due to the Dublin System that is trapping refugees in the Mediterranean South and the EU-Turkey Agreement that is paying Turkey an enormous amount of money to instrumentalize refugees.
Only AKEL has taken a stand against these two agreements. Neither the Ministers of the Government, nor the President himself have said a single word against or called on their friends in the EU or the European People’s Party to revise these agreements.
You have said that Tatar – Ozersay want to partition our country. If Mr. Akinci loses the “election” in the occupied areas, will the possibility of reunification of our country be lost?
AK: The chances for a resumption of substantive negotiations with a solution for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal solution will be greatly reduced. That is precisely the reason why over the last three years we have been putting pressure on Mr. Anastasiades to take initiatives that would create the preconditions for the resumption of negotiations.
After the “elections” in the occupied territories, and depending on the given situation that will have evolved, our government, Mr. Anastasiades, must take many initiatives that should be sincere and convince the Secretary General of the UN that we are genuinely interested in a solution.
At the same time, and I regret to say this, we should have made use of all this period to create the correct preconditions among public opinion. That is to say, to prepare public opinion for the need of a solution to the Cyprus problem and to explain the benefits that will arise from a correct solution. Furthermore, the government should call on the people to support the effort to achieve a fair, under the circumstances, workable and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem.
Instead of doing precisely that, we have seen both Mr. Anastasiades and Mr. Akinci – who has taken a much more positive stand lately – for a long time engaging in a blame game. This approach is unrealistic. It doesn’t lead anywhere. We must create the preconditions and cultivate the idea among public opinion, that the solution of the Cyprus problem is imperative because partition will be catastrophic; that partition will not be the end of the road, but the starting point for new adventures for Cyprus and the Cypriot people as a whole.
What initiatives must the President of the Republic take?
AK: The Secretary General of the United Nations says something very simple in all the Reports he has submitted. Namely that, “You have to convince me that this time, if we resume negotiations, we will go all the way”. Therefore, Mr. Anastasiades should convince Mr. Guterres that this time he really does mean it.
Mr. Erdogan however should primarily mean it…
AK: Mr. Erdogan is indeed a big problem, for various reasons that I don’t think I need to analyse now. He is escalating the aggression and provocative actions against both Cyprus and the wider region. He is a major obstacle to the promotion of many initiatives for peace. The question for us is simple, in my opinion. And because Mr. Erdogan exists, does that mean that we have to do nothing to solve the Cyprus problem because we don’t trust him? This approach leads, with mathematical certainty, to the definitive partition of Cyprus.
Our view is that, knowing the difficulties we will face with Mr. Erdogan, aware of the problems that will arise in the course of the procedure, we should struggle with all our strength to achieve a solution. Mr. Erdogan will either be forced to cooperate if we are consistent to our policy, or he will show what his real role is. That is why we say that contradictions and regressions have no place in the approaches of the Greek Cypriot side. We must have a very clear line in favour of the solution, of a correct solution. All our actions must serve this goal.
Does President Anastasiades have the Cyprus problem in mind? What is your assessment?
AK: This will be demonstrated by developments themselves. I want to respond in this way at this stage. We will judge him when the “electoral” process in the occupied territories is over.
Do you talk to Mr. Anastasiades about the Cyprus problem? How long has it been since you talked to the President about the Cyprus problem?
AK: I have to admit I haven’t for a very long time.
The safeguarding of labour rights
Regarding the Ministry of Labour’s new schemes to support businesses and working people, the General Secretary of AKEL said that right now he considers that the biggest problem is how labour rights are safeguarded. “Together with the trade unions, we will struggle to ensure that there are no redundancies and any pay cuts. The Minister of Labour said that a salary reduction may be made if the employee accepts it voluntarily. This is unacceptable in the following sense: what happens if an employer pressures an employee to reduce his/her salary and the employee does not accept? The government’s position should have been much more firm on this specific issue”, Andros Kyprianou pointed out. The government itself must take the initiative to ask working people what the consequences of the economic crisis are, what the employers’ behavior is, and subsequently the government itself should take action so that the burden of the crisis isn’t shifted on to working people themselves”.
How do you assess the economy’s course after the relaxation of the restrictive measures?
AK: Objectively, the economy will face many difficulties. And let’s not forget that we are a country that went through a great crisis after the decisions taken by the Eurogroup and Anastasiades government in 2013. We managed after many difficulties and sacrifices made by the people to reach a satisfactory level, but the coronavirus pandemic broke out and for sure we are once again entering a new cycle of economic crisis.
I believe that the measures initially taken by the government to support workers, the self-employed, small and medium-sized enterprises and businesses in general have been in the correct direction. With shortcomings, weaknesses and inadequacies, such as on the issue of rent, where there is still a very big problem, which I think the government does not realise. This problem is huge and will lead to the closure of a great many businesses unless more decisive decisions are taken by the government.
Furthermore, tourism has been hit hard and I have to say that there are differences even between various tourist areas. The situation is different in Limassol, different in Larnaca, different in Paphos and much worse in Ayia Napa and Protaras. The government must study these peculiarities and see how it supports each region accordingly.
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