Sunday

15th Jul 2018

Re-elected Cyprus president eyes fresh peace talks

  • 'The biggest challenge we face is reunifying our country,' said Anastasiades (Photo: Consilium)

Cypriot president Nikos Anastasiades set new talks to reunite the island as his priority after he won a second mandate on Sunday (4 February).

"The biggest challenge we face is reunifying our country," he said, after beating Stavros Malas in the second-round run-off to the presidential election, with 55.99 percent of the vote.

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He said he will "continue to work with the same determination in a bid to achieve our common goal, ending occupation and reunifying our country."

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded in 1974, between a Greek Cypriot part in the south, which is part of the EU, and a Turkish Cypriot in northern part still occupied by some 35,000 Turkish troops.

A UN-led negotiation between Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci failed last summer, over the question of power-sharing between the two communities and of the withdrawal and right of military intervention of Turkey.

While Anastasiades blamed Turkey for the failure, some critics said that Anastasiades did not show enough flexibility.

"I remind all of our compatriots that the current state of affairs cannot be the solution to the Cyprus issue," he said on Sunday.

The re-elected president told Greek daily Kathimerini that he was "determined to continue the dialogue, at least as far as the domestic aspects are concerned in the immediate future."

He said that Greek Cypriots would "need some solid preparation" before launching a new attempt at negotiations.

Better prepared

In recent months, Greek Cypriots have admitted privately that they were not prepared enough last year to propose concrete solutions on the most disputed issues in the talks, and that they would need a different approach.

Anastasiades added however that "the effort will once again be doomed to failure" if Turkey's positions "are not in harmony with the [UN] parameters."

But Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, also speaking to Kathimerini, warned that new negotiations under UN parameters will begin "only if Greek Cypriots change their mentality."

He said that Greek Cypriots "still believe they can absorb [Turkish Cypriots] into the existing administration instead of establishing a genuine new partnership based on political equality."

Speaking under condition of anonymity, a Turkish diplomat went further over the weekend, saying that Greek Cypriots "don't want to negotiate."

"Basically they are saying we are the legitimate government of the island," the diplomat said. "I think with this approach and if there is no new parameters, I don't see anything in the future coming."

Anastasiades' re-election and commitment to continue peace efforts come as a new coalition government is being put in place in the Turkish Cypriot part, led by Tufan Erhurman, a politician close to Akinci.

On Sunday evening, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker sent a congratulations letter to Anastasiades and said that he stood "ready as ever" to help in the reunification process.

Anastasiades, the leader of the centre-right Democratic Rally (Disy), won over the Communist-backed Malas with the promise of economic growth and a continuation of his efforts towards reunification.

He was elected in 2013 during a financial crisis, just before Cyprus was bailed out by the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

The country exited the programme in 2016, and growth is expected to reach 3.5 percent this year. But Cypriots still have to deal with the social consequences of the crisis, and with massive amount of unpaid bank loans to companies and individuals.

"There's still a lot more we need to do," Anastasiades said on Sunday evening, calling on "everyone to work together to tackle the problems the country is facing."

Malas, whom Anastasiades had already beaten in the previous election in 2013, insisted that the Cypriot "society must become more decisive and mature, and more critical of politics," and he called on the president to "look after Cyprus".

Cyprus' deja-vu choice for president

Greek Cypriots will elect their president on Sunday (4 February), facing the same choice as at the previous vote five years ago: incumbent Nikos Anastasiades against Stavros Malas.

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A week after the failure of negotiations to reunite the islands, Greek Cypriots are calling on Turkish Cypriots to reaffirm their commitment to the process.

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