U.N.-Sponsored Proximity Talks to Open on Dec. 3
International Diplomacy Moves the process Forward
After months of mounting pressure for progress on the Cyprus issue, proximity talks under the sponsorship of the United Nations will open in New York this month.
Secretary General Kofi Annan and his Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto will conduct the dialogue between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. The talks will be based on no preconditions, and on the relevant U.N. resolutions which call for a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution and an end to the 25-year old Turkish military occupation.
The talks, which Annan said are expected to last about 10 days, may be recessed for the Christmas and New Year holidays and could continue in January. They will deal with "substantive" issues to "prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement."
While the substance of the talks will be open to suggestions from other interested parties working in the wings, such as the U.S. and the European Union (EU), Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said Nov. 24 that the Greek Cypriot side is preparing positions on the four issues of security, territory, separation of powers, and property, as requested by the Secretary General.
The U.N. has made it clear that the talks must take place on the basis of U.N. Security Council resolutions on Cyprus, which mandate the Secretary General's good offices mission.
The breakthrough came after a flurry of diplomatic activity over recent months. The Security Council, the U.S., the Group of Eight (G-8) and the EU have all been actively promoting talks with no preconditions. During last month's trip to Turkey and Greece, President Bill Clinton once again called the status quo in Cyprus "unacceptable," and pledged "to keep working hard to promote a just and lasting settlement in Cyprus."
"The Cyprus problem has been with us far too long. It will not be resolved overnight. But today we have new hope. I ask the parties to approach this opportunity with good faith--and the determination to build for all the people of Cyprus a future that is brighter than the past." President Clinton, Nov. 14.
Secretary General Annan met on the sidelines of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit meeting in Turkey in mid-November, with President Clerides (the first Cypriot President to visit Turkey since the 1974 invasion). He also met with Denktash following the announcement that proximity talks would begin on Dec. 3.
President Clerides has said that he has received assurances from the Secretary General, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Cyprus Alfred Moses that the forthcoming talks will be on the substance of the Cyprus problem.
In a statement on Nov. 14, President Clinton said that: "The United States will work closely with the Secretary General to ensure the talks are productive." He further noted that: "These Cyprus talks can bring us one step closer to a lasting peace. A negotiated settlement is the best way to meet the fundamental interests of the parties including real security for all Cypriots and an end to the island's division."
Speaking to reporters on his return to Cyprus Nov. 22 from a trip that took him to South Africa, Istanbul and Athens, President Clerides said that the Secretary General himself has listed the four core issues that he wants the positions and views of the parties on. He also said that, irrespective of the outcome of the December talks, in all likelihood a second round would be in the cards in view of an impending EU Helsinki summit set for Dec. 10-11.
"I believe that for the first time in the history of the Cyprus problem we have assurances about the active involvement of the United States and what is more of the President himself." President Clerides, Nov. 14.
In talks in Athens on Nov. 22 Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and President Clerides agreed that the upcoming negotiations must be substantive, with United Nations resolutions and a call by the Group of Eight (G-8) nations as their basis. In a joint communiqué, they added that the general estimation was positive in the wake of OSCE. Both said President Clinton's statements were in the right direction, especially that the status quo on Cyprus is unacceptable."We expect the above comments to be translated into concrete results," the communiqué read.
Meanwhile, State Department Spokesman James Rubin confirmed Nov. 22 that the U.S. will stay actively engaged. "We are not in a position to offer answers to the ultimate questions. Our views are well known about the outcome we seek. We want substantive issues discussed and we will be there to be of assistance as the U.N. conducts these talks."
Meeting in London Nov. 25, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac endorsed the U.N.-sponsored talks. Pointing to Northern Ireland and the Mideast, Blair said, "we can make progress in Cyprus as well."
Still, the Secretary General has been cautioning against unbridled optimism. After meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit in Istanbul, the Secretary General warned that there would be no quick fix to the 25-year old impasse. "It is a long-standing and difficult problem. I believe we should not nurse unfounded expectations that it is feasible for it to be resolved in New York in December."
In Nicosia Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said that Cyprus hopes Denktash will go to the talks "in a fresh spirit" having recognized it is time to settle the Cyprus problem on the basis of a federation. Papapetrou said, "our purpose is to reach a solution through peaceful negotiations and we are entering these talks in good faith" and called on Denktash to also enter negotiations "in good faith."
On a visit to Nicosia on Nov. 23, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou listed five important developments that are currently driving the settlement process forward: 1) The start of proximity talks in New York. 2) The accession of Cyprus into the EU, and the incentives that it provides to Turkish Cypriots, who have so far rejected President Clerides invitations to join the accession process. 3) The recent improvement in Greek-Turkish relations. 4) Renewed international interest in a settlement and pressure for progress from the U.S., the EU, the G-8 and the U.N. 5) Turkey's interest in joining the EU, which would probably be contingent on a Cyprus settlement.
Despite strong international pressure, however, Turkey's hard-line stance remains little changed. Foreign Minister Ismail Cem told the Turkish parliament on Nov. 17 that, "Just for some progress on the EU issue, we will not retreat from our cause in Cyprus."
For his part, President Clerides noted "a hardening of the Turkish position" but cited "international interest" that the problem be solved.
With regard to Turkey's EU aspirations, the December Helsinki summit is expected to again deliberate over Turkey's wish to gain "candidate" status for accession to the Union.
Foreign Minister Papandreou made clear on Nov. 26 that, "Greece has not yet taken its final decision. . . . Until we see the final documents we are not saying yes or no."
"A good solution which will heal the wounds of the past, remove suspicion and the sense of insecurity felt by both communities, dispelling fears and concerns and establishing a climate of trust, mutual under- standing and cooperation are urgently needed and will be to the benefit of all the inhabitants on this divided and long-suffering country." President Clerides, Nov. 19.
At a joint press conference with Papandreou, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides underlined that the two governments "will operate in a spirit of full cooperation and understanding."
Both ministers welcomed 16 Turkish Cypriot journalists who traveled to the government-controlled part of the Republic for the event. "I cannot call you compatriots," Papandreou told the Turkish Cypriot journalists, "but I can wish you are soon members of the EU with your compatriots the Greek Cypriots." He said "Cyprus's EU accession course is the first and maybe only new element we have had in the last 25 years, that is beginning to break this deadlock in the Cyprus problem. . . . We are in favor of breaking down this last Berlin wall."
Papandreou pointed out that Turkish Cypriots "can become part of the European family and become European citizens along with the Greek Cypriots." Calling on Turkish Cypriots not to miss this opportunity he said, "I see there are many important incentives that should not be lost."
Cyprus Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Nicos Rolandis will attend the Third WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle Nov. 30-Dec. 3.
On Dec. 1, the Cyprus government announced its decision to convert the Postal Services Department into a public company in order to be in line with scheduled EU liberalization in the field.
In late November, Dr. Leonidas Phylactou of the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics was given a grant of nearly $200,000 by the Association for International Cancer Research (AICR). The award is to finance a project to investigate the ability of genetic molecules called ribozymes to repair defects in genes present in most types of cancer. This is the first time AICR, which funds only a few projects each year, has awarded a grant to a Cypriot institution.
Some 36 representatives from 18 European countries met in Nicosia between Nov. 18 and 22 for a training conference and executive committee meeting of the European Confederation of Youth Clubs Organizations.
On Nov. 21, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization unanimously elected Cyprus as a member of its Council. The Council is comprised of representatives of 49 nations who serve three-year terms.
Minister of Education and Culture Ouranios Ioannides announced on Nov. 9 at a workshop entitled "Teaching Modern Languages to Mixed Ability Classes," that Cyprus would upgrade its standard of education emphasizing foreign language training.
Between Nov. 8 and 11, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt held a joint marine pollution exercise. The operation took place in the context of regional cooperation in the event of large-scale oil spills.
American Ambassador to Cyprus Donald Bandler told a conference entitled "Doing Business with the U.S." in early November that U.S. products "can serve as indispensable tools for Cypriot businesses to meet the challenges of globalization."
The Ambassador noted that Cyprus is "now going through a process of transformation into a more open and more competitive economy" as it prepares for entry into the European Union, a process the U.S. "welcomes wholeheartedly," he said.
In particular he cited "the tremendous success of U.S. food franchises in Cyprus," and the "hundreds of other business opportunities out there, just waiting to be discovered."
The Ambassador noted that Cyprus "has developed its
own type of capitalism, one which obviously works," and
said the two nations "share identical long term
On Nov. 17 Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE) Chairman Dinos Papadopoulos said that some 30 companies are expected to be listed in the next year.
The Cyprus economy has been strong in 1999, with the nation's three-year old stock exchange up more than 750 percent this year as individual investors shift from more traditional investments such as real estate.
Commenting on press reports that the year 2000 will be
the year of the CSE, Papadopoulos said that he agreed
with the prediction in terms of the number of expected
listings on the CSE.
In mid November Cypriot and U.S. authorities held a seminar to address the problems of money laundering.
Attorney General Alecos Markides noted that money laundering is a real threat to the integrity, reliability and stability of the financial and trade systems. "Laundering of money derived from criminal activities presents an acute threat to the international community," he added.
Cyprus, Markides said, recognizes the importance of international cooperation, and that authorities would "extend prompt and full cooperation to other countries and international organizations," on the matter.
The Attorney General also expressed gratitude to the U.S. for training of Cypriots and referred to the excellent law enforcement cooperation between the two countries on these issues.
He added that Cyprus has adopted "all necessary and
practical legislative and other measures in order to
prevent and combat money laundering."
Award-winning Cypriot-born film director Michael Cacoyannis's documentary study Attilla '74 paints a harsh vision of the plight of Greek Cypriot refugees during the Turkish invasion in 1974. The film was hailed by the London Times as "the best record of history in the making."
Cacoyannis emphasized that "Attilla"--the name the Turks gave to the arbitrary line dividing Cyprus-- "was emotionally imposed on me by a situation that made me want to fight and the only weapon I had was the camera." He continued, it is "a very personal testament and, I think one of my best films."
Attilla '74, will be shown in Washington, D.C., at the
National Gallery of Art Dec. 11. The director, who is
best known for Zorba the Greek, will attend the
screening. Other Cacoyannis films will also be screened
by the National Gallery in December, including A Matter
of Dignity, Iphigenia, A Girl in Black, The Trojan Women,
and Electra. The films are in Greek with English
The 16th meeting of the Cyprus-EU Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) was held in Strasbourg on Nov. 18. The conclusion of the meeting was that Cyprus's accession negotiations were on the right track and that Cyprus had made good progress in the negotiations process, including the harmonization of its legislation with the acquis communaitaire.
It was made clear by the Presidency-in-office, as well as by the European Commission, that Cyprus should be participating in the preaccession funding programs and that some financial assistance has already been set aside for Cyprus, while development of other preaccession funding programs is underway.
Cypriot Minister of Finance Takis Klerides and chief negotiator George Vassiliou stressed that new, tighter deadlines would be in force to ensure that the screening process would be accelerated. The Cyprus government expects to have submitted its position papers on all remaining chapters by the end of this year.
Issues examined included pending legislation on insurance, taxation, the EU's requirements that tenders legislation be extended to cover local authorities and the stock exchange and the need to adopt legislation on mutual funds. Also discussed was the establishment of a service for state aid to be set up under the office of the Auditor General.
When asked about liberalization of interest rates, Klerides said that the government had promised that the law would be approved this year and that implementation would come somewhat later.
Meanwhile, the JPC emphasized that the accession of Cyprus to the EU should not, under any circumstances, be connected to the solution of the Cyprus problem. Referring to the forthcoming proximity talks to be held in New York under U.N. auspices in December, the Co-chairs of the JPC noted that if Turkish intransigence was to continue, prospects for a fruitful outcome would not appear promising.
Also on Nov. 18, after a meeting between Cypriot Defense Minister Socrates Hasikos and his Greek counterpart Akis Tsohatzopoulos, the latter stressed that Cyprus will play an important role in the consolidation of security in the Eastern Mediterranean in view of the implementation of the European Defense and Security Policy in the region.
In a meeting held on the sidelines of the OSCE summit in Istanbul, Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder discussed Cyprus's EU accession course. Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides described the talks as "very satisfactory" and added that there was a "mutual understanding" between the two nations.
In the meantime, the EU reaffirmed its position on Cyprus. On Nov. 9, the representative of the Finnish Presidency of the EU stated during a speech on human rights at the U.N. Third Committee that, "the EU reaffirms that the status quo in Cyprus remains unacceptable. There is a need to intensify efforts to find a just, comprehensive and lasting solution on the basis of the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions."
The speech continued, "The EU calls for full respect
of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the
population of the whole island. It expresses its support
for UNFICYP's efforts to implement its humanitarian
mandate and for the activity of the U.N.'s Committee on
In mid November, President Clerides attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Durban, South Africa, which in their final communiqué reaffirmed their support for the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus. They also called for implementation of U.N. resolutions on Cyprus, for the withdrawal of all Turkish forces and settlers, for the return of the refugees to their homes, for the restoration and respect for human rights of all Cypriots and an accounting for all missing persons.
President Clerides welcomed the "very strong reference to Cyprus," which also emphasized that the demand for recognition of a separate state in the occupied part of Cyprus is unacceptable and endorsed the U.N. sponsored talks to be held in New York in December.