| Cyprus Problem |Politis

HOW MUCH CREDIBILITY DOES NIKOS CHRISTODOULIDES HAVE LEFT REGARDING THE CYPRUS PROBLEM?

ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ (GREEK) TÜRKÇE (TURKISH)

The biggest problem of the Greek Cypriot side concerning the Cyprus problem is President Christodoulides’ lack of credibility 

What is the biggest challenge faced by the Greek Cypriot side regarding the Cyprus problem today? The lack of credibility of President Christodoulides. Everyone recognises that [Ersin] Tatar is outside the framework, everyone wants to bring him back in line, but on the other hand no one is sure what the Greek Cypriot leader’s positions and approaches are. Officially, he states almost daily that he is ready to resume negotiations from the point where the talks left off in July 2017 in Crans-Montana.

What can he do?

If he really means that we should start where we left off, he could determine the process himself with relative ease. First of all, he needs to clarify where he thinks we left off, because he only causes confusion through his statements. Then, in a public statement, let him invite Tatar, Turkey and the United Nations to a meeting, while declaring his readiness to sign the Guterres Framework as a basis for the start of a final round of negotiations. For those concerned only with impressions, even if this were rejected by the Turkish side, there would only be gains for the G/C side. First, Nikos Christodoulides would stop being seen as unreliable; second, the pressure would be shifted onto Turkey. Of course, there’s more. If talks commence, the UN this time around seems ready to give credit and blame to each side depending on how they negotiate. Everyone also understands that such a move would be the last attempt to reach a BBF [Bizonal Bicommunal Federation] solution, so in the event of another failure, it would be expected to seek a solution on another basis.

The responsibility

So, could President Christodoulides move in this direction? We all understand, unfortunately, 50 years after the invasion, that we did not have a leadership ready to take responsibility for a compromise. We could not do anything even when Ankara removed the extremist Rauf Denktaş. Neither Tassos Papadopoulos (who tearfully rejected the Annan Plan in 2004), nor Demetris Christofias (who, in fear of political isolation, refused to sign the Downer Convergences in the presence of Ban Ki-moon in 2010), nor Nicos Anastasiades (who, acting irresponsibly, was in a hurry to leave Crans-Montana in 2017) had the political depth and sense of historical responsibility to negotiate a solution plan. We are talking about a huge contradiction. It is not possible for all three of these Presidents to constantly state publicly that the status quo is not in our favour, that a non-solution favours Turkey, but when we are a breath away from a solution they run away.

Nikos Christodoulides is unfortunately the successor to all three Presidents. Moreover, as a historian, he has studied and incorporated into his repertoire several mannerisms of Spyros Kyprianou and, of course, Makarios III. From the former, we recognise in his flowing speech the diplomatic rambling of Spyros Kyprianou and in the latter, Makarios’ inability to make decisions.   

The teacher

Reading his thesis titled “Domestic variables and the shaping of foreign policy – The Cyprus Experience 1977-1990”, one might think that he is a politician with the potential to go above and beyond. When it comes to theory and especially communication, Christodoulides is very good. When it comes to his political practice, unfortunately, he learnt from the worst. Ten years alongside Nicos Anastasiades taught him that superficiality has no immediate political cost, he realised how useful populism is, he understood that the ends justify the means, he realised that you do not need equal partners in dialogue, but obedient associates, he sensed that an arriviste politician can achieve more for himself in office than a politician with principles. Who cares about their history and legacy today?

That’s basically how he became Anastasiades’ ultimate butler: The man for difficult and confidential missions. The man who was behind every meeting, political, financial, and sometimes as an orchestrator of other kinds of social contacts and interactions. He was the man who talked night and day with all the journalists to convince them that Anastasiades was right about everything.

In 2016, when Nicos Anastasiades realised that the Cyprus problem process was heating up, with good prospects of even reaching a solution after [Mustafa] Akinci submitted a map (at Mont Pèlerin), he started complaining that the United Nations were in a hurry and that this simpleton [Espen Barth] (Eide) was dragging everyone along because he wanted to be Prime Minister of Norway. In effect, instead of preparing for a difficult second referendum, Nicos Anastasiades was preparing for a second term. He opted for his re-election first and then to take – if he had to take – the risk of a second referendum. This tactic, of course, forced a huge shift in the Cyprus problem. 

From this point onwards, the role of Nikos Christodoulides is further enhanced, as he assumes a catalytic role in the political shift of Nicos Anastasiades away from the political thought of [Glafcos] Clerides to that of Tassos Papadopoulos.

Initiatives

* To this end, based on the testimony of our negotiator at the time [Andreas] Mavroyiannis, Nikos Christodoulides pressured Anastasiades to leave Mont Pèlerin, and even strongly disagreed with the dinner held between Anastasiades and Akinci a few weeks later because he did not want to lose political capital. We all understand that he began building a profile for the 2023 presidential election from the beginning of 2017. The leverage he gained being close to Anastasiades also granted him a very convenient position at the Foreign Ministry. 

* During the Crans-Montana conference in July 2017, he consistently served the Anastasiades tactic that the presidential election assumed primacy over the negotiations. In this, he found a very loyal ally in Nikos Kotzias, who despite his hang-ups eventually proved very useful to Nicos Anastasiades. 

* Then the backtracking began with regard to the basis of a solution to the Cyprus problem. Nicos Anastasiades’ position initially on a loose federation or even later on two states was, according to Turkish claims, put before [Mevlüt] Çavuşoğlu in Crans-Montana. This issue was discussed again, according to statements made by Averof Neofytou, in the “Legal Matters” podcast with lawyer Christoforos Christofi, at the Peninsula Hotel in New York in September 2018.  This time, at the Anastasiades-Çavuşoğlu meeting, the then foreign minister – Nikos Christodoulides – was also present. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. From Christodoulides’ circle, it is said that the issue to be discussed was Anastasiades’ proposal for a loose federation. Diplomatic sources, however, clarify that in this meeting Anastasiades told Çavuşoğlu that his proposal for a two-state solution did not find support in Cyprus.

* It is for this reason that in September 2019, when Nikos Christodoulides was literally chasing Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu down the corridors of the UN to get a statement from him in favour of a BBF, the Turkish FM pointed out that he was present when the discussion on two states took place in New York and that there were also minutes. Apparently, Çavuşoğlu was referring to the meeting at the Peninsula Hotel in New York. 

A story from the peak of Troodos

The funniest thing about the backtracking on the basis of a solution is that, a few weeks before he went to New York in September 2019, specifically on 15 August 2019, Nicos Anastasiades had a meeting at the Troodos summer house with publisher Costis Hadjicostis [Editor’s note: founder of DIAS media group], as well as his cousin, also K. Hadjicostis, who were accompanied by the director of the media group Chrysanthos Tsouroullis. During the meeting, Costis Hadjicostis suggested to the former President to negotiate a return to the unitary state of Zurich by discussing, in an open spirit, whatever changes the Turkish Cypriots wanted in the Constitution. Let us remember that the former President came out in public 2-3 days later and talked about returning to Zurich, without any preparation, without any consultation, and as a result, he was attacked by almost everyone. In a follow-up meeting, held at the Presidential Palace this time, in the presence of Nikos Christodoulides, he gave assurances that “the Bizonal Federation is dead”. He repeated this phrase several times, responding to clarifying questions from Costis Hadjicostis and Chrysanthos Tsouroullis, with Nikos Christodoulides listening and mostly nodding his head in affirmation.

Towards the end of the meeting Nikos Christodoulides made a promise. That he would go to New York and that he would expose Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. To this end, he chose to literally chase him down the corridors of the UN, asking him whether he accepts the Bizonal Bicommunal Federation. He believed that Çavuşoğlu would answer in the same way as Nicos Anastasiades had answered Costis Hadjicosti: “Read my lips. The Bizonal Bicommunal Federation is dead.” Unfortunately, he referred him to the meeting at the Peninsula Hotel in New York, stating that there were also minutes around a discussion that referred to a two-state solution.

No one can argue with certainty what solution Turkey wants in Cyprus. Ankara has also tired us with its backtracking, back then on guarantees, and now, regarding the sovereign equality of Turkish Cypriots. If Nikos Christodoulides could convince us that he is really ready to sign the great compromise that we have been discussing for at least the last 30 years, and if the G/C side remained credible in its proposals and claims, the Turkish side would not be able to insist on unreasonable demands. Can he?

Source: HOW MUCH CREDIBILITY DOES NIKOS CHRISTODOULIDES HAVE LEFT REGARDING THE CYPRUS PROBLEM?

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DIONYSIS DIONYSIOU | POLITIS
Director of Politis Newspaper. Born in Limassol, he studied history at AUTH (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) and Queens College NY. He started as a journalist in 1986, working in newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Since 1999, he is a Publishing Consultant at Politis newspaper, and from 2016 its Director. He lives in Nicosia.

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