Embassy Newsletter       Washington, DC      May 1998 

Holbrooke’s Mission Undermined by Turkish Intransigence

U.S. Emissary Says Turkish Position "Not Realistic"

U.S. Presidential Emissary for Cyprus, Richard Holbrooke, ended his latest three-day mediation effort May 4, charging that two preconditions set by the Turkish Cypriot side, in a change of position, make restarting intercommunal talks impossible.

Speaking at a press conference before his departure from the island, Holbrooke said the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash demanded that his "entity" be recognized, and the accession of the Republic of Cyprus as a member of the European Union must be halted, as preconditions for talks on a solution to the Cyprus problem. Neither condition is acceptable, Holbrooke said. This position was echoed by EU Commissioner for External Affairs, Hans van den Broek, who also blamed Denktash for the impasse, noting on May 5 that "Mr. Denktash’s terms cannot be accepted and his stance has confirmed his intransigence." Only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Cypriot "regime" (created by the Turkish military invasion in 1974) in the occupied area of the Republic of Cyprus. The U.N. Security Council declared this and all other secessionist acts as "legally invalid." Holbrooke did pledge the U.S. would remain engaged and that he would return to the island if the two sides requested him to do so.  He said U.S. State Department Special Cyprus Coordinator Thomas Miller would be back at the end of May. But given the intransigence of the Turkish position, which Holbrooke described as "not realistic," he said it would be pointless to resume his mission on May 8 as originally planned.

"Presenting these two positions, as conditions precedent to a negotiation, will make progress difficult," Holbrooke said. He added "in the current situation the Turkish side does not wish to address those issues (for a Cyprus settlement) until two preconditions or conditions preceding have been met. Therefore meaningful exchange is not possible."

Holbrooke noted that the Turkish Cypriots are free to participate in the EU dialogue that got underway in Brussels in March, as proposed by President Glafcos Clerides. President Clerides’s proposal for the Turkish Cypriot side to nominate representatives to the negotiating team has been turned down. Holbrooke noted that the U.S. strongly supports the Republic’s unconditional entry into the European Union.

He said he has reported to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on his meetings and stressed that he did not consider his trip a failure. "I believe there is a solution to the Cyprus problem, but responsibility lies first and foremost to the parties themselves," Holbrooke said.

The U.S. Emissary, who brokered the Bosnian peace deal, said both the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides made it clear that they want the U.S. to pursue efforts for a settlement, under U.N.  auspices, which would lead to a bizonal and bicommunal federation, as stipulated in U.N. resolutions.

President Clerides expressed his disappointment with the failure of the talks and the "unreasonable demands" of the Turkish side. "The President of the Republic of Cyprus regrets that it was not possible during the consultations with Mr. Holbrooke for progress to be made in the process for a solution to the Cyprus problem," he stated.

The Holbrooke mission came as the U.S. had launched a major campaign to try to resolve the Cyprus dispute. This was his second trip to Cyprus in a month and follows several visits by Cyprus Coordinator Miller to the region.

The Turkish Cypriot position has been hardening in recent weeks particularly after an April 23 meeting between Denktash and Turkey’s President Suleyman Demirel. Their joint declaration stated that "a negotiating process aimed at solving the Cyprus problem can be successful only to the extent that it is conducted between sovereign equals." This position is at variance with U.N. Security Council resolutions on Cyprus.

In late April Turkey launched major military exercises in the occupied north and in international waters and airspace of the eastern Mediterranean. Turkish warplanes routinely violate Cypriot airspace, which the government has strongly protested at the U.N.  Turkish troops have been occupying 37 percent of Cyprus’s territory since the 1974 invasion, despite numerous U.N. resolutions demanding their withdrawal.

Speaking in Athens April 21, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen reiterated that America wants a reduction of tension over Cyprus, and between Greece and Turkey. "We think it is a mistake for Turkey to engage in hostile threats for Cyprus," he said. "We think the right thing to do is to find ways in which the parties in Turkey can, in fact, work with Greece, that the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots may sit down together at a table and negotiate out their differences."

On April 24, the Russian Federation presented a proposal for the demilitarization of Cyprus to the U.N. Secretary-General saying that demilitarization is "a universally acknowledged key element in a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem."

A comprehensive proposal for the demilitarization of the Republic of Cyprus (contingent on the withdrawal of the Turkish occupation forces) was submitted to the U.N. in 1993 by President Clerides.  The proposal has received international support including an endorsement by the U.S. Congress.

On May 4, Spokesman Christos Stylianides stated, "Our firm policy was and continues to be the demilitarization of Cyprus and the presence of an international force with terms of reference from the Security Council."  The government hopes, he said, to "restart the dialogue on the basis of U.N. resolutions, under U.N. auspices for a bicommunal, bizonal federation."

President Clerides expressed his appreciation to the U.S. for its latest mediation efforts. "The Cyprus government wishes to thank President Clinton for placing a Cyprus settlement among his country’s priorities and for having entrusted Mr. Holbrooke, an experienced and proven negotiator, with the task of promoting the American initiative," he said prior to Holbrooke’s arrival, adding that the government would welcome further talks.

"The Greek Cypriot side is ready to cooperate constructively in any initiative under the U.N. umbrella in support of the good offices of the Secretary-General," he wrote in a statement.

Meanwhile, during his trip, Holbrooke did succeed in inaugurating improved telephone communications between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, "Communications break down barriers," he said.  "I urge the people of both parts of Cyprus to use these lines to reach out to old friends they haven’t contacted and talked to in many years."

The project, which began in Brussels last November during a meeting between businessmen, has the full approval of President Clerides.  The new $80,000 automated system, funded by the U.S. and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), will increase the annual handling capacity of calls from 100,000 to over 750,000.  Contacts between the two communities have been limited as Denktash has recently barred bicommunal events, following the beginning of Cyprus’s accession talks with the EU.

EU Accession Process Is Well Underway

With talks formally opened last month in Brussels on Cyprus’s accession to the European Union, the process leading to full membership is well underway.

In the first working session of the Intergovernmental Conference on April 23, organizational and procedural issues for the accession process were discussed.

Following the first meeting, Chief Negotiator George Vassiliou said that the government is ready to include at any time in the Republic’s team the Turkish Cypriots, who have refused to participate in the talks. He added that he would undertake to brief the Turkish Cypriots on developments in the accession process.

Mr. Vassiliou also said that, despite the difficult task ahead, Cyprus is willing to make all the sacrifices needed for full harmonization in order to achieve membership.

After talks in Washington April 17 with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the EU Commissioner for External Affairs, Hans van den Broek, expressed regret that the Turkish side has "chosen not to join the accession negotiations for membership" and said if there is a divided Cyprus in the EU, "that may well mean the end of the Turkish aspirations for EU membership."

The Commissioner warned Turkey that "no country should be allowed to veto others’ legitimate aspirations for EU membership" and noted that at present Turkey does not fulfill the criteria demanded of all applicant countries. In Nicosia, after a meeting on April 16, Austrian Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel praised President Clerides’s willingness to include Turkish Cypriots in the accession talks. He said Austria would use its presidency of the EU, which starts July 1, to find ways to rebuild trust and confidence with Turkey.

Meanwhile, the accession process is moving forward on a number of fronts.

Ambassador Nicolaides Sees EU Accession Talks As Catalyst

On a visit to California (April 27-May 3), Ambassador Andros Nicolaides met with Governor Pete Wilson and addressed the State Legislature in Sacramento, the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco and the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles, and met with the editorial boards of the San Francisco Examiner and the Los Angeles Times. Some highlights from his remarks follow:

While at the crossroads of three continents, the Ambassador notes that Cyprus "has always had a European outlook and orientation and was always an integral part of European history, culture and civilization." Thus, the current process of entry into the European Union is "only natural."

Ambassador Nicolaides sees the EU accession process as a potential catalyst toward settling the problem and ending the occupation of nearly 40,000 Turkish troops. The "irreversible and firm course" of Cyprus’s entry into the EU has resulted in "unprecedented interest," he says, noting that many special envoys have come to Cyprus this year "to monitor the situation and try to facilitate progress toward a negotiated settlement."Cyprus has invited the Turkish Cypriot community to join the EU talks, the Ambassador says. The government is pursuing an accession path, he adds, because "that will benefit all the people of Cyprus."

Unfortunately, he adds, the Turkish Cypriots have refused to join the talks or to discuss proposals for the "complete demilitarization of the island."

While accession is not a substitute for a solution, Nicolaides believes, "the EU is in a unique position to help," because membership, "will provide Cypriots with a strong sense of security and belonging and will allow them to bury old animosities, suspicions and confrontations."

The Ambassador also believes "the role the U.S. can play is crucial," in using its close ties with Ankara "to impress upon Turkey the need to change its present attitude."

Finally, Nicolaides notes that the U.S. Congress has repeatedly declared "that the status quo on Cyprus is unacceptable and detrimental to the interests of the United States." He says he hopes that a solution to "this unjust, unacceptable and tragic anachronism," can be reached in ongoing mediation efforts that could "make 1998 a pivotal year for Cyprus."

In an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 29, the Ambassador underscores the commitment of the Cyprus government to the U.N. peace process. He writes, however, that "As long as Turkish occupation of Cypriot territory continues, military threats by Ankara persist, and efforts toward a settlement face Turkish obstructionism, the government of Cyprus --as any responsible government facing the same situation would-- has an obligation to reinforce its defenses in hopes of deterring any new Turkish military action."

New Patent Law: A Step in the Accession Process

In early April, as part of the continuing effort to facilitate EU accession talks, the House of Representatives passed a bill bringing local patent law into line with EU regulations.
George Vassiliou, the head of Cyprus’s EU accession talks delegation, said that the bill was an important step in the process.

The 1998 "Special 301" annual review on "the adequacy and effectiveness of intellectual property protection," issued on May 1 by the U.S. Trade Representative, noted that the new Cyprus patent law is "reportedly one of the strongest in the region." The new law is a reflection of the substantial progress made by Cyprus in improving intellectual property protection.

Teacher Victim of Human Rights Violations

On April 15, Eleni Foka, a Greek Cypriot teacher, protested Turkish human rights practices against the enclaved Greek Cypriots on the Karpas Peninsula before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

"Of the 20,000 people of Karpas in 1974," she said, "there are now 450."  She added that she was the only teacher left on the peninsula.

The school in her village, Agia Triada, had 74 pupils in 1976 two years after the invasion. By 1997 the number of students was down to four.  Foka also described Turkish behavior toward the school.  "Every morning we would find windows broken, tiles removed from the roof and excrement on the floors of the classrooms," she explained.  "Books arrived with great delay, pages and whole chapters were missing; my school furniture was taken to equip the schools of Anatolian Turks" she continued.

She also pointed out that the citizens of the village lived in constant fear of rape, theft and murder. In addition, Foka added, citizens were forbidden to cultivate their fields.

Last year Foka was denied permission to return to her village after she had sought medical treatment in the free areas. "Three times I tried to go back and three times I was pushed and beaten, so today I am back in Nicosia away from my village, my school and my pupils." She appealed to the U.N. body for help saying, "Please take note that every human right has been violated. You represent the United Nations, the hope of the world."

Western European Union

Cyprus has applied for associate partnership status with the Western European Union (WEU), the security arm of the European Union, following the start of the EU accession talks, Foreign Minister Kasoulides said April 23. "We have been in dialogue (with the WEU) since 1995, talking to the WEU twice a year." Cyprus had applied to join the EU in 1990.

"We will continue this dialogue with the aim of upgrading our relations (with the WEU)," Kasoulides said, adding that applying for associate partnership status with the WEU was a natural step for any country aspiring to join the EU. "From the moment that a state begins negotiations to enter the EU, a product of this is that it seeks a place in the WEU," he explained.


On April 28 Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou called on Brussels to help ease Cyprus’s EU harmonization process by providing pre-accession aid.

"The accession course to Europe and the harmonization process have already created a cost to the economy of Cyprus," Christodoulou said. "It is our position that we should receive the benefit of pre-accession aid."

Commerce and Industry

The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KEVE), the largest employers’ organization, announced April 26 that the harmonization process must be carried out with care. KEVE noted Cyprus should seek financial aid from the EU, and use it "to support the economy’s productive sectors, particularly industrial," which are now open to competition from Europe.

Money Laundering

Cyprus is not a "high-risk" country for money laundering, the Finance Minister announced April 27. After a meeting with a committee of representatives of the Council of Europe (CoE), Christodoulou said a CoE Financial Action Task-force had evaluated the island’s efforts on the problem and had decided to remove it from the list of high-risk countries.

He added this is a "result of important measures we have taken." Cyprus has ratified two international conventions on money laundering and crime.


On April 23, parliamentarians from Cyprus and the European Parliament meeting in Nicosia warned Turkey not to raise obstacles to Cyprus’s accession course which is not linked to efforts to reunite the island. They urged the Turkish side to reconsider its opposition to the Republic of Cyprus, as the internationally recognized state, joining the Union.

Council of Europe

A declaration entitled "Cyprus Negotiations for Accession to the European Union" was signed by 24 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on April 22.

The declaration welcomes the EU’s decision to begin accession negotiations, applauds President Clerides’s offer to include the Turkish Cypriot side in the talks and urges Mr. Denktash to respond positively to ensure that the interests of the Turkish Cypriot community are represented.


Travelers from EU countries will no longer need passports to visit Cyprus, the Council of Ministers decided April 24. Holiday makers coming from EU countries will be allowed into Cyprus with only a national identity card instead of a passport.
The Cyprus Embassy Newsletter is Published by the Press & Information Office of the Embassy of Cyprus, 2211 R Street, NW, Washington DC 20008, Tel. : (202) 232-8993, Fax.: (202) 234-1936. The Cyprus Government Web site is at http://www.pio.gov.cy/ (and mirrored in the U.S. at http://www.kypros.org/Embassy which also maintains an electronic archive of the newsletter). 


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