In an interview with Kathimerini conducted by journalist Andreas Kimitris, former General Secretary of AKEL, Andros Kyprianou, unveiled the backdrop of the 2004 Cyprus issue referendum and shed light on how the change in AKEL's vote from "yes" to "no" occurred overnight. This marks the first instance where insight has been provided into the party's decision to reject the Annan Plan. Mr. Kyprianou's revelations regarding AKEL's position, as conveyed to "K," triggered a flurry of reactions on social media. Among other revelations, he disclosed the existence of a threat suggesting that Tassos Papadopoulos would resign if the "yes" vote were adopted. It's noteworthy that these historical events are chronicled in a book he is presently composing, offering his personal perspective on the challenging times and the evolution of circumstances. The book will cover the period from Tassos Papadopoulos' presidency until July 2021, when Andros Kyprianou stepped down as AKEL's Secretary General. He assigns responsibility to Nicos Anastasiades for the outcome in Crans-Montana and references a phone conversation he had during dinner with the former Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras.
The interview with with Andros Kyprianou conducted by Andreas Kimitris
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I began writing a book about two months ago, focusing on the Cyprus problem. With over 20 years of personal experiences, I believe it's my responsibility to document them.
Q: What time frame does the book cover?
A: It starts from Tassos Papadopoulos' presidency and extends until July 2021 when I retired as AKEL's Secretary General.
Q: When do you anticipate its completion?
A: I aim to finish it by the middle of next year. I've already completed the chapter on the Tassos Papadopoulos administration.
Q: Will the book reveal previously unknown information?
A: Yes, a number of things will be disclosed publicly for the first time.
Q: Could you provide a sneak peek?
A: I've documented discussions and facts surrounding the referendums on the Annan Plan. For instance, Tassos Papadopoulos reportedly sought media owners' assistance in promoting the 'no' vote to reject the Annan Plan. Polls in January 2004 indicated a 'yes' vote of about 60%.
Q: Does the book address the reason why AKEL's 'yes' ultimately turned into a 'no'?
A: I present my personal perspective on how events unfolded during those challenging days. The decision was exceedingly difficult. AKEL had to weigh the plan's content, its viability, and the unity of the people. Circumstances were fluid. On Good Friday, during the initial Central Committee discussion, EDEK's support for 'yes' seemed likely, possibly even DISY's. However, this changed by Good Saturday when EDEK opted for 'no'. Furthermore, even if DISY had supported 'yes', a significant majority would have still leaned towards a 'no'. We had to gauge where our 'yes' would lead, likely to a complete divide. We couldn't overlook these factors. Additionally, a rumor circulated that Tassos might resign if the 'yes' vote won. While not public, this information influenced us. If such a scenario occurred, Demetris Christofias, as Parliament Speaker, would have been required to sign a plan he didn't negotiate and which we believed Tassos Papadopoulos had not fully engaged within the final stages at Burgenstock.
Q: How did this information surface?
A: Tassos Papadopoulos never openly stated it. However, for such a rumor to circulate, he must have confided it to someone. That was the information we had.
Q: But why consider a rumor for such a crucial decision?
A: You're asking for details I'd rather keep within the book.
Q: Did AKEL's stance shift due to the perceived failure of the plan?
A: As I mentioned, the plan had its shortcomings. We believed that without a solid 'yes' majority and with a divided public, the aggressive far-right opposition could have impeded its implementation.
Q: Could AKEL's 'yes' vote have created division?
A: Many Akelites supported 'yes' despite the leadership's position. Even if AKEL officially backed 'yes,' the plan might not have passed, likely ending in a tie.
Q: Some argue AKEL's final 'no' aligned with the general sentiment.
A: It's true that numerous Akelites, through calls and pressure, pushed for rejecting the plan. Christofias' conference speech reflects this and how AKEL members not aligned with the party's stance actively urged a 'no' vote.
Q: The atmosphere within AKEL was intense during that time.
A: It was a complex matter. Despite the plan's weaknesses, the temptation to vote 'yes' remained. We worried about international reactions to a 'no' vote, and Tassos Papadopoulos' ability to handle the Cyprus problem following a 'no.'
Q: What was Tassos Papadopoulos' mindset?
A: Tassos had other considerations. My book explains how his stance evolved from 2004 to 2008, transitioning from supporting such plans to later dismissing them.
Q: Could the Cyprus problem have been resolved under Christofias-Talat?
A: Progress was made, but a definitive agreement wasn't reached. I'll discuss Anastasiades' position during that time in the book as well.
Q: Why do you believe our side shares responsibility for Crans-Montana?
A: The UN Secretary-General informed Anastasiades multiple times during dinner that Turkey was open to discussions about lifting guarantees and substantial troop withdrawal. Anastasiades insisted that Cavusoglu confirm this when Guterres was already pushing Turkey in that direction.
Q: How do you know Anastasiades is also responsible?
A: I had a conversation with Alexis Tsipras, then Prime Minister of Greece, during that dinner. Tsipras believed Crans-Montana presented an opportunity for resolution and was prepared to join the discussions there.
Q: Was our side a hindrance?
A: Our criticism of Anastasiades lies in his attitude during dinner, which hindered meaningful discussions to gauge whether Turkey's private assurances matched their public stance.
Q: Did Turkey truly intend to accept those conditions?
A: According to the UN Secretary-General, Turkey was willing to discuss these points. However, Anastasiades' approach prevented us from confirming their true intentions.
[This article was first published in Kathimerini's Sunday edition and translated from its Greek original]