London, September 23, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Thanasis Gavos
When President Anastasiades’s car rolled into Downing Street on his recent stopover in London en route to the UN General Assembly, he was coming to see a leader with whom he has developed a candid relationship. The Number 10 door opened with bit of a delay for the host David Cameron to appear and greet his visitor, but there was no snubbing there.
“It was cordial and constructive,” both sides commented after the 50-minute meeting was finished. In front of the cameras the British Prime Minister commended the Cypriot President for his efforts and leadership in pursuing a settlement to the longstanding Cyprus issue, and Mr Anastasiades spoke of a “common vision to see peace coming.”
The most important thing that came out of the meeting was the affirmation by Mr Cameron that the UK does not desire the role of the guarantor powers to continue existing. In that the UK follows suit from SYRIZA’s Greek government’s declaration, which leaves Turkey as the obstacle in doing away with an obsolete arrangement.
IBNA sources in London commented that the UK position on the matter is welcomed and does not cause any surprise in Nicosia, as the British government has asserted over the last few months via official yet not public channels that the guarantees’ issue should not be allowed to block a viable solution.
“The only concern for London in this respect is maintaining and being able to seamlessly continue operations from the military bases on the island,” said a London diplomat. IBNA understands that the bases were not mentioned at all during the two leaders’ meeting. Despite noises from Cypriot political quarters, this is a subject considered non-existent by the UK and Cypriot governments at this point in time.
With regard to Turkey, President Anastasiades reiterated that it needs to take specific actions with tangible results if it wants to be saying that it is assuming a constructive role in the Cyprus issue negotiations. Mr Cameron repeated his government’s standard argument that the issue is raised in every occasion and that London urges all parties involved to help things go forward.
Apart from the Cyprus issue, the two leaders discussed Mr Cameron’s drive to achieve EU reform ahead of the ‘Brexit’ referendum. The Cypriot Government Spokesman said that some common approaches were identified. IBNA understands that these included the common wish for independent national tax policies, the belief that the single market’s competitiveness should not be undermined and that national parliaments should have a bigger say in specific sectors of policy ahead of the European Commission.
As far as the refugee crisis is concerned, Messrs Anastasiades and Cameron agreed that the root causes of these people’s flight from their countries should be dealt with, an approach, however, that has caused allegations against the UK government that it ignores the harsh reality on the ground.
Within this frame the two leaders discussed ISIS, with Mr Cameron highlighting the role Cyprus can and has been playing in fighting the Islamist threat. Just days before Mr Anastasiades arrived in London, the British Ministry of Defence had announced that approximately 330 jihadists have died in British air strikes in Iraq. The large majority of these attacks have been conducted from the Akrotiri base in Cyprus.
The Downing Street talks also touched upon the prospect of eastern Mediterranean becoming an alternative energy corridor which would enhance Europe’s energy security.