- Instead of a catastrophic scenario, we opt for diplomacy, the weapons of international law and Cyprus’ status as an EU member state. This is what is dictated by patriotic realism and rationalism, and not a rhetoric of empty slogans.
- The coming days are crucial as regards initiatives taken by the EU and the US in view of preventing a potential crisis through targeted measures towards Turkey.
- On our part, we have done everything humanly possible to move towards a solution for the Cyprus problem. If this is not achieved, it will be due to Turkey’s interventions and to the inability of the Turkish Cypriot side to meet its obligations through dialogue in Crans-Montana.
- This saddens me because some, misled by deliberate leaks from a circle within the UN, speak of different narratives.
- France’s reaction was not incidental, but I cannot overlook the fact that if Turkey has upgraded its role and has a lead in Libya, it is precisely because of the inability of the EU to express a decisive policy.
- I expect that Europe has no choice but to be more active in supporting, and especially in intervening, to prevent Turkey's expansionist aspirations.
INTERVIEW with ANDREAS PARASCHOS, APOSTOLOS TOMARAS and MARINA ECONOMIDOU
Mr. President, for some circles, your position that a solution through militarization would mean the end of Cypriot Hellenism, is an unconditional surrender. How do you comment?
What I had expressed was an assessment of the options offered by a small country like Cyprus, in order to effectively deal with Turkish aggression and the subsequent dangers. Not only does this not constitute a ‘surrender’, as some Turkish media arbitrarily concluded, but it instead indicates a determination to resist, through choice rather than through a disastrous scenario, through the choice of diplomacy and the weapons offered by international law and the status of the country as a member state of the European Union. This is dictated by patriotic realism and rationalism and not a rhetoric of empty slogans. Besides, from the Turkish invasion onwards, the unanimous position of the respective governments of Cyprus and Greece, as well as of all political forces, was that the resolution of the Cyprus problem cannot be achieved through military means, but by opting for dialogue on the basis of international law. It is precisely through the prudent policy pursued that the Republic of Cyprus has joined the EU, despite Turkey's threats, and is now European territory. At the same time, we may not choose militarization, and rightly so, but we have never abandoned the reinforcement of our defensive armour, on the contrary today we have a strong deterrent force that is constantly being strengthened and modernized.
There are Turkish declarations for drillings off Crete that provoke fears of increased tension. We would like an assessment from you, Mr. President, including as regards the level of understanding and cooperation between Athens and Nicosia.
Our cooperation with the Greek government is excellent and multileveled. There is coordination through the choice of dialogue to resolve any differences that arise as a result of Turkish aggression. The intense diplomatic efforts made by both the Greek and Cypriot governments have mobilized both the interest and the concerns of both Europe and the United States. The next few days are crucial as regards initiatives by the EU and the United States to prevent a possible crisis.
Do you expect any specific actions?
Specific actions towards Turkey.
Do you not see that Turkey's role in Libya has been upgraded in relation to others, either NATO allies or stakeholders in Libya?
There is no doubt that Turkey, through the violation of international law, seeks to gain ground and gain a lead over the rest who have great interests in Libya. I do not think that France's reaction is incidental, but at the same time I cannot overlook the fact that if Turkey has upgraded its role and has a lead in Libya, it is precisely because of the inability of the EU to express a decisive policy.
'The EU cannot remain indifferent to the actions of a country that is a candidate for membership and that are detrimental to two member states'
While we expected European sanctions that would hurt Turkey a year ago, this was not achieved. In fact, you recently mentioned that German interests are putting obstacles in the way of any dynamic response to Turkish challenges. Ultimately, do we have heightened expectations of the EU's role?
The first timid steps have been taken by the EU. We went from verbal support to the imposition of sanctions for the first time. Despite my observations that interests hinder bolder decisions, I still expect that Europe has no choice but to be more active in its support, especially in intervening to prevent Turkey's expansionist aspirations.
Should we expect further sanctions?
This is something that we seek and it arises from reality itself. There is a violation of international law, a violation of Turkey's pre-accession commitments. As such, at the same time that without difficulty the EU imposes sanctions on Russia – and rightly so – over what happened in Ukraine, it cannot continue to observe Turkey’s threats grow more intense through actions that increase the risks of a crisis. It cannot remain indifferent to the actions of a country that is a candidate for membership and that are detrimental to two member states. Therefore, taking into account the strong steps we are taking, we expect that there will be further EU sanctions.
Turkey is of course drilling undisturbed, the Cyprus issue is on hold and every day that passes there is the integration of the Occupied Territories. What will be the pressure lever to get Turkey to sit at the negotiating table?
There is no other way than the application of international law, through a variety of sanctions that increase the cost of provocative actions by Turkey.
What is your response to those who say that you tried various angles for the Cypriot problem, that we missed an opportunity at Crans-Montana and you returned?
It is during my Presidency that the EU participated for the first time in the dialogue for the solution of the Cyprus problem. It is during my Presidency that maps were first submitted. It should be recalled that Turkey sat down at the table for the first time to find a solution to the Cyprus problem, while a large number of convergences had been achieved. Let me remind you that I had suggested to Mr. Akinci that the convergences be recorded and that we give a joint press conference to convey to the world what exactly we agreed on, after we observed that exactly what was agreed on was not being conveyed, causing concern to both communities. Unfortunately, Mr. Akinci refused to give a press conference and to record convergences. I had asked for a triptych, we prepared it, we presented it and the Turkish Cypriot side said that they would rely on our text. They did it so as not to give theirs in writing. A practice that they followed in Crans-Montana. So on our part we did all that was humanly possible to show our goodwill and determination to move forward with a solution. If this is not achieved, it is due to Turkey's interventions and the inability of the Turkish Cypriot side to meet its obligations through dialogue in Crans-Montana. I’m saddened that some, misled by deliberate leaks by United Nations circles, are talking about other issues.
Those you chose to appoint in the Cabinet and the non-selection of Ionas Nikolaou in the Legal Service, stirred discussion regarding your next steps. Is your refusal to run for another term in office in 2023 final?
My decision to not run for another term is final and irrevocable. My intention was expressed in 2013 when I submitted to the House of Representatives a proposal to amend the Constitution in order to limit the term of office of the President to two.
Polls at the moment show that you are widely accepted by a large audience. Isn't that a reason to reconsider your decision?
No. The point is not to enjoy popularity but to know when to enter and when to leave politics. My position not to run for a third term is final and irrevocable. You can give whatever you have to give during two terms. I hope that during my departure I will enjoy the same popularity. This will be the happiest scenario because it will mean that I have achieved some goals that satisfy the people.
The Law Office and family lifestyle
Cases related to the Anastasiades law firm come and go. You have said that you have no involvement. Wouldn't it be better for everyone to have your name officially removed?
Is it the name that matters or the behavior? If I was inactive, I would understand. For many, their only occupation was politics. I have worked, I have created. Do you have the impression that the fact that the office bears my name is an attraction? If you look at the financial situation of the office since I took over the Presidency, you will see that there has been a sharp decline in revenue. My position was clear, despite the fact that I was leaving the office and transferring the shares, that I would not accept the promotion of any case involving the state. So with Ryan Air, which was the office's intention to take over, I immediately wrote a letter saying I would not accept any involvement. There was a lot of fuss about the so-called golden passports. I asked for all the naturalization applications to be given to Parliament. Of the 4,700, not more than 42 have been taken on by the law firm
The lifestyle of members of your family has often preoccupied the press and social media. Lately, there has been a marked decline in the promotion of their personal lives. Is this the result of your own intervention?
It is certainly the result of my own intervention. I had given some advice to my children: “What is important in life? To be happy or to make your happiness public?” Given that due to my status, they would be expected to be targeted, I said that it is important for them to be happy and not to provoke by promoting their social activities.
Absolute support to Makarios Drousiotis
President, as the issue regarding the complaints made by Makarios Drousiotis are delicate and at the same time there may be international implications, what is your opinion?
Makarios reported to me in two letters that he has suspicions that he is being monitored. In the first letter, his details were not sufficient, but I immediately contacted him and told him that the case should be reported. I told him that I would give instructions to both the Chief of Police and the head of the Cyprus Intelligence Service to investigate any possibility. Nothing was found. In a second letter, he informed me that he now had specific information. I asked him if he had any information to give to the police or the Attorney General in order to be investigated because the President of the Republic has neither investigative nor prosecuting authority. I emphasized that I would be by his side and would closely monitor the progress of the investigations. It is inconceivable if something of the sort is happening. For him to be protesting, something must have been found but one I want to confirm. There is no question of the Cypriot authorities monitoring or interfering in his files. My instructions to both the current head of the Cyprus Intelligence Service and his predecessor were clear, to not even think of monitoring someone for just any reason. The Cyprus Intelligence Service is for the security of the state and I want to say that they are doing an excellent job. I express my absolute sympathy and support to Makarios. He was my colleague when I was in the party and President of the Republic. He has my full support and proof should be provided.
'The management of the issue with the student was unfortunate'
What did you think about the issue with the student who expressed her opinion on the subject of religion being taught at schools and who received severe attacks?
I think we should be happy with young people who have an opinion. To be happy for those children who show critical thinking no matter how much one disagrees with them. And I am especially happy when I hold meetings with the Children’s Parliament or with other young people and I see children who, though they might be considered apathetic and indifferent, have an incredible way of thinking with a critical approach and often a mature point of view. Therefore, in my opinion, the whole management of the issue was very unfortunate, on the part of those who criticized the specific student, especially on social media. I am happy when someone has the courage to express an opinion. Let me remind you that Glafkos Clerides was expelled from middle school because he had the courage to write an article against the katharevousa.