Appraisal drilling begins today

YESTERDAY’S cabinet reshuffle was marked by a public spat between the administration and outgoing Commerce and Industry Minister Praxoulla Antoniadou who said she had to work under adverse conditions and was continually undermined.

Antoniadou also denied she had ever resigned, as the government spokesman and President Demetris Christofias had suggested.

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou rejected Antoniadou’s claims, publishing a letter where the president informed his minister that he accepted her resignation - submitted via a telephone call.

Stefanou officially announced her replacement with Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis yesterday, along with two other expected changes to the cabinet. Former Nicosia mayor Eleni Mavrou has taken Sylikiotis’ place at the interior ministry, while former banker Vasos Shiarlis was named finance minister, replacing Kikis Kazamias,

But Antoniadou told reporters that she had never resigned, suggesting that the president’s associates had misled him regarding her intentions.

“Of course I expected that the minister [herself] would be given the chance to meet the president in person in order to have adequate communication,” Antoniadou said, reading from a letter she wrote Christofias on Sunday in response to a March 14 letter the president had sent her.

In the letter, Antoniadou recognised the president’s right to appoint and terminate ministers but she also suggested that her work at the ministry for the past eight months had not been carried out under the best conditions.

She listed a series of her achievements including the launch of the second licensing round for hydrocarbon exploration whose “transparent and reliable” procedures won the praise of foreign investors, the exploratory drill offshore Cyprus that revealed natural gas reserves, and renewal of the licence of the company doing the exploration.

Also listed were a number of meetings with European officials in preparation for the assumption by Cyprus of the EU presidency in July.

“And all this despite the adverse conditions of internal and external undermining and slander where for example, during the meetings of the ministerial committee, the minister (Antoniadou) was pressured to follow different policies from those suggested by the president on golf courses and Noble Energy - the company licensed to drill for hydrocarbons,” Antoniadou said, without giving any details.

The government responded in the afternoon, rejecting the outgoing minister’s claims.

“They do not respond to reality and they are completely unfounded,” the spokesman said in a written statement.

Stefanou also made public the letter sent by Christofias to Antoniadou on March 14.

In the letter Christofias tells his former minister that after she had resigned by phone he had expected from her an explanation or even an apology.

“After so many days and based on that verbal statement, I expected and expect you to submit your resignation both officially and in writing,” Christofias said.

“Given that in the meantime you have not revisited the matter, I have decided to carry out a limited reshuffle of the government, accepting your resignation,” he added.

Earlier yesterday, Christofias said Antoniadou had resigned two weeks ago.

“Does the date and time play a role? Fifteen days ago,” Christofias said.

He also said it was not in writing.

Announcing the reshuffle, Stefanou said the reality was that the minister had verbally resigned days ago.

Pressed for more information, he said there was no reason to give more details on the matter.

Source: Cyprus-Mail

By George Psyllides

Published on March 20, 2012

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