Polls and Cyprus

The Cabinet of this government met yesterday for the last time. Apart from the expressions of gratitude and farewell, the Cabinet had the task of setting an official date for the dissolution of Parliament, as well as electing and convening the new one – a date it will then have to submit to President Costis Stephanopoulos. Because of the nature of the agenda, yesterday’s session was a formality and George Papandreou can be excused for being absent. However, someone who is truly concerned with the well-being of democratic institutions, as PASOK’s would-be chairman claims to be, should not forget the fact that Parliament dissolved on the government’s demand and when a national issue is at stake. The national issue, in this case, is nothing but the Cyprus problem. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday sent out an invitation to the Cypriot president and the Turkish-Cypriot leader for fresh reunification talks. In that respect, Papandreou should – at least for symbolic reasons – have attended yesterday’s Cabinet session. One wishes that the heavy load of Papandreou’s pre-election campaign in the runup to the polls will not deflect his attention from developments over the divided Mediterranean island. The governments in Athens and Nicosia are expected to come under intensified pressure to which they must respond with coordinated diplomatic action. Turkey’s acceptance of Annan’s blueprint as a «starting point» – following two refusals and 14 months of intransigence – prompted renewed pressure from the United States and Britain on the Greek Cypriots to make a goodwill gesture, as if the military occupation all these years has not been Ankara’s fault. In this context, the UN secretary-general has invited the two sides for talks in New York on February 10 with the intention of wrapping up talks by March 25-30. Annan also claims the right to «fill in the blanks» where the two sides fail or have no time to reach a final agreement. This could involve peril for the Greek-Cypriot side, as there is no guarantee that Annan’s additions will be in accordance with the EU’s acquis communautaire, at a time that Cyprus needs a deal that will enable it to function as a full member of the bloc. Faced with such dilemmas and dangers, Greece must be constantly on the alert over the Cyprus issue. The foreign minister must be on the front line of developments on Cyprus and not just of the pre-election campaign.