Nikolas Papadopoulos tells CNA he is ready to accept an invitation from UNSG for a new Conference on Cyprus [VIDEO]

Presidential hopeful Nikolas Papadopoulos has expressed readiness to accept an invitation from the UN Secretary-General for a new Conference on Cyprus, stressing that he will attempt to change the five-party composition of previous meetings.

In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency, Papadopoulos referred to the New Strategy he has announced on the Cyprus issue, noting that his intention is to withdraw the “unacceptable compromises” of the previous two governments, and to render the non-solution costly to Ankara in order to change its intransigent stance.

On the economy, Papadopoulos referred to his proposal for loan haircut through establishing a Non-Performing Loans’ Management Unit, which will be created with money from the European Central Bank. The operation of the Unit, he explained, will benefit both banks and borrowers.

On energy matters, Papadopoulos criticized the government for delays in the exploitation of natural gas reserves, already found in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, and analyzed his proposal for cooperation with Egypt in the use of its terminals in order for Cyprus to export gas in a short period of time.

Asked about his plans to help resume the negotiations, Nikolas said that the first thing is to request a meeting with the UN Secretary General in order to ask the beginning of a new round of peace talks. However, he stressed, he will clarify that the unacceptable and dangerous compromises of the Cypriot governments during the past 10 years could not be on the negotiating table.

He added that he will take initiatives to avert the adoption by the UN Security Council of the last report of the Secretary General because this report is a very negative development for the Greek Cypriot side as it is the worst UNSG report in the history of the Cyprus issue.

The report, he pointed out, includes only the compromises made by the Greek Cypriot side and says nothing about compromises by the Turkish side. However, it is Turkey that receives congratulations for a positive stance.

Papadopoulos stressed that he will seek through the advantages of the Republic of Cyprus and through international coalitions, to force or even convince Turkey to change its own unacceptable positions on Cyprus issue.

Called to comment on the results of the illegal elections in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus and the rise of the right-wing parties which are closer to Turkey’s stance on the Cyprus problem, Papadopoulos said that we should have a realistic approach and recognise that Turkey is the one that has the final say and not the Turkish Cypriot political leaders.

On the economy, Papadopoulos pointed out that the objective will be to improve the citizens’ quality of life and tackle the major economic problems such as unemployment, over-borrowing, social and economic exclusion which a large percentage of the people feels, since one in four Cypriots are currently living below the poverty line. Our proposal is to restore the middle class and develop the Cypriot economy in achieving these goals, he said.

Asked about his proposal for a haircut on loans, Papadopoulos said that the establishment of a Unit for the management of NPLs is something that was successfully adopted by many countries in Europe such as Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

We have a specific proposal, he said, to establish a Unit that will absorb all these NPLs from the banks so that these banks will need less capital. As he explained, the state through its participation in this Unit will clinch an agreement with the banks for the management of bad loans.

There will be a policy statement that will be signed, as was the case in other countries, and this policy statement will have objective, transparent criteria on how to proceed to loan haircut, to loan restructuring, and how to get rid of guarantors, how to protect the main residence and the small businesses. If such a Unit is not established, a mass sell-off of the assets of the Cypriot economy will take place, he warned.

On energy concerns, Papadopoulos criticised the government for delays in the process, since the initial plans were for gas exports in 2018, and now the government has stated that this will take place in 2024.

What we are suggesting is for Cyprus, within the next three years, to become a natural gas exporting country with a trade co-operation with Egypt. Cyprus with the resources from the existing discoveries in the field of Aphrodite can proceed with such cooperation and during the next 17 years can export 90% of this natural gas and use for the local needs just the 10%, he explained.

On internal affairs, Papadopoulos stressed the need for reform in the institutions and the public service in order to make the public service more efficient, more productive, but also address corruption.

Replying to a question on international relations and ties with the EU, Papadopoulos said that we should move forward at the EU level with measures in order to force Turkey to change its unacceptable positions. He said that it was a huge mistake that during Anastasiades’ Presidency three new negotiating chapters in Turkeys EU accession course have opened. In addition, the Turkey-EU customs union has been upgraded offering to Ankara an amount of 17,5 billion Euro annually.

The Republic of Cyprus should do exactly the opposite. We should cause problems in Turkeys accession course in order to give motivation to Ankara to change its positions and contribute to a solution of the Cyprus problem, he told CNA.

The election of the new President of the Republic for the next term in office, covering the period from 2018 to 2023, will take place on January 28. A total of nine candidacies have been submitted.

Source: Cyprus News Agency