NICOSIA - Failing to get a reunification deal with the Turkish side unlawfully occupying the northern third of the island, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he would try again, making it a priority, along with more government reforms.
In a televised New Year’s address, he said, “I anticipate that 2019 will be a pivotal year for the future of our country, a year of productive dialogue which will usher in peace, stability and progress for all our people.
“At the same time, it will be a year of reforms and modernisation of the state, centred on people and on citizens, who are in need of the protection and the services of the state, centred on the youth who have a right to a future.”
Without mentioning he had reneged on promises to hold accountable bankers who nearly brought down the economy in 2013, requiring a 10-billion euro ($11.53 billion) international bailout, he clicked off what he said were economic accomplishments, including a 4 percent growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“With determination we dealt with the inevitable crisis in the co-operative banking sector, while equally significant is the fact that we restored the country’s sovereign to investment grade, with major benefits to the economy,” he noted, without noting that he had authorized the confiscation of 47.5 percent of bank accounts over 100,000 euros ($115,294), nearly wiping out the life savings of many individuals and small businesses.
Cyprus has been divided since a 1974 Turkish invasion and his last attempt, in negotiations with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, to bring reunification collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when then Turkish side it would never remove an army on the occupied territory and wanted the right to militarily intervene again.
The president described the status quo as a “festering wound” for Greek and Turkish-Cypriots alike with fears the island will be permanently divided with the legitimate government - a member of the European Union - on one side and Turkish-Cypriots on the other, without a resolution.
“To remedy the adverse effects [from a non-solution], and with the same political will and with bold initiatives, we shall be working together with the UN Secretary-General’s envoy Jane Holl Lute to shape the terms of reference for the resumption of a creative dialogue so that we may reach a settlement that brings peace and stability to our Cyprus,” he noted.
“But a solution, where respect for political equality should not lead to the creation of a dysfunctional structure, which would entail adverse consequences for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.”
Lute, an American diplomat, is the latest envoy to take a crack at solving a problem that has eluded a long line of them for decades, with essentially no progress on either side despite repeated secret talks keeping residents of both sides in the dark with little information.