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Greece FM Kotzias: A loose cannon may destroy the Cyprus talks

Ilhan Tanir, Washingon DC

Greek has a “loose cannon” foreign minister that everyone, including Greek Cypriots are “concerned” especially during the Cyprus talks.

According to Cyprus Mail Online, ahead of Monday night’s main session on security and guarantees in Crans-Montana, where the conference on Cyprus has been going on in Switzerland, all sides have submitted their written positions with strict commitment not to leak any documents.

However while so far all sides try their best not to spoil the talks and no leak to the press, Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Kotzias suddenly came out and accused “some” of trying to “put the cart before the horse.” It’s understood that Kozias was slamming Turkish Foreign Minister by this.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias also demanded on Monday the withdrawal of Turkey’s “occupying troops” from Cyprus, striking a combative tone at negotiations in Switzerland striving to end the island’s 40-year division.

People who have been following this Greek Foreign Minister also knows Kotzias always slams everyone. According to sources who know Greek diplomats and involve with them in many occasions “ask any Greek diplomat and they will tell you that their foreign minister is a bulldozer who thinks he is the smartest person in the world and everyone else is an idiot.”
Kotzias is a former Marxist who had lost his cause and has now found “Cyprus” to be his cause to the chagrin of many pro-reunification Cypriots.

Many worry that Kotzias — if things don’t go well — will come out and be all nationalistic accusing Turkey of backtracking and leaving Anastasiades vulnerable to very harmful attacks by Greek Cypriot nationalists (and therefore getting Anastasiades to lose any credibility in the negotiations). Kotzias already kind of did this in the run-up to the January Geneva conference, when he started leaking things to the press, while Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot President Akinci were in the negotiating room.  Akinci got word from Ankara to get up and leave, while Nikos Christodoulides’ phone was pinging from Cypriot journalists who were commenting on a leaked document coming from Kotzias. Kotzias thus single-handedly destroyed the momentum of those talks in November.

Before the talks start I was lucky enough to speak with one EU diplomat on the actors of Cyprus talks and the diplomat immediately told me to pay attention Kotzias by describing him: “he’s such a pompous person that he felt that without his own all-mighty presence, the Cypriots should not be engaged in conversation as they might actually come to agree on things.  In fact, we know that Kotzias was livid that the Cypriots jointly agreed on the dates for Geneva without asking their mother-in-laws (i.e. Greece and Turkey).  I also know that whenever he arrives at an airport, he demands that all members of the diplomatic staff line up at the airport and greet him!”

Turkish President Erdogan might have similar demands, but I doubt Turkish FM Cavusoglu ever asked his diplomats to stop everything they are doing and greet the all-might foreign minister. Therefore, many in diplomatic community who watch the talks on daily basis have not shied away telling how much disdain they have for him. One source stated: “I have very little respect for this man, given the stories I hear from Greek and American colleagues who have met him. I know both Biden and Kerry got into heated arguments with him when they met him last September at UNGA.”

“And one of the big bets of this conference in ensuring success is to reign in Kotzias.” source added.

The Greek Cypriot left-wing party (AKEL) — upon the plea of Anastasiades — had relayed to Greek Prime Minister Tsipras that he must ensure that his Foreign Minister plays ball and won’t be a loose cannon. Because Kotzias is really capable of being more “Greek Cypriot than Greek Cypriots” as one source put it.

At the same time, especially because for many Greek Cypriot nationalists he’s their “saving light”, if he comes out and says the compromise is good, his words will have a very-very positive effect on swing voters. Those with nationalist tendencies will heed his call. So in some ways it’s not so bad to have him there (beyond the fact that Greece has to be present in one way or another), as long as he stays shut. And as long as he doesn’t throw Greek Cypriots under the bus.

Do Greek Cypriots ever thrown by Greece under the bus? Some say actually this is usually Greece’s mode of operation. But you did not hear it from me!

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