EMBASSY OF CYPRUS, WASHINGTON DC
Embassy of Cyprus
Press & Information Office
2211 R Street NW
Washington DC 20008
(202) 234-1936 Fax
U.N. PROXIMITY TALKS BEGIN
Clerides Proposes Good-Will Measures to Facilitate Talks Cyprus is approaching a defining moment . . . (that) will be very important for the future," U.N. Resident Representative Gustave Feissel said on March 11, at the start of consultations aimed at preparing the ground for talks leading to a comprehensive se ttlement.
"The goal of the Secretary-General on Cyprus is to set the stage for direct talks" by the middle of the year, a U.N. spokesman said on April 2. The visit to the region by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Cyprus, Han Sung-Joo, on April 12 as well as the meeting between U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash on April 9, are further indications that the U.N. is determined to finally break the current deadlock on Cyprus and proceed to direct talks. While the current round of discussions between Feissel and Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Feissel and Denktash have focused on substantive aspects of a settlement, "we all agree that our main effort, which is to move towards an overall settlement, could be helped by improving the atmosphere . . . by each community making certain gestures which are positive towards the other community," Feissel said on March 26, so long as such measures are consistent with a settlement based on a single, bizonal, bi communal Cyprus state.
The Cyprus government has already provided the U.N. envoy with several ideas on such good-will measures, President Clerides confirmed on April 5, including proposals to facilitate exchanges between Greek and Turkish Cypriot professional and scientific org anizations.
Fully supporting the U.N. effort to resume direct talks, the Cyprus government hopes the preparatory consultations will show that the Turkish side now has the political flexibility to achieve progress on the key issues of a settlement, Cyprus government s pokesman Yiannakis Cassoulides said on March 24, adding that the government would assess the outcome of these proximity talks to determine "if there is sufficient ground to begin face-to-face talks that would be successful."
"Concerted International Effort"
The proximity talks are being held in the context of a "concerted international effort . . . taking shape and substance behind the U.N. lead," an effort which includes the "close cooperation" of the United States, Great Britain, and the European Union, Br itain's Special Representative for Cyprus, David Hannay, said on March 14. Underscoring the determination of the international community to achieve a breakthrough this year, Hannay added on March 11 that "this is a very crucial moment for Cyprus, the chances of making progress now are better than they have been for a long time a nd that they are probably better than they will be for a long time. We have to have a serious and determined effort to crack this problem, which has been around for too long." Following a round of consultations in Nicosia in support of the U.N. effort, Hannay said on March 14 that "the question is no longer whether, but when face-to-face negotiations will take place in a new, serious effort to find a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem." He emphasized that the benefits to all Cypriots of a settlement will far outweigh the concessions required to achieve it. The British envoy said the recent tension on Cyprus (created by Turkish attacks against unarmed civilians along the buffer zone last year and Turkey's public threats in January to attack Cyprus) "explains why the international community attaches such high importance to making another serious, substantial and (I hope) successful effort to solve this problem."
U.S.: 1997 "Year of Cyprus"
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has repeatedly stressed that "this year will be the year of progress in Cyprus," U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said on April 7, adding that "Secretary Albright thinks the Cyprus problem needs to be attended to, it ought to have a high diplomatic priority, she wants to be involved and we are now looking for the right way of being involved." Asked about a claim that the Turkish Cypriot leader is now willing to negotiate, Burns said that "after almost 23 years, actions are much more important than willing to talk. There have been lots of opportunities for Denktash to get together with the Cypr iot government, and at this point we want to see action." Stressing that the U.S. "will continue to support the U.N. and the leading role the U.N. must have on this issue," Burns has repeatedly stressed that the U.S. intends to continue to work closely with E.U. and British officials to advance the U.N. effort o n Cyprus.
In March the State Department's Director of Southern European Affairs, Carey Cavanaugh, held a series of discussions in European capitals on coordinating efforts on Cyprus, including with E.U. Commissioner Hans Van den Broek. European efforts on Cyprus have intensified recent months since the E.U. has an "impetus to make a special effort to start working towards a solution," an E.U. spokeswoman said on March 14, referring to the commitment to begin talks on Cyprus' accession to the E.U. six months after the conclusion of the Inter-Governmental Conference, expected in June. Direct U.N. talks on Cyprus have not been held since 1994 when the Turkish side maintained positions outside the U.N. framework for a settlement, prompting the U.N. Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the "the absence of agreement due e ssentially to a lack of political will by the Turkish side."
E.U. ACCESSION A CATALYST FOR CYPRUS SETTLEMENT
"Cyprus remains a high priority on the agenda of the E.U. Presidency for the coming months," E.U. Presidency representative Ron Van Dartel told a meeting of the Joint Cyprus-E.U. Parliamentary Committee meeting in Nicosia on March 18, adding that E.U. mem bership "offers an opportunity to find a politically viable and lasting solution to the Cyprus question this year." Cyprus' accession to the E.U. "must not be conditional on a solution," instead "the beginning of negotiations would be a catalyst for a peace settlement," the Parliamentary Committee, composed of an equal number of representatives from the Cyprus House of Representatives and the European Parliament, said at the conclusion of their meeting. The reaffirmation on March 16 by the permanent E.U. representatives that Cyprus' accession negotiations would begin six months after the end of the E.U.'s Inter-Governmental Conference (expected to end in June) "will facilitate to a significant extent our course to Europe," Cyprus Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides said on March 17.
Turkey Must Be Pressured to Change
E.U. officials have repeatedly called on Turkey to end its division of Cyprus. "The fact that they [Turkey's occupation troops] are still on the island is in itself an indication that the main problem lies in Ankara," the leader of the centrist political group in the European Parliament, Gijs de Vries, said on April 5. The co-chairman of the Joint Cyprus-E.U. Parliamentary Committee, Phillipe Monfils, said on April 2 that the greatest impediment to progress on Cyprus "lies in Ankara," and emphasized that "the E.U. must put pressure on Turkey to change." During a series of meetings in early March Foreign Minister Michaelides and his European counterparts explored how the E.U. can more effectively support U.N. efforts to achieve substantial progress on Cyprus this year. "All those concerned about a resolution of the Cyprus problem should contribute substantively to strengthen this effort," Michaelides said on March 12, expressing the hope that a coordinated approach might convince Turkey of the benefits of ending its int ransigence on Cyprus. He cautioned, however, that "it would be a mistake to hastily conclude that Turkey is deserting her policy and adopting a positive stance on the Cyprus problem."
GREEK AND TURKISH CYPRIOTS PRESS FOR PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT
Divided for years by a separation enforced by the Turkish occupation army, recent increases in bicommunal contacts have resulted in a growing number of Greek and Turkish Cypriots expressing their desire for a peaceful, reunited Cyprus. The Cyprus government welcomes these contacts, which are often undermined by the Turkish occupation authorities who deny Turkish Cypriots permission to travel to the free areas of Cyprus. Occupation authorities recently prevented Turkish Cypriot artists f rom attending a bicommunal art opening in the free areas of the Republic, and they regularly prevent Turkish Cypriots from receiving medical care in the free areas of Cyprus. With the support of the U.N. and E.U., labor leaders, journalists, political party leaders, and leaders of women's organizations met in March to share their perspectives on a future Cyprus. Trade Unionists. Stressing the need to safeguard the interests of all Cypriots in the future federal republic, representatives from 16 Greek and Turkish Cypriot trade unions participated in a conference sponsored by the E.U. on March 19. They reaffirmed support for a settlement based on the 1977 and 1979 High-Level Agreements and on the U.N. resolutions on Cyprus, and added that any settlement must ensure respect for the human rights of all Cypriots. "The sound of hatred and extermination of each other must be replaced by the sound of logic," General Secretary of the Greek Cypriot Workers' Confederation (SEK), Michalakis Ioannou, said; while Ali Kercay, President of the Turkish Cypriot trade union, KT AMS, stressed that "we don't want Greek or Turkish Cypriots to suffer any more . . . we don't want any more killing and pain, we want conditions of happiness and peace." Journalists. Meeting for the first time since Turkey invaded and occupied part of Cyprus 23 years ago, on March 13 Greek and Turkish Cypriot journalists explored ways to "return to normality in a peaceful common homeland," the president of the Greek Cypri ot journalist's organization, Andreas Kannaouros, told the conference. "Greek and Turkish Cypriots can work together in helping politicians' efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Cyprus problem," the president of the Turkish Cypriot journalist's organization, Housein Gouven, emphasized. The journalists have agreed to me et regularly to address common issues.
Women. A group of six Greek and Turkish Cypriot women met on March 14 to prepare the agenda for a larger meeting of Greek and Turkish Cypriot women to be held under E.U. auspices in Brussels later this month. The group will coordinate additional activitie s between Greek and Turkish Cypriot women. Political Party leaders. Greek and Turkish Cypriot party leaders met with U.N. Resident Representative Gustave Feissel and British Special Representative David Hannay on March 12, in a regular meeting of Greek and Turkish Cypriot political party leaders. The leaders recently announced plans to intensify and normalize their contacts.
PRESIDENT CLERIDES RESHUFFLES CABINET
On April 8 Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides announced his first cabinet reshuffle since assuming office in 1993. The government spokesman, Yiannakis Cassoulides, became foreign minister, replacing Alecos Michaelides. The other newly-appointed ministers a re: Nicos Koshis, justice and public order; George Hadjinicolaou, education and culture; Christos Solomis, health; and Leontios Ierodiaconou, communications and works. The new government spokesman will be the former health minister, Manolis Christofides. The new ministers were sworn in on April 9. The Council of Ministers now consists of:
Foreign Affairs: Yiannakis Cassoulides
Finance: Christodoulos Christodoulou
Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment: Costas Petrides
Communications and Works: Leontios Ierodiaconou
Defense: Costas Eliades
Education: George Hadjinicolaou
Interior: Dinos Michaelides
Justice and Public Order: Nicos Koshis
Health: Christos Solomis
Labor and Social Insurance: Andreas Moushouttas
Commerce, Industry and Tourism: Kyriacos Christofi
IN BRIEF . . .
On April 7 the Cyprus government protested to the U.N. over recent Turkish violations of Cyprus' airspace by military aircraft. Not only are the violations contrary to international law, the Cyprus government stressed in its letter to the U.N. Secretary-G eneral, but they violate "repeated Security Council resolutions on Cyprus, which note that such overflights increase political tensions on the island and undermine efforts to reach a final settlement."
Describing the part of Cyprus under military occupation by Turkey as "an open-air sunny prison" Turkish Cypriot Republican Turkish Party leader Mehmet Ali Talat on March 27 criticized the inflexibility of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, pointing out that "the longer we wait to find a solution, the more external factors will affect a settlement." According to Ortam (March 24), Communal Liberation Party leader Mustafa Akinci also severely criticized living conditions in the occupied area which have forced t he migration of young Turkish Cypriots at least 100 seek permission to emigrate monthly to Great Britain creating a community of "white-hair people." Further integration between the occupied areas and Turkey only hurts the Turkish Cypriot community, he a dded.
Signs of a growing economy, an expanding role in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, as well as a strong position as an offshore financial center are all signs of Cyprus' expanding economic role in the region. Strong growth is expected this year, Finance Mini
ster Christodoulos Christodoulou said on March 24, with the 1997 growth rate expected to range between 3-3.5% of GDP, compared to an expected E.U. growth rate this year of 2.5-3%. "Prospects for the services sector are much better than last year," Christo
doulou said. Recent agreements between Cyprus and several Balkan and Eastern European countries, ensuring that Cypriot companies can enter these markets and avoid double taxation, should further facilitate its regional role, Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and
Industry President Vasilis Rologis said on March 29. Cyprus' role as an offshore financial center is also expected to expand. "Combine (commercial infrastructure, communications and taxation) with possible E.U. membership and!
the fact that Cyprus is strategically placed as a gateway to the Middle East, and you have something unique which, if exploited to its maximum, could make this small island the Hong Kong of the Mediterranean," Cyprus Offshore Enterprises Association Chai rman Norman Elliot stressed on March 7.