October 10, 1997
Clerides: Turkey’s Inflexibility Meant to Prevent ProgressCyprus Government Has an Obligation to Protect its Citizens
“No progress has been made towards the solution of the Cyprus problem, due to the inflexibility of the Turkish side,” Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides told the 52nd U.N. General Assembly on October 6.
In his address Clerides reviewed the intense international effort over the past year–spearheaded by the U.N. Secretary-General and the Security Council–-to achieve substantial progress towards a comprehensive settlement.
Turkey’s inflexibility is a consequence of a consistent Turkish effort to undermine all efforts to achieve a Cyprus solution, and “the result of this deliberate inflexibility is the perpetuation of the illegal Turkish occupation of 37% of territory of the Republic by Turkish military forces, the artificial separation of the two communities, the colonization of the occupied areas by illegal settlers from Turkey, the refugee problem, the usurpation of the Greek Cypriot properties in the occupied area and the continued blunt violation by the Turkish side of the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council resolutions,” he continued.
The Cyprus President said he had participated with good will in the U.N.-sponsored talks this summer in New York and Switzerland to demonstrate his government’s commitment to the international effort.
Even before the talks began, however, the Turkish side carried out a series of provocations, including threats to integrate the occupied areas with Turkey and violations of Cyprus’ airspace by Turkish military aircraft, to spoil the atmosphere for the talks.
At the same time the Turkish side began to advance a new precondition for the talks, namely that they be linked to Cyprus’ accession to the European Union—a tactic used to scuttle the U.N.effort and prevent a discussion of the substantive issues of a settlement.
During the talks Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash “refused to hold any discussions on the substance of the Cyprus problem,” Clerides said, a fact affirmed by the President of the U.N. Security Council on August 20, when he bluntly attributed the failure of the second round of talks to the Turkish side.
The Cyprus government fully shares the disappointment of the Security Council that no progress has been achieved, Clerides said, adding that the “clear conclusion, however, to be drawn is that more active involvement of the international community . . . is needed if the talks are to produce results.”
Appeal to Turkish CypriotsAddressing the Turkish Cypriot community, the President said that “Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots have to live in Cyprus for centuries to come. We must live as friends and as citizens of a bicommunal, bizonal federal republic, respecting each other’s ethnic origin, tradition, culture and religion.”
Cypriots “must also be citizens of the European Union” he added, which “will give us greater security and prosperity, both for our respective communities and for Cyprus, our country.”
Long recognizing the importance all Cypriots place on resolving the issue of security, President Clerides continues to propose innovative ways of allaying the fears of both communities and help break the current deadlock in U.N. efforts.
In 1993 the President made a far-reaching proposal for the complete demilitarization of Cyprus—including the disbanding of the Cyprus National Guard, contingent on the withdrawal of Turkey’s occupation troops. Although the international community has greeted the demilitarization proposal as an innovative means of satisfying the security needs of both communities, the Turkish side refuses to consider the proposal.
During the second round of direct talks in August, President Clerides further addressed the security issue by proposing talks in Nicosia to reduce tensions on Cyprus. He also proposed to issue a joint declaration denouncing the use of force, “to agree to work for a specific program of reduction of military forces and equipment . . . [and a] limitation of importation of arms,” —all of which would be part of the framework for the demilitarization of Cyprus.
Not only did the Turkish side refuse to agree to such a declaration, but since the end of the talks they have continued with “a barrage of threatening statements against Cyprus, in direct violation of international law,” including threats to annex the occupied areas and to militarily attack Cyprus if the government attempts to strengthen its defenses.
Faced with an occupation by 35,000 foreign troops, a refusal to withdraw those troops as part of the demilitarization of Cyprus, or even to agree to denounce the use of force, President Clerides, in his U.N. address, reaffirmed that the Cyprus government will not allow the people of Cyprus to be at the mercy of Turkey’s aggression.
“I wish to make it abundantly clear that we cannot and that we will not relinquish our inalienable right to defend our country . . . as long as the Turkish threat emanating from the continued aggression and occupation” exists, he continued, “we have not only the right but also the duty to provide for the security of the people of Cyprus.”
Alluding to Turkey’s brutal bombing of civilians in Cyprus both during the 1974 invasion and in indiscriminate raids against defenseless villages during the 1960s, the Cyprus President said that “we will not tie our hands behind our backs and allow the Turkish Air Force to bomb our towns and villages at will, as it has done in the past, without the ability to defend ourselves.”
To this end the Cyprus government announced earlier this year that it would install a surface-to-air defense system. Following the announcement Turkish government officials publicly threatened to attack Cyprus if components of the system arrive in Cyprus. The threats were loudly condemned by the international community, including the U.S. State Department, which called the Turkish statements “beyond the bounds of acceptable international behavior.”
Despite the impasse resulting from Turkey’s belligerence and intransigence, the international community will continue to press for a Cyprus settlement, with the expectation that direct talks will resume following Cyprus presidential elections next February.
Reaffirming “that the status quo in Cyprus is unacceptable,” the permanent Security Council members on September 25 urged the “parties to make a determined effort to achieve a comprehensive settlement in accordance with the Security Council resolutions,” according to a statement issued following a meeting between the Secretary-General and the foreign ministers of the permanent five Council members, the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia, and China.
They announced that the Secretary-General will be engaging in “a sustained process of direct negotiations” and called on the parties “to commit themselves fully to this process of negotiations, (and) to cooperate actively and constructively.”
On the sidelines of the General Assembly, President Clerides conferred with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the representatives of the permanent Security Council members; while Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides extensively briefed his counterparts on Turkey’s unwillingness to promote a lasting Cyprus settlement.
Any settlement, Clerides continued, “must be fair, viable, and workable,” and he also expressed disappointment that despite the intense efforts of the international community and the goodwill demonstrated by the Cyprus government, since Ankara’s 1974 invasion and continuing occupation, “Turkish policy on Cyprus has not changed.”
Clinton Sends GreetingsReaffirming “the strong bonds that exist between our people and governments,” in his congratulatory message U.S. President Bill Clinton emphasized that “the U.S. is strongly committed to the search for a just and lasting peace in Cyprus.”
Congratulatory messages were sent by many leaders around the world, including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who wrote President Clerides that he looked “forward to building upon the already close relationship that exists between Cyprus and the world organization.”
Independence Day events were held throughout the free areas of Cyprus, including the annual Independence Day parade in Nicosia, which was attended by numerous foreign dignitaries.
President Clerides participated in an Independence celebration in New York, while in Washington Ambassador Andros Nicolaides hosted a reception which was honored by the presence of Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and attended by high-ranking Administration officials, members of Congress, the diplomatic corps, the media and hundreds of other guests.
The State Department spokesman added that the meetings “reflected the kind of high-level attention the Administration places on addressing the problems in the region.”
Deeply concerned that the continuing division of the island might result in a military conflict in the region, Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides had made proposals during U.N.-sponsored talks in Switzerland in August to help resolve the security issue, but they were rejected by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. Following a series of meetings in the region by the State Department’s Special Cyprus Coordinator, Thomas Miller, Denktash finally agreed to begin such talks.
During a brief stopover in Larnaca on September 15, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced that the talks would begin, stressing that the “agreement represents a significant step in the right direction.” A State Department statement reaffirmed that “the resolution of the Cyprus problem remains one of President Clinton’s and the Secretary’s highest foreign policy priorities.”
Calling security a “fundamental issue” President Clerides affirmed that he is committed to seeing the talks succeed. On September 26 U.N. Resident Representative Gustave Feissel hosted the first meeting on the security talks, which are being held without preconditions or an agenda.
In addition to the active engagement of Secretary of State Albright, the U.S. effort is being augmented by the involvement of U.S. Special Presidential Emissary on Cyprus Richard Holbrooke.
Holbrooke arrives in Ankara on October 12 to “discus the full range of issues relating to our efforts to promote a settlement of the Cyprus dispute,” the State Department spokesman said on October 10, adding that “we believe now is the right time to continue the process in Ankara.” Miller, who will accomany Holbrooke to Ankara, will afterwards confer with Greek officials in Athens.
In recent weeks Holbrooke held in-depth discussions in New York with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and with Foreign Minister Kasoulides.
U.S. Congressional Frustration“The unambiguous position of the U.S. is Turkey is illegally occupying Cyprus—period. That’s the beginning, middle, and the end,” Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) said on September 23, during a confirmation hearing for new U.S. Ambassadors to Greece and Turkey.
In recent months Congress has called on the Administration to more directly pressing Ankara to end its occupation of Cyprus and Biden stressed that the United States must be unequivocal in condemning Turkey’s continuing occupation of Cyprus. “It is our policy, it has been our policy, that the invasion of Cyprus was a violation of international law,” he said.
The President of the E.U. Council of Ministers, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jacques Poos, told the U.N. General Assembly on September 24 that “we reject any link between these [U.N.] talks and the accession negotiations with Cyprus,” adding that “the latter will be initiated in line with the decisions taken by the European Council and will contribute in a positive manner towards the search for a political solution.”
The E.U. also stressed its position that strengthened E.U. relations with Turkey are contingent on “a positive contribution by Turkey to seeking a just and viable solution to the Cypriot problem.”
“The negotiations will open with Cyprus whatever the climate in the region. The E.U. will stick to this commitment,” Poos reaffirmed on October 7, following a meeting with Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides. The Cyprus foreign minister also repeated that an earlier government invitation for the Turkish Cypriots to participation in the E.U. accession negotiations still stands.
Turkey’s Military Threats DenouncedThe European Parliament adopted a resolution on September 18 which “denounces” threats by Turkey to annex occupied Cyprus as “illegal, provocative and not conducive to creating the right negotiating climate” for U.N. talks.
The European Parliament also said it was “appalled at all statements by Rauf Denktash, leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, that there will be war” if Cyprus joins the E.U.
In emphasizing that Turkey’s intransigence on Cyprus is to the detriment of Ankara’s relations with Europe, the resolution “reminds the Turkish Government that constructive relations between Turkey and the E.U. depend partly on the Turkish government’s policy on Cyprus.”
The resolution also calls on the E.U. and its member-states “to maintain firm pressure on Turkey to contribute positively to a just solution of the Cyprus problem and to ensure that they facilitate the commencement of accession negotiations with Cyprus by the beginning of 1998.”
We are passing through a difficult time. . . [but] the obstacle is not [Turkish Cypriot leader] Denktash. The obstacle to progress is Turkey, and it is there that all our attention should be directed,” President Glafcos Clerides said on October 7, in an address to the Hellenic Leadership Conference in Washington, which also honored U.S. National Security Advisor Samuel Berger. In his remarks Clerides also stressed the importance of the withdrawal of Turkey’s occupation troops as a first step in the demilitarization of Cyprus, adding that Turkey must recognize that Cyprus’ accession to the E.U. will not only benefit the Turkish Cypriot community, but Turkey itself. “The only country which can really help with the solution of the Cyprus problem is the U.S.,” he concluded and expressed the hope that Washington will play an important role in the coming months. Underlining President Clinton’s commitment to bring about a Cyprus settlement, National Security Advisor Berger told the conference that President Clerides’ “vision of a Cyprus united in peace will help drive the process forward and improve the lives of all Cypriots.”
In WashingtonPresident Clerides opened
on October 7 an art exhibition, “Myths, Legends,
and Stories through the Eyes of the Children of
Cyprus,” at the World Bank. Speaking of the
childrens’ paintings, Clerides noted the hope
expressed in their work, evidence that “throughout
the painful history of our island, our people continue to
dream and create.” Cyprus Ambassador Andros
Nicolaides also addressed the opening of the exhibit,
was organized under the aegis of the spouse of the
President, Lilla-Irene Clerides. The exhibit runs
until October 19. Washington’s Children’s
Museum hosts an expanded exhibition from October