EMBASSY OF CYPRUS, WASHINGTON DC
Direct U.N. Talks Begin in New York
President Clerides Committed to Make Every Effort to Achieve Progress
Following a three-year hiatus, the U.N. will convene direct talks aimed at achieving a Cyprus settlement on July 9 at the Troutbeck Center, north of New York City.
The first session, consisting of five days of talks, "will constitute the beginning of a process which should continue as long as may be needed to achieve agreement on a comprehensive solution," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote to the Security Council on June 20.
Since Turkey's 1974 invasion and occupation, international efforts to end the division of Cyprus have repeatedly failed, primarily as a result of the inflexibility of the Turkish side, but the Secretary-General is committed to ensuring that the current effort will not be "a perpetuation of preceding inconclusive dialogues." The elements needed to reach a settlement have been identified, he continued in his report, and "it would be most appropriate to embark upon a sustained process of direct negotiations leading to . . . a comprehensive settlement."
The July 9-13 talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, representing the Greek Cypriot community, and Mr. Rauf Denktash, representing the Turkish Cypriot community, will likely be followed by a second session in August and perhaps a third session before the fall.
The Cyprus President will participate in the talks with goodwill and "make every effort to find a solution to the Cyprus problem," he said on July 4. The aim during the talks, Clerides has repeatedly stressed, is a settlement in accordance with the 1977 and 1979 High-Level Agreements, the relevant U.N. resolutions, and the fundamental principles governing the E.U.
In the days leading up to the talks, Turkish government officials have increased their belligerence against Cyprus, while at the same time it has become clearer that the positions adopted by the Turkish Cypriot leadership are set out in Ankara.
On July 4 Turkish Cypriot leader Denktash announced in Ankara that during the direct talks he would not veer from the negotiating positions approved by the Turkish government.
Turkey's increasing belligerence was reflected in recent statements by the current Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, (who was also prime minister when Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974) claimed Cyprus threatens Turkey's security.
Cyprus President Clerides said in a statement on July 4 that Ecevit's claim "constitutes the height of absurdity," since Turkey--a major military power in the region with 40,000 troops occupying part of Cyprus, in violation of numerous U.N. resolutions--is threatening Cyprus, not the other way around.
Clerides added that he had attempted to promote regional security by proposing the demilitarization of Cyprus, but that Turkey has rejected his proposal.
New Factors Favor Settlement
While the Secretary-General's good offices mission on Cyprus has always enjoyed Security Council support, the current effort is being augmented by far more intense and ongoing support by the Council permanent members, particularly the United States, the U.K., and Russia. Annan stressed the importance of such continued involvement when he told the Council that if the current effort is to succeed, "the active, firm and full support of all concerned, and particularly of the Security Council, is indispensable."
The Cyprus government itself has "contributed significantly to the creation of unprecedented intense and determined international attention," Cyprus government spokesman Manolis Christofides said on June 24, and Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides continues to confer with foreign officials on the best means to achieve progress. In June he met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Russian Foreign Minister Primakov, Japanese Foreign Minister Yukihito Ikeda, and with other foreign officials.
Annan will open the talks, which will subsequently be chaired by the Secretary-General's Special Advisor on Cyprus, Diego Cordovez. But a U.N. spokesman said on July 2 that throughout the talks the Secretary-General "would be kept apprised as to the talks' progress and would be prepared to intervene or participate as necessary."
Underscoring the heightened role of the international community, representatives from many countries will be present at the opening of the New York talks, including representatives from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the guarantor powers, the European Union, and other countries.
With a coordinated effort the presence of these foreign envoys "can break the deadlock and try to achieve the best possible result," Cyprus government spokesman Christofides said on July 4.
In addition to sustained international support, the current effort benefits from "a new element, the desire of Cyprus to join the E.U.," Annan said in Washington on June 19, since both the E.U. and the parties themselves "want to see this issue resolved."
The E.U. is set to begin Cyprus accession negotiations six months after the conclusion of the E.U. Inter-Governmental Conference and given the desire for a settlement, "Cyprus' irreversible accession course opens a unique window of opportunity to the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem," Clerides said on June 27.
Council Reaffirms Basis for Settlement
In renewing U.N. peacekeeping forces on Cyprus (UNFICYP) mandate on June 27, the Security Council approved a resolution reaffirming the U.N. framework for a settlement. Reiterating that the status quo in Cyprus--i.e., the division of Cyprus imposed by Turkey's invasion and continuing occupation--is unacceptable, the Council said "that a Cyprus settlement must be based on a State of Cyprus with a single sovereignty and international personality and a single citizenship, with its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded."
Turning to the key issue of security, the Council emphasized "the importance of eventual demilitarization of the Republic of Cyprus as an objective in the context of an overall comprehensive settlement" and called on the Secretary-General to promote this goal.
U.S. To Intensify Effort in the Fall
President Bill Clinton's appointment on June 4 of former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke as U.S. Special Presidential Emissary for Cyprus signals the determination of the U.S. Government to play an energetic role in achieving a Cyprus settlement.
The United States strongly supports the convening of direct talks and "we hope the New York session will lay a foundation for future negotiations this year and next," according to a U.S. State Department statement on July 3, adding that the "ultimate objective of this process remains a comprehensive settlement that will establish a bizonal, bicommunal federation for Cyprus."
Holbrooke has already been active "trying to lay the groundwork for his own work on this issue," the State Department spokesman said on July 3. Holbrooke will meet separately prior to the New York talks with President Clerides and Mr. Denktash, and he will meet again with President Clerides following the New York sessions.
"Peace on Cyprus is essential for regional stability," Holbrooke said on June 23, and he emphasized that "it is impossible to reach an agreement without Turkey, which is like a key that will unlock the situation."
Cyprus to be Part of Next E.U. Enlargement
In light of previous E.U. decisions, "the next phase of enlargement of the Union will include Cyprus," Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides said in Amsterdam on June 27. Accession talks are expected to begin in early 1998.
In mid-June the E.U. Amsterdam Summit reaffirmed that, with the conclusion of the Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC), the Union will resume the process of E.U. enlargement.
On June 27 Clerides participated, along with officials from the 11 countries which have applied for E.U. membership, in an E.U. briefing on the results of the IGC and Amsterdam Summit.
Clerides told the meeting that Cyprus' strong economy and compliance with the Maastricht convergence criteria has prepared the ground for the timely conclusion of negotiations and that "harmonization with the acquis communautaire, (the body of laws and regulations which make up the E.U. framework), is being steadily and successfully carried out and will be to a great extent completed by the time of the commencement of accession negotiations."
He also stressed on June 28 that Cyprus is the only applicant country in which the European Commission has issued its avis (opinion), affirming Cyprus' eligibility for E.U. membership.
Cyprus is politically, economically, socially and culturally ready to embark on accession negotiations, Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on June 27.
Responding to Turkey's claim that Cyprus cannot join the E.U. prior to a settlement, the foreign minister said that Cyprus cannot be punished twice, once by Turkey's brutal 1974 invasion, and again if the E.U. were to use the continuing occupation as a reason to deny Cyprus E.U. membership.
He added that the accession process itself can contribute to the efforts for a Cyprus solution, that E.U. accession will benefit both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and that accession will help prevent a repetition of Cyprus' 1974 tragedy.
Economy to Facilitate E.U. Membership
A recent report by the World Trade Organization has emphasized that Cyprus is continuing the harmonization of its trade policy with the E.U. and the WTO, and in this regard cites Cyprus' abolition of its discretionary import licensing, revision of its anti-dumping and countervailing legislation, and introduction of a new foreign direct investment policy.
Pointing to a growth in tourism and increased business services for a booming offshore sector, the WTO reports that per capita income in Cyprus has tripled in the last 11 years, from $4,570 in 1985 to $13,650 in 1996.
The WTO report also noted other positive economic developments, including Cyprus' low inflation rate, a fiscal deficit of 2.9% and a reduction of its public debt in 1995 to 54% of Gross Domestic Product.
Releasing its 1996 annual report, Central Bank of Cyprus Governor Afxentis Afxentiou said on July 4 that full employment conditions continue to prevail on Cyprus and that economic activity overall is expected to improve slightly in 1997, with an estimated GDP growth rate of 2.5%.
Turkey's Military Provocations Continue on Eve of U.N. Talks
Turkey repeatedly violated Cyprus' air space and territorial waters in June, thus thwarting international efforts to create an atmosphere of goodwill prior to the start of the New York talks.
These violations are contrary to "the principles and provisions of the Charter of the U.N. and international law, as well as U.N. resolutions," the Cyprus government said in a protest to the United Nations, adding that these acts are particularly provocative coming at the very time the U.N. is attempting to convene direct talks.
U.S. State Department Spokesman Nicholas Burns, commenting on reports that Turkey had illegally docked Turkish naval vessels at ports in the occupied areas, said on June 17 that the U.S. is "very concerned about the reports of the movement of Turkish naval vessels... we think it's important that all the parties involved in trying to resolve the Cyprus dispute not take any unilateral measures that would disrupt in any way the U.N.-sponsored peace talks."
Turkey's aggressive actions have drawn increasing concern in light of Turkish government threats early this year that, if the Cyprus government attempted to bolster its defenses, Ankara would take further military action
"It is objectionable and unwise for Turkey to threaten any kind of military action against Cyprus," the State Department spokesman again warned Ankara on June 16. With the intense international effort now underway, "there is enough reason to think that there could be diplomatic movement forward to encourage the Turkish Government not to launch rhetorical broadsides and threats against the government of Cyprus, which are unwarranted."
Early this year the Cyprus government pledged that as the U.N. effort progressed Cyprus would adopt all necessary measures to improve the atmosphere for the talks, and in April the government unilaterally announced that it would not invite Greek aircraft to overfly Cyprus during joint military exercises--a decision hailed by the international community as an important step to help ease military tensions on the island.
In May the U.S. State Department said it had received assurances from the Turkish government that they would not overfly Cyprus' air space, a commitment which Ankara has now repeatedly broken.
House Resolution Supports Greater U.S.. Involvement, Demilitarization of Cyprus
Reaffirming "that the status quo on Cyprus is unacceptable and detrimental to the interests of the United States in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond," on June 25 the U.S. House International Relations Committee adopted House Concurrent Resolution #81, calling for increased American efforts to reach a lasting Cyprus settlement.
The resolution welcomes President Clinton's commitment "to give increased attention to Cyprus and make the search for a solution a priority of United States foreign policy," and emphasizes that Congress believes that "lasting peace and stability on Cyprus could be best served by a process of complete demilitarization leading to the withdrawal of all foreign occupation forces."
During debate on the resolution House International Relations Committee Chairman Ben Gilman (R-NY) told his colleagues that the Cyprus problem "is a situation that cries out for just redress and an end to the occupation of Cyprus by foreign troops."
Expressing his concern over the increasing militarization of Cyprus, he stressed that greater U.S. involvement is needed because "the risks of inaction far outweigh those of taking the initiative on Cyprus now."
The bipartisan resolution, introduced by Gilman, along with ranking minority committee member Lee Hamilton (D-IN) and others, now has over 40 co-sponsors.
Senate Committee Approves Cyprus Aid
In approving $15 million in economic aid for Cyprus for fiscal year 1998, on June 25 the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee urged that the monies be spent on "measures aimed at reunification of the island and designed to reduce tensions and promote peace and cooperation between the two communities on Cyprus."
The U.S. and Cyprus "have enjoyed close bonds of friendship and cooperation through the years," Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides said in a congratulatory message to U.S. President Bill Clinton on July 4, U.S. Independence Day. President Clerides also expressed the hope that the U.N. direct talks "will pave the way to a just settlement of the Cyprus question based on the U.N. resolutions and the principles of international law."
In signing a revision to the European Control Treaty recently, Eurocontrol Director-General Yves Lambert reaffirmed that the Cyprus Republic's Civil Aviation Department is recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and Eurocontrol as the only legal authority providing services within the Nicosia Flight Information Region (FIR), rejecting a challenge by the Turkish occupation authorities who repeatedly violates the Nicosia FIR.
Cyprus ranks second among developing countries in the U.N.'s human development index. The rankings, from the U.N. 1997 Human Development Report, released June 13, are based on criteria such as life expectancy, per capita income, unemployment and health care.
Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CYTA) Chairman Michalakis Zivanaris said on July 4 that CYTA continues to be one of the most technologically advanced telecommunications systems in the world. Last year CYTA continued to digitize its network, introduced the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) and witnessed a 145% increase in the number of Internet subscribers.Strengthening its continuing efforts to prevent the distribution of illegal drugs, on July 3 Cyprus signed the Council of Europe's "Agreement on Illicit Traffic by Sea,' implementing a U.N. convention on illegal drug trafficking.
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