Minister Follows Up Successful U.S. Visit With European Tour
 Minister Follows Up Successful U.S. Visit With European Tour
Says Turkish Cypriots Should "Put Past Differences Aside"
Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides followed up his successful U.S. visit in February, with a week-long tour of Germany, Austria and Belgium in mid-March. The Minister briefed his counterparts on his discussions concerning renewed efforts on a settlement with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other officials in Washington and with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York.
Kasoulides also discussed the progress in the divided island's efforts to join the European Union. Turkish troops have occupied a third of Cyprus since 1974 and Turkish Cypriots are refusing to join the EU accession negotiations.
During the trip the Foreign Minister gave lectures at the University of Bonn, spoke before the Delegation of the European Commission in Vienna, and addressed the Permanent Council of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe in the Austrian capital.
In Germany the Foreign Minister met with German Foreign Minister and President of the European Union (EU) Council of Ministers, Joschka Fischer, who expressed support for a successful outcome of Cyprus's accession negotiations. Fischer acknowledged Cyprus's situation and the urgent need for a solution. "We are aware of the special circumstances under which these negotiations are taking place," he said, "not for economic but for political reasons." Germany, he noted, supports the efforts of the government of Cyprus to bring about a political solution, because such a solution is closely connected to the EU accession process.
"We hope that after the elections in Turkey there will be a climate of constructive talks aimed at overcoming the political problems," he said. For his part, Kasoulides said the two ministers had discussed ways in which they could contribute to peace and stability in the region--a priority for the Cyprus government. "We gave reassurances that we will continue to show a constructive and positive stance to all international efforts in order to achieve this," he stated. Fischer also gave firm assurances that it is Germany's position that the Turkish side cannot have a veto on Cyprus's accession to the EU.
On the next stop Kasoulides met with Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schussel. Kasoulides briefed Schussel on attempts to resume Cyprus peace talks. For his part, Schussel noted that efforts to reunite the island should be intensified in parallel with the accession negotiations.
In Belgium the Minister met Foreign Minister Erik Derycke who emphasized that Cyprus's "special situation does not constitute an obstacle for accession to the Union." He further affirmed the good relations between Cyprus and Belgium, and said the two ministers also discussed the situation in Turkey, which he described as "disturbing."
Upon his return to Cyprus, Kasoulides said that his talks were "efficient, because they provide useful information and advice." He further expressed the hope that Cyprus's accession, "either before or after a solution to the Cyprus problem, will lead our compatriots, the Turkish Cypriots, to realize that it is irrational to insist on accepting what their leadership supports, i.e. the division of the island."
He also said,"we should not miss this opportunity of Cyprus becoming a member of the large European family, and they (Turkish Cypriots) should start thinking now, that the differences of the past must be put aside and to come forward and work with us for accession."
In an interview broadcast on March 22 to commemorate the anniversary of the first year of his second term, President Glafcos Clerides said that nations have come to realize that the longer Cyprus remains divided, the greater the danger for a wider destabilizing conflagration erupting in the region.
The President confirmed that the U.S. is preparing a series of scenarios for a Cyprus settlement including both constitutional and security elements although the government was not aware of the specifics. He added that an early and workable solution is in the interest of major European nations and those "who would like Cyprus to join the European Union (EU)."
The President again said that the government was willing to resume bicommunal talks without setting any preconditions. He noted that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has set preconditions with the aim of altering the basis of the U.N.-led negotiations.
Clerides explained that the U.N. Security Council Resolutions provide a realistic framework for a settlement of the Cyprus problem. But, "Denktash's claims for a confederation depart from U.N. Security Council Resolutions on Cyprus, calling for a bicommunal, bizonal federation with a single sovereignty," he said.
The Cyprus government has strongly protested to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, over Turkish designs to settle the occupied town of Famagusta, once the home to luxury tourist resorts.
More than 80,000 Turkish settlers have already been illegally placed in the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus, as part of Ankara's designs to change the island's demographic character.
On March 11, Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, claimed Famagusta as a "Turkish Cypriot city."
The Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the U.N. Sotos Zackheos sent a protest on behalf of the government of Cyprus to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan stating the provision of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the statute of the International Criminal Court that compulsory population transfers constitute international crimes. The issue of compulsory populations transfer and the implantation of settlers "is a matter of serious concern to the international community and to Cyprus in particular," he said.
U.N. Resolution 550 (1984) states that settling Famagusta by "people other than its inhabitants is inadmissible." The resolution further calls for the "transfer of this area to the administration of the U.N."
On March 31, President Clerides awarded Ambassador Clay Constantinou with a medal for outstanding services to the Republic of Cyprus. At the ceremony the President said that the Ambassador, "has served successfully" the Cypriot community in the U.S. and "has promoted the social, cultural and educational goals of the community."
Constantinou was born to Cypriot parents in New York in 1951. He served four years as President of the Cyprus American Federation in the late 1980s and as U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg for five years beginning in 1994. Most recently Constantinou was appointed as Dean of the Department of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
Clerides praised Constantinou's commitment to promoting Cyprus's just cause and ending both its division and occupation by Turkish troops. He said he was confident Constantinou would support his country of origin until its political problem is solved. In addition, the Ambassador's efforts to promote U.S.-Cyprus relations was recognized.
The Ambassador promised that he and all Cypriots and Greeks of the diaspora "will continue to fight for a just, viable solution to the Cyprus problem, for peace to all Cypriots."
On March 16, the Government Spokesman Christos Stylianides announced his resignation "on a matter of principle," because he could not defend the decision by the Council of Ministers clearing Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides of allegations of abuse of power for personal profit.
The Council also concluded that "no further investigation is justified concerning the accusations." Nevertheless, Michaelides sub-sequently resigned.
The government acted swiftly in replacing the two officials. Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou has moved to the Ministry of the Interior to replace Michaelides. Takis Clerides, a chartered accountant and business consultant, has assumed the Finance Ministry job and Costas Serezis, a veteran journalist, has been appointed Government Spokesman. They assumed their duties on March 22.
There are 40,000 Greek Cypriots living in the U.S. who are "literally a bridge between our two countries.
-Ambassador Kenneth Brill
On March 10 at a gathering of the Cyprus-American Association in Nicosia, Ambassador Kenneth Brill spoke of bilateral relations. He said that the U.S. has been involved with Cyprus since the 1960s and will continue, to be "very involved, partly because we have important interests in the region, important interests with our NATO allies and strong feelings for Cyprus as well."
He pointed out that"Cyprus is a valued economic partner of the United States." The value of total imports by Cyprus from the United States has increased by almost 400 percent and the U.S. has been Cyprus's leading supplier of total imports for four years in a row.
Furthermore, some 50 percent of U.S. exports to Cyprus are reexported and Cyprus hosts a number of America's leading companies that conduct offshore operations in the region or flourish as franchises on the island, he said. The Ambassador continued that the U.S. Embassy is aggressively promoting the idea of U.S. private-sector investment in Cyprus." He noted that the U.S. values Cyprus as a "market and as a trade partner."
In reference to the people-to-people aspect of bilateral relations, Brill said this has been enriched by the Fulbright program which has been providing scholarships and citizen-to-citizen links between the two nations since 1962.
The U.S. has given almost 2,400 scholarships and training grants to Cypriot students over the years and some 2,000 students are attending American institutions of higher learning.
On March 16, the annual "Women Ambassadors to Washington" forum was held at Howard University. This year's keynote speaker was Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Cyprus's Ambassador to the U.S., Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, was among those asked to speak on the theme "Women building democratic institutions."
Speaking of the situation in Cyprus, the Ambassador said, "You will agree that democracy and equality without liberty is not complete. And the women of Cyprus are still deprived of basic and fundamental liberties as a result of the occupation of 37 percent of their country by Turkey."
"How can we speak of democracy and building democratic institutions when a country is forcibly divided, and a foreign occupying army is preventing citizens from exercising their most fundamental human rights, " she said.
Mrs. Marcoullis quoted Dante, " `The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis.' Indeed," she said, "there can be no neutrality in the struggle for women's liberation, as there can be no neutrality in the struggle for freedom and human rights."
The United Nations Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) became operational on March 27, 1964, initially under a three month U.N. Security Council mandate recommended by then Secretary General U Thant to stop intercommunal violence. The force was 7,000 strong during its first year.
UNFICYP now has 1,230 soldiers, 33 civilian police, 41 international staff and 22 local staff. Since Turkey's invasion of Cyprus in 1974, the force patrols the U.N. buffer zone and performs humanitarian tasks.
UNFICYP's Chief of Mission Ann Hercus has said that if the force was removed tensions would be likely to increase. Nevertheless, she warns, the success of the force should not lead to complacency. "The Security Council has repeatedly stated 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," she said.
Cypriot Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Takis Christopoulos has high praise for UNFICYP. "It is the only way we can have any contact with the north of the island. . . . They are the only link we have with the other side," he said.
On March 30, 1,227 Turkish Cypriots crossed into government- controlled areas to visit the Hala Sultan Tekke in Larnaca and celebrate Kurban Bayram. Some 1,200 Greek Cypriots are expected to visit the monastery of Apostle Andreas in occupied Cyprus for Easter celebrations on April 12.
On March 18, Health Minister Christos Solomis announced that KENTHEA, a Cypriot charity involved in fighting drug abuse, and Egypt's health minister will share a prize awarded by the United Arab Emirates for their work. The award ceremony will take place in May at the Hall of Nations in Geneva.
On March 16, a seminar of the Alliance of Mediterranean News Agencies (AMAN), organized jointly by the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) and the French News Agency (AFP), addressed the importance of the role of the mass media in social, political and cultural developments. Cyprus holds the presidency of AMAN.
On March 12 the Standing Coordinating Committee of the All Trade Union Forum met to discuss details of the next meeting scheduled for May 28-29. Invitees will include representatives of the European Trade Union Confederation. Groups from both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities will participate.
Six Cypriot students have received British government scholarships to carry out research at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), one of Britain's top ten research universities--an unusually large number for one country.
A March 1 Moody's Investors Service's report on Cyprus cites, "the country's likely accession to the EU and prospects for a renewed strengthening of macroeconomic policy as support for . . . [Cyprus's] A2 country ceiling on foreign currency debt."
March marks two important anniversaries for Cyprus--it is one year ago that it began formal accession negotiations with the EU, and one year since President Glafcos Clerides took office for his second term.
In an interview marking the completion of the first year, the President spoke at length on EU relations, saying he cannot envisage Cyprus being left out of the Union purely for financial reasons. The fiscal deficit is now decreasing, he said, and "I believe that if certain measures . . . are undertaken," Cyprus will be within the framework.
The President noted, however, that "we will be obliged to increase the Value Added Tax (VAT) in order to enter, whether we want it or not." He explained that Cyprus has an obligation to gradually harmonize with other European economies.
There will be many difficulties on the road to accession, he said, but Cyprus will "handle" all problems. Clerides said Cyprus is ahead of the other candidate countries, and has entered the substantive phase of the negotiations. Discussions on a total of 20 of the 27 chapters of the acquis communautaire have been completed and accession is expected in January 2003.
On March 30, former German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher upheld the importance of EU enlargement. Speaking in Nicosia, Genscher said he welcomed the start of membership talks and added, "Cyprus is an essential part of Europe, it has made a tremendous contribution to Europe's history, culture and identity. Europe would therefore remain incomplete without Cyprus and Cyprus must not suffer from the fact that it is still divided, it cannot be made hostage of its division against its own will." He also pointed out that "EU membership must be used in order to contribute to a peaceful unification of Cyprus and a sustained stability of the whole region."
Meanwhile, British Representative for Cyprus Sir David Hannay reiterated Britain's support for Cyprus's accession course. He also said the U.S. should launch a drive for a Cyprus solution after Turkey's elections next month, and that his government would offer assistance.
And, there have been other expressions of support. In the introductory greeting on the new EU Delegation website (www.ec-eu-delegation.com.cy), Delegation Head, Ambassador Donato Chiarini writes, "Cyprus has come a long way since the Commission's opinion on its application for EU membership confirmed back in 1993 its vocation to belong to the Union."
"Progress is now steadily being achieved in the accession negotiations, and on the transposition of the acquis communautaire while growing numbers of government departments, institutions, NGOs and citizens are benefiting through their participation in many of the Union's programs and agencies. These benefits take the shape of the sharing of `best practices' with their EU counterparts and gradually translate into the modernization and restructuring of methods, policies and sectors."
"But benefits go both ways. We look to Cyprus to bring its own genius and identity to the diversity of our construction and to add yet another link to the Union's growing Mediterranean dimension."
The message also confirms the EU's support for U.N. efforts to find a "political settlement based on U.N. resolutions." It concludes: "In looking forward to welcoming Cyprus into the Union, we feel that we must ensure that the prospect of accession, whose political and economic advantages are clear to all Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike, will prove an additional incentive for a political settlement."
Representatives of the six EU candidate nations--Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia--met in Limassol in late March in order to examine issues concerning the accession process and the EU.
During their meetings the six negotiators exchanged views on the progress of the screening and negotiation process and on some of the issues their respective countries will have to deal with on their way to accession.
The chief negotiators said they would complete the submission of position papers to Brussels this year in the hope of speeding up entry negotiations. They agreed to submit four position papers by the end of May, another four by the end of July and the remaining 15 by the end of November, the delegates said.
Topics for the position papers include the environment, agriculture, energy policies and fiscal reforms.
The negotiators also expressed their appreciation for the EU's message of reassurance to the candidate countries and the statement that accession negotiations will continue "in accordance with each country's own rhythm and as rapidly as possible."
At a press conference following the meetings, Cyprus's Chief Negotiator George Vassiliou said, "the road to EU accession will be open and continues to be open without, we hope, any hurdles."