The President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nikos Anastasiadis, speaks exclusively to IBNA, a few days before the Presidential Elections, on his duty to the people of Cyprus, the strategic relations he has built which strengthen the Republic of Cyprus in the international scene, and his desire to try to resolve the Cyprus problem, leading to a truly independent and sovereign state, without any anachronistic conditions of guarantees, invasive rights or the presence of an army of occupation.
Mr. President, in a matter of days the people of Cyprus will decide the next President of the Republic of Cyprus. Are you ready to take the helm of the country again? What will your priorities be in the event that you win the election?
I am vying for a second and final term in office because I feel I have a duty to complete a project which, for objective reasons, I did not complete in my first term. I am ready and determined, courageous and stubborn to realize my plans, which run across the political spectrum; the Cyprus issue, the economy & energy, reform, the modernization of the State. My priority though is our national issue. I have informed the UN SG that I remain determined to immediately continue dialogue, at least with regard to the internal aspects. However, with regard to an International Conference on the Cyprus issue, a good preparation must be made, in order to avoid facing the phenomena we faced during the Mont Pelerin, Geneva and Crans Montana summits. Without the Turkish positions being known and especially with them not complying with the framework submitted by the Secretary General, it will evolve into a procedure that will fail again. Therefore, the dialogue between communities can resume immediately on the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem and, at the same time, an International Conference can be prepared, leading to a truly independent and sovereign state, without any anachronistic conditions of guarantees, invasive rights or the presence of a occupying army.
During your term in office you promoted a different status for Cyprus. You took on initiatives in cooperation with Greece, forging partnerships with countries of the Arab world as well as Israel. How do you evaluate these partnerships and what results did they bear in terms of Cyprus’ presence internationally?
We are not the center of the world, nor do we want to exaggerate and overestimate our role internationally and regionally. However, through our small size and our key geopolitical position, as well as with the ties and relations we develop as a government – and those I personally maintain – we are making every effort for international, regional and local peace and stability and, when necessary, we undertake relevant initiatives. We recently, for example, moved in different directions in the region and in Europe, in order to support Lebanon’s effort to maintain stability in the country. The visit of Saad Al Hariri to Cyprus has demonstrated the role that we can play in gaining the confidence of the countries of the region. I had undertaken to speak with all the main protagonists of the region, but also with my European counterparts, in an effort to support Lebanon. The Republic of Cyprus has a peculiarity, on the one hand it is an EU Member State and on the other hand it maintains excellent relations with all the neighboring states – a fact that is recognized – which enables us to work for stability in the Eastern Mediterranean region. May I remind you that Cyprus and Greece have jointly developed into that connecting link that brought most of the countries of the region to permanent partnerships (political, economic, trade, energy) – such as those with Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, and Italy – with the ambitious vision of turning into an alliance for peace, for the benefit of the Eastern Mediterranean region and the world.
You participate in the group of Mediterranean EU member-states. Can this informal group shape a proposal for the reforms that are deemed necessary in terms of the EU structure? What are the key issues that the Mediterranean countries can and do want to promote? In what direction should Europe move?
Surely the Euro-Mediterranean Group can safely make a proposal for necessary changes to Europe’s structure. This is our ultimate goal. We are at a stage of preparation to achieve greater convergence in the EU. On specific issues such as immigration, security, defense, infrastructure, education, culture. As the Prime Minister of Italy and host of the 4th European Council made clear, we seek joint public policies and common budgets. For example, on the issue of immigration policy the countries of the South completely converge. Our countries can play an important role and set a good example in the European Union. In general, however, we are converging towards positions for a more democratic Europe, for strengthening our borders, for monetary integration issues, and so on. It is necessary to deepen the Eurozone on the axes of more democracy and more social cohesion. By the way, let me note that the 5th Euro-Mediterranean Summit to be held in March will be hosted in Cyprus.
Cyprus is emerging as strategic player in terms of energy in the Eastern Med region, but also in the EU. What will your next moves in the energy sector be, and how can the country’s security from threats be safeguarded?
It is our objective that Cyprus becomes an energy hub in the crucial Eastern Mediterranean region. We are continuously undertaking initiatives in close cooperation with Greece, seeking to build bridges with our neighbors, without exclusions and intolerance. Already, our cooperation with all neighboring countries – except Syria which is in crisis and Turkey for obvious reasons – has significantly contributed to create the conditions, if sufficient quantities of natural gas are found in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone, to immediately create the EastMed, the pipeline that will run through Israel, Cyprus, Crete and Italy, thus effectively creating Europe’s energy safety. In addition, if there is sufficient natural resource discovery, the possibility of LNG creation can also be considered, and at the same time there will be more effective use of natural wealth. One of the most important, however, is the safeguarding of our sovereign rights, and this has been achieved through a multilevel foreign policy, alliances with neighbors, deepening relations with powerful states, or through the gradual licensing of energy giants. We have attracted giant companies, which also represent major interests of large countries. This is why the course of our plans, with regard to research, has been successful. At this time research is underway – drilling in block 6, which is licensed to TOTAL and ENI, in an area that is being contested by Turkey. Nevertheless, we are doing so successfully, because there are simply such interests in countries that do not allow Turkey, because of its own interests and relations with these countries, to challenge the programs of the Republic of Cyprus. All of this is unfolding through targeted policies and coherent and concrete actions that have been achieved.
Mr President, you spent much political time in negotiations on the Cyprus problem resolution, without results. What do you think went wrong, resulting in another failed effort, and how should you move in future to find a solution to Cyprus’ greatest problem?
On the failed effort of Crans-Montana last July, I must say that those negotiations were not successful due to the irrational demands of the Turkish side. The absurd insistence of the Turkish side on the continuation of invasive rights and the anachronistic system of guarantees did not allow us to arrive at a plan for a fair – under the circumstances – viable and functional solution for the State that would become a federation. It was not possible to put before the Cypriot people a solution that would not meet the expectations of the Greek Cypriots and which would deprive them of their dignity on the one hand, and would not ensure their security on the other. As a Greek side, we will not give up the effort. We will continue and we will do our best to lead Turkey to commit to working together to solve the problem. We hope that those powers capable of exerting influence on the Turkish leadership will do so effectively. We are moving strongly towards this direction./ΙΒΝΑ