What does an informal international conference of a procedural character to agree the terms of reference mean? Some forces and circles believe that there are pitfalls and others that this is time-consuming so that no real negotiations can begin until after the elections in the occupied territories. What is AKEL’s assessment?
AK: At this very moment we are talking we don’t know what the conclusion on the terms of reference will be. The intention, from what I have understood according to the briefingMr. Anastasiades gave us, is that there should be an agreement in principle on the terms of reference and if required they should be finalized at the meeting with the UN Secretary-General. If this still isn’t possible there, thenthe objective will be that these terms should be clarified in the presence of the guarantor powerswithin the framework of an informal international conference.
Are there dangers if and provided that negotiations will resume? Thisis what shouldinterest us and not so much the issue of an informal conference. There are numerous dangers.
We have two options before us right now.
One option is not to enter into negotiations. This option with mathematical certaintywill lead us to partition. Since 1974 we have declared that the only way to solve the Cyprus problem is through negotiations. If we don’t have ongoing negotiations, we will be falling backwards. We have already drifted backwards quite a bit. Ideas in favour of partition are being promoted and in favour of a two state solution. Turkey is stepping up its provocative actionsin the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and if the deadlock on the Cyprus problem continues these things will intensify.
The other option is to go into negotiations. We will encounternumerous dangers. That’s certain. Dangers of deviating from the correct basis of the solution; dangers leading to a new stalemate and others. That is precisely why AKEL insists that going into a negotiation process - if indeed we will do so - it is imperative that our sidemakes absolutely correct handlings; that there are no contradictions and regressions, otherwise we will greatly damage our goal, and at the same time that our aside is extremely well-prepared.
This is the only way to address the dangers that will exist in this procedure.
With regards your question whetherthis is being done for a delay to occur, I cannot know. The President of the Republic has given us some explanations as to why the specific dates and demands have been set by Mr.Akinci. We shall seek to speak with Mr. Akinci, to find out what their own intentions and views are, without questioning what Mr. Anastasiades has said. We will seek to convince him of the need to conclude on the correct basis as soon as possible.
I’m asking you about the dangers in the procedure because there is a perception lurking that Turkey will seek to “give” on procedural issues in order to “get”in the substantive negotiations. I don't know if these are all some scenarios…
AK: It's something more than scenarios, permit me to say. They are science fiction scenarios. Turkey will always strive to gain as much as it can, both as regards theprocedure, as well as on the substance. The point is that we should have our own arguments to counter Turkey's objectives and promote our own positions.
Do we have the arguments?
AK: AKEL, in contrast to what is being said by other parties, believes that the Framework of the UN Secretary-General contains references that shield us on important issues. There are certainreferences that do not completely satisfy us, but no one should expect that we will be completely satisfied with all the Secretary General’s references. That’s precisely why we must go to the negotiations well-prepared, to put forth our arguments and try to improvethem.
However, the fact that other parties have from the very outsetquestioned the Guterres Framework, considering it a bad basis for negotiation is odd. How far back must we go in the history of negotiations for the basis of negotiations to be considered good?
AK: This is not the first time that some parties are questioning the UN Secretary General's framework. I think the analyses they are making are wrong. For AKEL, the worrying part of the Framework is how it tries to resolve the Property issue and that’s precisely what wemustbe seeking to improve. On the rest of the issues, I consider that the UN Secretary General responds to our own concerns and we must put forth as our protective shield the position of the UN Secretary General. The main issue as far as we are concerned is the issue of guarantees and security and the position of the UN Secretary-General shields us.
Aren't you worried that they are talking about convergences up to Crans Montana and what Guterres Framework each side istalking aboutisn’t being clarified?
AK:There are three elements that are taken into account for the formulation of the terms of reference. One is the Joint Communique of February 2014. We had expressed ourown position back then. In general, we considered it as satisfactory. We concluded that there was a slight setback on the issue of sovereignty. From the "single sovereignty" that was included in the Christofias – Talat Joint Communique, the "single" was deleted. This issue can be satisfied in the negotiations. The second was the reference to "constituent states" instead of "constituent entities", which isn’t particularly important.
The second element is the Guterres Framework.This Framework exists in writing, since I hear parties demanding that it should be submitted in writing. ThisFramework is containedin the UN Secretary-General's Report submitted in September 2017. And I wonder why certain partieswant it to be submitted in writing.
The third element is the convergences that were recorded up to Crans Montana. Here we may also have certain concerns about some amendments made by the Anastasiades government to the Christofias-Talat convergences, such as regarding the General Health Plan, the issue of the Social Insurance Fund, and others. We will study everything and take our final decisions based on the final outcome.
You have said that AKEL in this new effort that is beginning will be constructive and positive. Doesn’t this mean giving a blank chequeand a free hand with regards Mr. Anastasiades’ handling (of the Cyprus problem)?
AK: No, not under any circumstances. This means many other things. First of all, we reserve the right to judge every step that will be taken by Mr.Anastasiades. We will not hesitate to criticize him fiercely as well if we consider that Mr. Anastasiades is not moving in the correct direction.
During the procedure? You didn’t do this in the past.
AK: During the procedure. We have drawn lessons from the past. This is not going to deter us from stating our different point of view on developments - and publicly because in the past we were stating our position in the National Council. Now we'll say our position publicly.
How much credibility does the President of the Republic now have for someone to trust him after two years ofrejectionist rhetoric?
AK: This question is put by many people and in my opinion it is justified. What has intervened for Mr. Anastasiades to change his approaches? Nothing specifichas intervened exceptTurkey’s provocative actions in the Cyprus EEZ, and apart from the fact that the idea of a two-state solution has collapsed.
That is precisely why I say that we are very cautious and at the same time very determined. This effort, if and provided thatit resumes, must succeed. That is why everyone must play their own role.
In the past you had taken initiatives in the direction of Turkey. Are you thinking of doing something similar in view of the statements made by Turkish officials referring to the 1974 period?
AK: Let's see how things will evolve and then we’ll see. If it’snecessary, we will certainly take initiatives.
Government sources are leaking reports that Turkey insists that all forms of solution should be put on the table...
AK: I don’t know that. That's what they are saying in public. I don’t know right now what will beput on the negotiating table and what will be recorded in the terms of reference. Mr. Anastasiades has told us that he has agreed with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mr. Akinci that they are discussing the solution of Bi-zonal, Bi-communal Federation.
Do you agree with a possible recourse to the UN Security Council on Famagusta and the threats issued for colonization?
AK: This issue must be studied very seriously. If we are not sure of the result we must be very cautious and careful. We are not against (a recourse) in principle, but the matter needs to be studied very carefully and we must ensure that if we do so that we will have a positive result.
How do you interpret the reactions that followed after the statements that you are seeking to remove Mr. Anastasiades from power and the press reportsabout your meeting with the President of the Democratic Party DIKO? Are certain forces and circles worried about the possibility of AKEL regaining executive power through cooperations?
AK: That we shall seek to forge cooperationin the next presidential election to remove DISY and Mr. Anastasiades from power goes without saying. I wonder why some people are surprised about this, which should be considered as something natural. This is how political life works in all countries.
Let me clarify for the umpteenth time that the cooperation we shall be seeking will be based on a framework of political positions. We're not going to forge cooperations/alliances that will be in danger of collapsing the day after elections. We want there to forge a solid foundation upon which these cooperations/alliances will be based on.
I met with Mr. Papadopoulos and stated publicly that we had a brief meeting in which we discussed the Cyprus problem. It is a big mistake for someone to believe that because the parties have different positions, we shouldn’t talk to each other. We discussed a common concern that we both had. That is to say, that there is a serious dangerthat we are heading towards partition. And, yes,that does unite us. That is, neither AKEL, nor DIKO want partition. So what's the surprise? We also have meetings and discussions withthe leader of the “Citizen’s Alliance” Mr. Lillikas and other political leaders on issues that are pending before the House of Representatives and affect society.