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Christofias: blameless to the ‘bitter’ end
PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias gave his last televised address to the nation last night, expressing sorrow over the Mari tragedy and absence of a Cyprus solution while seemingly absolving himself of blame for both.
In a recorded address on the achievements of his five years in government, Christofias said he felt bitter and sad over the many problems faced during his term in office.
“The greatest sorrow is associated with the tragic accident at Mari, which caused me and my family distress, anguish, and deep sadness for the loss of lives. I would like once again to express my sympathy and support to the families of the victims,” he said.
The president said he also felt “great sorrow” for not being able to realise his lifelong ambition to solve the Cyprus problem, mainly due to Turkey’s continued intransigence and obstructive policy of preventing a solution based on UN resolutions on Cyprus.
“My conscience is clear, because we did everything we could to reach a solution and more. Our efforts were acknowledged internationally.”
He had some advice for his successor due to take over next month: “My own view is that the new president should continue to rely on the same principles and work on the same basis for a solution, like we did and all my predecessors did.”
Christofias argued that he and former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat made “significant convergences” during peace negotiations, adding that it is no coincidence Talat’s successor Dervis Eroglu rejects those convergences.
“He rejects them because they do not suit the partitionist policy of the Turkish side,” he said.
The outgoing president warned those wishing to start negotiations from scratch- a clear reference to presidential candidate Giorgos Lillikas- that they will find themselves “on a collision course with the international community and will pay a high price”.
Despite the ongoing global economic crisis and Eurozone crisis, Christofias argued that his government managed to achieve many of its goals.
“There is no doubt that the greatest legacy the government leaves behind is the natural gas,” he said.
He highlighted the discovery of gas reserves in Block 12 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone and the exploration for more in five new blocks.
The president said infrastructure work on a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal should start in 2015, and is expected to create 4,000 new jobs.
Christofias argued that no one did more to enhance ties with Russia than his government, while highlighting the strengthened relations with Israel.
However, his government’s main priority was strengthening the welfare state.
“To achieve this goal we increased social benefits by 42 per cent,” he said, adding, “Even now, when the troika has forced us to cut social benefits, many are still higher than they were when we came to power”.
The government also solved “once and for all” the water problem, said Christofias, noting: “Cypriots will never go thirsty again”.
On migration, the government introduced a comprehensive migration policy, while reducing the costs of benefits to migrants from €23.5m in 2010 to €10m in 2012.
Regarding the economy, Christofias repeated the argument that Cyprus would not have needed an EU bailout if the Cypriot banks were not so exposed to the Greek economy.
“Cyprus is the victim of the crisis in the banking system. All of Europe and the world recognises this,” he said.
Thanks to the government’s tough negotiating stance, it succeeded in preserving the inalienable and sovereign right of the Cyprus Republic to decide for itself on the management of natural gas, he argued.
The government also created the conditions to avoid privatisations, and preserve the wage indexation and 13th salaries, he added.
“We never claimed we didn’t make mistakes or omissions,” said Christofias, adding that he would leave it to history and the public to judge whether the government was treated fairly or not by its critics.
On a final note, Christofias said he would leave office with his head held high “because I did, in extremely difficult conditions, what I could to achieve the best for Cyprus”.
In response, main opposition party DISY noted sardonically the burden of emotion Christofias must have felt as the first president in the history of Cyprus to leave office without seeking a second term.
DISY said it was “disheartened” that Christofias did not find the courage, even in the final hour, to offer an apology, at least on behalf of the state, for the criminal mistakes which led to the Mari tragedy that left 13 dead.