Nicosia - I leave office with my head held high, Demetris Christofias said on Friday as he prepares to stand down from the Presidency after five years in office.
"All these years I faced problems and difficulties with my head held high and I will stand down with my head held high because I did my utmost to achieve the best for Cyprus at extremely different times," Christofias said in a address to the Cypriot people on the occasion of the completion of his tenure as Cyprus President.
On the Cyprus problem, Christofias called on his successor to rely and work on the basis prescribed by the 1977 and 1979 High Level agreements and warned that he should not retract the convergences reached during talks with the former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
Christofias defended his government’s economic policy amid the global financial crisis, noting that Cyprus was forced to apply for financial assistance given the exposure of the Cypriot commercial banks to the Greek economy.
Assessing his term in office, President Christofias said: "I have gained a pleasant experience, but I also witnessed bitterness."
The pleasant experiences, he said, had to do with his daily interaction with citizens, as well with the achievements of his government.
"I am convinced that in a very challenging political and economic environment -and I regret to say amid unprecedented conditions that at some point turned into persecution - as a government we managed to produce a rich and multifaceted work," he said.
The outgoing President described the munitions explosion in the Mari naval base in 2011 "as the greatest sorrow of his tenure which caused me and my family a great anguish, pain and deep sorrow for the loss of human lives."
Christofias also said he feels great sorrow because he could not achieve the goal of his life, the solution of the Cyprus problem.
"Despite the constant and creative initiatives we have undertaken, Turkey, continues its obstructive and intransigent stance in order to hinder the solution based on the UN relevant resolutions on Cyprus," he went on to say.
"I feel at peace with myself because I know I did my utmost in the aim of achieving a solution," he added.
Christofias said that the new President should continue to rely on the same principles and work on the same solution basis as he did along with all former President of the Republic.
"These principles", he noted, "and the basis for a solution are provided in the High Level Agreements of 1977 and 1979, in the Cyprus relevant UN resolutions – and especially the 1251 Security Council resolution, the international law and the EU values and principles as well as the September 2009 National Council’s joined communiqué".
President Christofias referred to the talks with Turkish Cypriot leade Mehmet Ali Talat and the convergences achieved which he described as a step ahead, because they ensure the unity of the state, a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality and which are rejected by Mr. Talat’s successor, Dervis Eroglu.
He warned however "if our side retracts these convergences, or even starts negotiations from scratch, it will enter a collision course with the international community and will pay a high price."
Furthermore, the President said that the Government has fulfilled many of the ambitious aims set out, adding however that "the government was unfortunate due to the unprecedented both in duration and depth global economic crisis and especially the crisis in the Eurozone."
Evaluating the work of the Government, the President referred in particular to the increase in social benefits, strengthening low pensioners, the granting of plots to the refugees and low earners, the provision of Easter bonus as well as the increase of the minimum wage.
"I am convinced that when the dust from the devastating criticism settles down the value of our government work will be acknowledged," he said.
The President stressed however that his government’s "biggest legacy" to Cyprus and its people is the discovery of natural gas deposits in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
Cyprus entered the hydrocarbon scene when it signed a contract with US Noble Energy, which discovered in late 2011 an estimated gross mean resource of 7 tcf in offshore block 12, also know as Aphrodite. Furthermore, Nicosia signed more contracts with the ENI/KOGAS consortium for hydrocarbons exploration in blocks 2, 3 and 9 in its EEZ, as well as with French energy giant, Total, for two more blocks. The government has decided to construct a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal, a project with an estimated cost of €10 billion which would enable LNG exports.
"Cyprus has already discovered significant deposits of natural gas in one of the blocks of the Cypriot EEZ and it seeks new ones in another five blocks. We advanced the process aiming at creating the infrastructure necessary for the extraction, processing and export of natural gas," he said.
He added that this infrastructure is crucial to revitalizing the economy and pointed out that the construction of the LNG terminal, expected to begin in 2015, is expected to create 4,000 new jobs.
"The Government policy has placed Cyprus on the world energy map. The prospect for Cyprus to become a natural gas supplier in Europe upgrades the geostrategic role of our country," the President said.
With respect to foreign policy, the President said that his Government has further strengthened the relations between Cyprus and Russia, as no other government did before and has proceeded with the development of relations with Israel, while promoting its relations with the Middle East as well.
Referring to the economy, the President said that "though heavily wounded by the global and European economic crisis Cyprus could have avoided the situation in which it currently stands."
"Regardless of the structural problems," he said, "Cyprus would not have had to resort to European Stability Mechanism if the Cypriot banks were not exposed to the Greek economy."
"Cyprus is a victim of the crisis in the banking system. This is acknowledged by everyone in Europe and internationally," he went on to say.
Heavily exposed to the Greek economy, the two main Cypriot banks sought state aid after they had to write down Greek bonds amounting to €4.5 billion, equivalent to 25% of Cyprus` GDP, following the haircut of the Greek sovereign debt.
"The recapitalisation needs of the largest banks in Cyprus forced us to resort to the mechanism which we were trying very much to avoid ", Christofias said.
Christofias noted that while other political parties were pushing for a hasty agreement on a Memorandum containing the terms of the financial assistance, during the negotiations with the Troika the government upheld significant sectors of the Cypriot economy as well as long -standing working class achievements.
He also said the government also upheld its sovereign right to decide on natural gas management, created the conditions for avoidance of privatizations, which the Troika demanded, and safeguarded key achievements such as the Cost of Living Adjustment and the 13th salary.
"Most importantly however, is that through negotiations and despite the fact that the MOU includes painful provisions, we manage to preserve the prospect for Cyprus to exit from this difficult position soon. The new government will be called on to foster and promote this prospect and for this reasons assertiveness and realism is needed," the President said.
"We never claimed that we did not make mistakes or omissions. After all there is no government in the world that didn’t make mistakes. However the citizens and history will determine whether the government was treated fairly, if the criticism was in good faith and creative or if it was devastating and unfair," he added.
Concluding, Christofias assured that he as a citizen will continue to fight so that Cyprus can overcome the difficulties and problems and rid of the Turkish occupation. (CNA)