Interview with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades by Esra Aygin
Havadis – Published in Turkish on 13 May 2014
Question: In the early 2000s you stood against the whole political structure in the southern part of Cyprus and advocated a ‘yes’ vote for the Annan Plan. After becoming the President you took political risks at the expense of losing your coalition partner for a federal solution in Cyprus. But what is going on now Mr. Anastasiades? You don’t seem to be in a great hurry. Is there a decrease in your commitment, determination or political will?
Anastasiades: There is a saying in Greek. That who hurries, falls. There is no decrease in our determination. We want to solve the Cyprus problem in the shortest possible time and our commitment continues.
However there needs to be a good preparation on both sides for the dialogue to yield results. Believe me, it is not important how many times you meet in a wee. The important thing is the substance and quality of the negotiations. What concerns me more is the fact that we have not taken any steps for substantial confidence building measures. This concerns me. These measures would increase the trust of Greek Cypriots in Turkey and Turkish Cypriots and the trust of Turkish Cypriots in Greek Cypriots.
The confidence building proposals I put forward are not for one side to win and the other side to lose. They are very balanced proposals and are aimed at raising people’s faith that there is really something going on in negotiations.
Question: Are you talking about your Varosha proposal? Opening Varosha, Turkey normalising its relations with the Cyprus Republic, Cyprus Republic lifting its veto against the opening of negotiating chapters of Turkey’s accession process and opening the Famagusta port under EU control… The Turkish side argues that opening Varosha would take too much time, energy and effort and divert us from the comprehensive solution negotiations. Do you not agree with this argument?
Anastasiades: I fully disagree. Decision will be taken, decided at once and by the leaders. After an agreement over Varosha a bi-communal technical committee can handle the issue in parallel with the comprehensive negotiations.
It will not affect in any way the negotiations. It’s not for the leaders to reconstruct the city… With this decision the administration of Varosha will be handed to the UN. The second is that before the reconstruction we need a report about the infrastructure and what is needed. The next step is the reconstruction of the city. Can you imagine the results out of by giving the chance to Greek and Turkish Cypriots to work together? They will work together and reconstruct this city. They will work together and find out how much productive it is to work together and to have the benefits of being together.
Question: Do your interlocutors at the UN, Europe and the United States support your Varosha proposal?
Anastasiades: Yes definitely. Of course the issue is there should be a consensus.
Question: Do you think it is possible to convince the Turkish side?
Anastasiades: For the time being it seems that there is a negative attitude by the Turkish Cypriot leadership. Lets hope that will change.
Question: How about Turkey?
Anastasiades: For the time being there is no indication. Lets hope that in the coming weeks we will have something.
Question: What if your proposal is rejected? Is this the only way to move forward?
Anastasiades: No we are negotiating with good will. While at the same time what I am trying to do is to give as I told you a new dynamic to intercommunal dialogue.
Question: Don’t you think that the fact that you don’t accept the convergences reached until now in the Cyprus solution negotiations is giving an opportunity to the Turkish Cypriot leadership to drag its feet?
Anastasiades: Look, from the moment the Annan plan was rejected by 76 per cent you understand that there are certain convergences which unless are going to be renegotiated the Greek Cypriot community once again will argue against any such plan. Secondly, and I am not talking about the convergences only between 2008-2012 but all those that have been considered as convergences throughout the protracted negotiations are not in total rejected. So we are not trying to start from the very beginning. There are few convergences, which are not accepted even by Turkish Cypriot side.
Question: But maybe they diverge from agreements because you don’t agree with them?
Anastasiades: Some of those convergences are seen that are not accepted by the majority and what I am trying to do is to see if we can find some alternatives or alternative proposals or solution which will be on a win-win situation taking into consideration the concerns of the Greek Cypriots and without ignoring the concerns of the Turkish Cypriots. So our effort should be concentrated on how we can best accommodate the concerns of both communities. We need a win-win solution in order to give to the people the chance to minimise the feeling of unjusticeness. Otherwise its not going to work. And this is what I am trying.
Question: For example rotating presidency has been accepted by both sides for many years. But you are rejecting this. Why are you against rotating presidency?
Anastasiades: I can give you a dozens of counter proposals, which will accommodate each and every ones concern. I have some better proposals which are going to give a much more workable solution. But I don’t want to disclose my thoughts.
Question: What was the main problem that made 76 per cent say no to Annan Plan and should be fixed?
Anastasiades: The survey we carried out showed that the reasons the first and above all was the mistrust that Turkey will implement or the Turkish side will not implement the agreement and we shall have the dissolution of the Cyprus republic and not implement the new one and it means that we are empty handed you see.
This is why I place so much importance in building trust towards Turkey. First is to build trust.
Question: One of the main concerns of the Turkish Cypriot side is that the Greek Cypriot side does not really believe in political equality and does not want to share power with the Turkish Cypriots. Do you personally believe in political equality?
Anastasiades: Of course I do. First of all there is political equality in all of the 24 federations around the world. There is no federation without political equality. The joint statement is very clear on this. We have accepted that there is going to be an internal citizenship for those who will be citizens of the federal republic, the state is going to be composed of two constituent states and all the details all the other provisions of the joint statement are giving enough ground to trust that we mean business.
We are committed to what we have agreed. That we shall safeguard the political equality through the constitution and through the various legislation. Therefore I don’t think that there is ground for this lack of confidence.
Question: Are we running late for energy cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean with Turkey and Israel?
Anastasiades: We are running to late in finding a solution. We are negotiating for 40 years. Isn’t it a high time to work sincerely in finding a solution having as an incentive amongst others the hydrocarbon or energy? In case of a solution the natural resources is going to belong to the state and the state is going to be a federal state of Turkish and Greek Cypriots. And the share will be equitable. Instead of getting this incentive and which is serving the national interests of Turkey why do we have to keep unresolved the Cyprus issue what is what interests are we serving by keeping it open? It is against the Turkish Cypriots it is against the Greek Cypriots it is against Turkey. Is it not a high time for peace and prosperity?
Question: Who is preventing this?
Anastasiades: Look we mean business. We want a solution to the Cyprus problem in the shortest possible time. What I am trying to do is to normalise relations and create a new constructive climate. There are enough negative statements and actions. We have to avoid all statements and actions that increase mistrust. I do not want to get into a blame game. We have to avoid statements that would create a negative climate. On both sides.
Question: Are you hopeful that this time we will reach a solution?
Anastasiades: If we lose our optimism or our hope that would be the end.
Question: What if there is no solution this time either. What do you see in our future?
Anastasiades: I could not see any kind of prosperous future. The only thing I can anticipate is that we are going and when I say we Turkish and Greek Cypriots will pay the bill and they will suffer. We have to work sincerely and always try to be fair to each other. Otherwise if we ignore the concerns of the people then we shall fail.
Question: What kind of a country do you want to leave behind as you leave this post?
Anastasiades: A land of peace and prosperity for all the people the lawful inhabitants of this paradise, which has been turned into hell due to our stupidness.
Question: Would you like to add anything?
Anastasiades: My message to my compatriot Turkish Cypriots is that they have to trust me and they have to trust the Greek Cypriots that they want a solution they want the soonest possible to find a final settlement based on concrete principles and these principles are the European principles. We are going to be a part of the European structure. Neither side may violate the EU rules and in extension the human rights of the other. The human rights are well protected within the EU and there is no discrimination between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Indiscriminately each one should respect the other. And this is the main principle of the EU.