President Clerides Asks Annan for Initiative on Demilitarization
 President Clerides Asks Annan for Initiative on Demilitarization
In a June 18 letter, President Glafcos Clerides called on U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, to "undertake a personal initiative to achieve progress in reducing military tensions" on Cyprus. In his letter to the Secretary General, the President also reiterated his commitment to "steps leading towards the eventual goal of demilitarization."
President Clerides's demilitarization proposal was originally put forward in December 1993, but it was rejected by the Turkish side.
This proposal has generated support internationally including from the U.S. Congress which has been on the record for many years calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Cyprus and the "total demilitarization of the island." President Clerides's June 18 letter was welcomed by the British government which noted on June 23 that, "resident Clerides's letter is a step in the right direction."
The President's letter followed renewed tension on Cyprus, as Turkey sent six fighter planes to the occupied north as well as a flotilla of naval vessels to ports declared closed by the Cyprus government since the Turkish invasion of 1974.
Turkey's repeated violations of Cyprus air space, its increasing belligerence and refusal to withdraw from the 37 percent of the island it occupies despite repeated U.N. resolutions demanding that it do so have led the Cyprus government to bolster its air defenses.
Greek air force planes landed at the newly-constructed Paphos air base as part of a planned exercise under the Greece-Cyprus defense pact. In November 1993 the governments of Cyprus and Greece agreed to adopt a joint defense pact, providing that Greece will go to Cyprus's aid in case of a new Turkish attack. President Clerides has said that the defense pact with Greece does not alter his goal of total demilitarization of the island.
Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, with Ankara's backing, is also refusing to reopen intercommunal talks, or to join the delegation negotiating Cyprus accession to the European Union (EU).
The Security Council recently reiterated its position for resumption of intercommunal talks on the basis of relevant U.N. resolutions.
In his letter, President Clerides stated: "Since December 1993 when I wrote to your predecessor . . . outlining a detailed proposal for the total demilitarization of Cyprus, I have continuously called for a substantive discussion with the Turkish side . . . on reducing tensions in the military field by proposing that the two sides engage in serious dialogue on resolving security matters of concern to all sides."
The President noted that U.N. resolutions call "upon all concerned to commit themselves to a reduction in defense spending, and a reduction in the number of foreign troops in the Republic of Cyprus, to help restore confidence between the parties and as a first step towards the withdrawal of non-Cypriot forces," and stress "the importance of eventual demilitarization of the Republic of Cyprus as an objective in the context of an overall comprehensive settlement.
"This I believe offers a sufficient framework for a comprehensive discussion aimed at a package agreement on all fundamental aspects of the security situation in Cyprus, both of a short-term as well as a long-term nature," he said.
However, Denktash has repeatedly rejected demilitarization proposals, and instead has recently been stepping up his harsh rhetoric, saying he would call a final halt to any negotiations. "We will announce that the Cyprus problem is closed," he told reporters in Istanbul on June 11.
Government Spokesman, Christos Stylianides has defended the right of Cyprus to decide on its defenses. Cyprus, "has the undeniable sovereign right to have the exclusive responsibility for its own defenses, particularly since it is a victim of international law violations due to the Turkish invasion and occupation of a part of its territory," he said.
President Clerides's 1993 Demilitarization
In late June, the United Nations Security Council adopted two resolutions on Cyprus. The first renewed the mandate of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another six-month period. The resolution notes that the "government of Cyprus has agreed that in view of prevailing conditions in the island, it is necessary to keep UNFICYP beyond 30 June." In addition the Security Council notes, "all concerned" should "commit themselves to a reduction in defense spending and a reduction in the number of foreign troops in the Republic of Cyprus to help restore confidence between the parties and as a first step towards the withdrawal of non-Cypriot forces . . . [and] stresses the importance of eventual demilitarization of the Republic of Cyprus as an objective in the context of an overall comprehensive settlement, and encourages the Secretary General to continue to promote efforts in this direction."
The second resolution welcomes "the report of the Secretary General on his Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus." It calls on "all states to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus," and requests them, "along with the parties concerned, to refrain from any action which might prejudice that sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, as well as from any attempt of partition of the island or its unification with any other country."
The resolution states "that the status quo is unacceptable and that negotiations on a final political solution of the Cyprus problem have been at an impasse for too long." The document continues that this is despite the efforts of the Secretary General, and his Special Adviser and others. It also "welcomes the intention of the Secretary General to continue to explore possibilities that may lead to a new momentum in this process of negotiations."
The resolution also reaffirms all earlier resolutions and the U.N.'s "position 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, and comprising two politically equal communities as described in the relevant Security Council resolutions, in a bicommunal and bizonal federation."
In an effort to restart talks, the U.N. Secretary General's Special Adviser for Cyprus, Diego Cordovez, went to Cyprus on July 2. During his visit he met with President Clerides and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Rauf Denktash.
In another development, Dame Ann Hercus replaced Gustave Feissel as the Deputy Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General for Cyprus and Chief of Mission of UNFICYP. Dame Ann took up her new position on July 6. "I shall make my best efforts to help the two sides arrive at a settlement," she said.
The United States continues to reaffirm its commitment to solving the Cyprus problem and supporting the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the EU.
On June 10, at a meeting of the American Hellenic Institute Foundation in Washington, a number of U.S. congressional speakers emphasized the importance of a Cyprus solution. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) said, "In a rare departure from U.S. public pronouncements on Cyprus, [Richard] Holbrooke put the onus for the deadlock squarely on the Turkish Cypriots." He continued, "We were all hopeful that Dick Holbrooke's April and May rounds of talks aimed at injecting new ideas and momentum into the peace process could yield a breakthrough. . . . Nevertheless, he hit a stone wall of Turkish-Cypriot obduracy in the form of two preconditions for substantive talks: First, recognizing of the so-called `Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' (TRNC) and, second, a withdrawal by the Republic of Cyprus of its membership application to the EU."
Other lawmakers echoed Biden's remarks. Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, noted, "I have a strong personal interest in making sure that the U.S. relationship with Greece and Cyprus works. President Clerides is open, offering a multiplicity of solutions [and] willing to cooperate. I did not find the same openness from Mr. Denktash, but I found demands that frankly made negotiations very difficult to start."
Ambassador Thomas Miller, State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus, reported, "The Turkish side set out certain preconditions. We are not going to recognize the. . . `TRNC.' And the second thing they insisted on was that the Republic of Cyprus withdraw its application for European Union membership. And we also said on this one--it was not going to happen."
State Department Spokesman James Rubin also made it clear that U.S. efforts would continue. Speaking on June 25 he said that it was "clear that he [Richard Holbrooke] is not going to be able to perform the duties of Special Presidential Envoy on Cyprus . . . but let me say that we place a high priority on resolving Cyprus. We continue to support the U.N. in its efforts to achieve a settlement based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation. We fully support Cypriot accession into the EU which can offer important economic and security benefits." Referring to the precondition of recognition set by the Turkish side, Rubin asserted, "it's not a serious proposal. And when it becomes a precondition, it suggests that the talks are precluded and that the proposal is being made in an unrealistic fashion -- it's simply not in the cards."
On June 18, President Bill Clinton announced his intention to nominate Richard Holbrooke as Ambassador to the United Nations. Although his replacement as Special Presidential Emissary to Cyprus is as yet unannounced, both he and other members of the administration have taken pains to make it clear that there is no change in U.S. Cyprus policy.
On the day of his nomination, Holbrooke firmly stated that the U.S. would continue its efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus problem. "We will still continue to work on it. We have a high commitment to try to reduce tensions and to do everything we can do to resolve the problem," he said.
In a statement to the press on June 29, outgoing U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson endorsed the recent Security Council resolutions on Cyprus. "In light of our most recent efforts, we call on the Turkish side to cooperate with the Secretary General and his Special Adviser, Mr. Diego Cordovez, in their efforts to promote a comprehensive settlement," he said.
The remains of Andreas Kassapis, an American citizen killed during the Turkish invasion in 1974, were laid to rest in Detroit, Michigan, on June 22. The government of Cyprus was represented by Ambassador Andros A. Nicolaides at the service.
In a letter to his parents, President Clinton said: "Hillary and I want to extend our deep personal sympathy for the pain and uncertainty that you have endured over the last 24 years. . . . Please know that the memory of Andreas will guide us as we continue to work to end the suffering and division that have plagued Cyprus for far too long."
The "President's Report to Congress on the Whereabouts of the U.S. Citizens Missing from Cyprus Since 1974" confirms that Kassapis died as a result of the Turkish invasion. Five Americans were among the 1,619 people missing since Turkey's invasion of the island 24 years ago.
An agreement between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots reached last year to exchange information about the missing has not progressed due to new conditions demanded by the Turkish side.
"The U.S. is committed at the highest levels to [the] resolution of the Cyprus dispute. We are, and will remain, actively involved in efforts to promote a permanent settlement to this long-standing and tragic conflict."
-- Bill Richardson, June 29
"We continue to support the U.N. in its efforts to achieve a settlement based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation. We fully support Cypriot accession into the EU which can offer important economic and security benefits."
-- James Rubin, June 25
"If the reasons that forced us to feel that we had to have these sophisticated antiaircraft weapons were removed," [Foreign Minister] Kasoulides tells a visitor, "then we could review our position. If we're going toward peace, then we don't need the missiles."
-- Jack Payton, St. Petersburg Times, June 21
An EU summit held in Cardiff, Wales, on June 15-16, reaffirmed the Luxembourg European Council's decisions to launch the overall enlargement process and recorded Cyprus's progress in the negotiations. "Following the opening of accession negotiations on 31 March 1998 with Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, the European Council noted that the screening exercises for seven chapters of the acquis have been completed."
Cyprus progress was also underscored by the Director General of the EU Commission Task Force for accession negotiations, Nickolaus van der Pas. In addition, he recalled President Clerides's invitation to the Turkish side to be part of the accession process. "Regrettably," he said, "the Turkish Cypriots decided not to join the negotiation, but we hope that sooner rather than later they will change their minds." He added, "The Turkish community must understand that the EU accession process is very much considered to be of benefit to both communities."
With regard to a solution to the Cyprus problem, Jimmy Hood, head of the United Kingdom's House of Commons Committee for Harmonization, said, "Hopefully the Cyprus application for membership in the EU will be the catalyst required to solve the Cyprus problem, but we are determined not to allow the lack of a solution to prevent Cyprus's application to join the Union."
In similar vein, Prime Minister Tony Blair supported the continuation of Cyprus's accession talks. "We began those negotiations, we want to see them go ahead, we have made it clear there are no preconditions," he said.
On June 16, United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Robin Cook reaffirmed that the Cyprus government is entitled to have its application to join the European Union "on its own merits and those merits are strong." Asked if Turkey should be admitted to the EU before the Cyprus problem is solved, Cook said, "I think it is the other way around, because Cyprus already has an application on which we are negotiating and Britain has been very supportive of the Cyprus application."
"We began those negotiations, we have made it clear there are no preconditions."
Wrapping up a four-day visit to Cyprus, Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos extended an olive branch to Turkey. Stephanopoulos urged Turkey, which has occupied a third of Cyprus since it invaded in 1974, to accept a message of "friendship and peaceful intent," from Greece and work for a settlement on the divided island.
Stephanopoulos reiterated a suggestion to the Turkish side to accept President Clerides's invitation to join the EU accession talks. He pointed out that both Greek and Turkish Cypriots had an interest in the future of Cyprus and that the well-being of the two sides depended on each other.
Greek and Turkish Cypriot business leaders ended a two-day meeting on July 1 in Oslo, Norway. This meeting followed the November 1997 meeting in Brussels. Both meetings were sponsored by Columbia University and the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo.
The businessmen agreed, "on the importance of
increased contact and cooperation between the two
communities" and to go forward with joint projects agreed
in Brussels including restoration of monuments and
improvement of telecommunications. Richard Holbrooke led
the meetings and the participants will meet again in
More than 150 Jewish community leaders from around the world visited Cyprus in mid-June to thank the people on the island who helped Jews detained in two camps by the British after the end of World War II.
President Clerides was honored by the visitors whose trip coincided with the 50th anniversary of the state of Israel.
Minister of Commerce Industry and Tourism Nicos Rolandis also unveiled a plaque at Larnaca Port offered to the people of Cyprus by the Jewish people, as "an expression of gratitude," to Cypriots "who encouraged and assisted" the 52,384 Jewish refugees who "departed from ports in Cyprus on their way to freedom in Israel."