Kasoulides to Meet Albright - Ministerial Consultations Seek to "Move the Diplomatic Process Forward"
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides will visit Washington for talks with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Feb. 17. Following President Glafcos Clerides's Dec. 29 decision not to deploy an air-defense system ordered from Russia, and two strong United Nation's Security Council resolutions passed Dec. 22, renewed efforts are underway to push the peace process forward in the drive for a solution to the Cyprus problem.
In formally announcing the meeting on Jan. 25, the State Department said Secretary Albright wishes to consult with Kasoulides "on how to move the diplomatic process forward on Cyprus toward the goal of a balanced and lasting political settlement," which it said, "should be based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation that meets the legitimate interests of all sides."
The Kasoulides-Albright talks come after President Clerides, on Jan. 7, notified in writing U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan of his formal acceptance of the two new Security Council resolutions--1217 (1998) and 1218 (1998)--and again offered suggestions on the possible demilitarization of Cyprus.
Resolution 1218 specifically requests that the Secretary General work with the two sides in the Cyprus issue to "refrain from the threat or use of force or violence as a means to resolve the Cyprus problem." It further calls for "a staged process aimed at limiting and then substantially reducing the levels of all troops and armaments on Cyprus."
Turkey's forces, which have been illegally occupying over a third of Cyprus since their invasion in 1974, have repeatedly taken provocative action against Cyprus including persistent violations of its airspace.
On Jan. 15 Minister Kasoulides reiterated that the main purpose of Clerides's letter to Annan was to state in a formal way to the U.N. Secretary General Cyprus's acceptance of Security Council resolution 1218. The Minister said that the President stated his readiness to implement resolution 1218 in its entirety and expects the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey will do the same.
Meanwhile, there are indications that the Secretary General's Special Envoy for Cyprus, Ann Hercus, sees some progress being made in the current round of shuttle talks she is conducting between the two sides in Cyprus.
After meeting President Clerides on Jan. 18, she said, "You can make a sensible assumption that as long as you see me shuttling, that means that some progress is being made. When I stop shuttling, progress is not being made." Hercus noted that the confidentiality of the talks have been "an essential element in the progress that has been made so far."
Hercus also characterized her visits last month to
both the Secretary General in New York and to British
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in London as successful
saying, "Minister Cook emphasized the commitment of the
government of the U.K. to the U.N. process and in
particular to the Secretary General's initiative
involving the current shuttle talks."
President Bill Clinton added his encouragement on Jan. 28, that the U.N. resolutions provide a new basis for jump-starting the peace process. In his bi-monthly report on Cyprus to the U.S. Congress covering the period Oct. 1 to Nov. 30, he reiterated his administration's "commitment to finding a peaceful solution to the Cyprus dispute based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation."
Meanwhile, on Feb. 7, according to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus, Ambassador Thomas Miller, denied reports that the U.S. supports confederation for Cyprus. "I deny it all. It's absolutely not true," he told CNA, adding that: "The U.S. does not support a confederate solution. They support a federal solution, a single sovereignty," for Cyprus.
Miller is also quoted by CNA stating that both he and
U.S. Presidential Emissary for Cyprus, Ambassador Richard
Holbrooke, "have not been shy in saying unequivocally and
categorically that the problem right now in our
negotiations, our experience and our problem is with the
Turkish side." He further noted that the U.S. government
"is quite committed in doing whatever it can to help
bring about a solution to a problem that has been 25
years too late in coming to pass."
Against the background of the U.N. effort, President Clerides on Jan. 28 suggested that Cyprus's entry into the European Union (EU), demilitarization of the island and the presence of a multinational force may hold the keys to an eventual settlement.
The Turkish side remains the obstacle to further progress, he said in Nicosia, because it is holding out for a confederation that is clearly contrary to the U.N. framework. "They now say clearly that they do not accept a solution based on federation and that they want confederation," he said.
International pressure on Turkey, the President reiterated, was urgently required. The Turkish side has not changed its positions because the international community does not exercise pressure on Turkey he said, noting that, at the moment we have enough promises and now concrete action is needed.
Cyprus's EU accession course could act as a catalyst, he added, helping to allay the concerns of each community in Cyprus regarding each other's intentions. True demilitarization would also help to create an atmosphere of confidence, but the Turkish side's definition of "demilitarization" implies no armed forces for the Cyprus federal state, but only troops from Greece and Turkey on the island. That, Clerides said,"is not demilitarization, but subjugation."
He further noted that this could be solved by an international military force for a period of time, which would act under Security Council auspices, and be able to intervene automatically if one community puts Cyprus's independence and territorial integrity at risk. Such a force would also intervene whenever there was a breach of the agreement. Clerides proposed that the force should derive its power from the Security Council's mandate, adding that then "one could say the two communities should be appeased."
Minister Kasoulides further explained the President's proposal saying the force could be made up of contingents from different countries, including NATO members and be deployed before a solution is reached.
Prior to his meeting with Secretary Albright, Foreign Minister Kasoulides will stop in New York Feb. 16 to discuss recent developments and the latest U.N. initiatives with the Secretary General.
New demographic data, released by the Department of Statistics and Research, shows the national birth rate dropped to 14.2 per thousand in 1997 from 14.9 in 1996.
Cyprus's total population was estimated to be 746,000 at the end of 1997, compared with 741,000 at the end of the previous year. Of these, 658,000 live in the government-controlled areas while 88,000--not counting 114,000 illegal settlers from Turkey--live in the Turkish-occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus.
The ethnic composition of the population at the end of 1997 was 84.1 percent Greek Cypriot, 11.8 percent Turkish Cypriot, 0.6 percent Maronite, 0.3 percent Armenian, 0.1 percent Latin and 3.1 percent were foreign residents.
The proportion of children below 15 decreased to 24.2 percent in 1997 from 25.0 percent the previous year, while the elderly of 65 and over represented 11.2 percent of the population compared to 10.8 percent in 1996, indicating the aging process.
The total fertility rate--reproductive behavior unaffected by changes in the age composition of the population--indicates a continuing declining fertility trend.
Expectation of life at birth is estimated at 75 years for males and 80 for females, while infant mortality fell to 8.0 deaths per 1,000 births.
Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou announced on Jan. 23 plans to raise the Value Added Tax (VAT) to 15 percent by the year 2002, and introduce tax relief measures for lower income groups.
The announcement came after the House of Representatives passed the three state budgets (Ordinary, Development and Relief Fund for Displaced and Afflicted Persons)
Christodoulou said that the VAT increase will come in stages, and is necessary as part of Cyprus's EU accession process. "As long as a climate of confidence, calm and political security prevails, the Cypriot economy will continue to develop," he explained.
The Minister expressed his concern about the growing public deficit, noting that it was expected to rise to 5.7 percent in 1999, compared to 5.4 percent last year.
The Council of Ministers has approved draft legislation that would end a ceiling on interest rates in force for more than half a century, in order to move the country closer to European Union standards. The bill, which has to be approved by parliament, would also allow Cypriots to borrow from abroad.
On Jan. 20, Turkish Cypriot pilgrims living in the occupied part of Cyprus crossed into the government-controlled area to visit one of the most holy shrines in Islam, the Hala Sultan Tekke. The 1,280 pilgrims traveled by bus to the mosque which is located near a salt lake in the southern coastal town of Larnaca.
The Hala Sultan Tekke was built in memory of Umm Haram, an aunt of the Prophet Mohammed.
In January, the Department of Statistics and Research released tourism and travel figures showing an increase of 4.7 percent in December 1998 arrivals compared to the corresponding month last year. The majority of travelers come from European countries and in particular from EU nations. Leading the list are visitors from the United Kingdom, Greece and Germany.
On Feb. 1, Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment Costas Themistocleous announced that a joint-venture by two Israeli companies has won the bid to build the island's second desalinization plant. Themistocleous predicted that "In less than two years, in fact in the second half of 2000, we will have a constant supply of water to all households, with 40,000 cubic meters provided daily."
On Jan. 27 Cyprus was one of 21 European states to sign the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption. The Convention will come into force when 14 states ratify it. It covers a wide range of corrupt practices and sets out to harmonize national legislation and improve international cooperation to facilitate prosecution of suspected criminals.
In early February the 15th Assembly of the World Federation of Democratic Youth met in Nicosia. The group expressed support for a just and viable federal solution to the Cyprus problem based on U.N. resolutions and other high-level agreements. The Assembly also condemned "the continuation of partition by Turkey and the Denktash regime," and appealed "to the international community and especially those states which are in a position to influence Ankara, to support actively U.N. efforts" to find a solution.
The first Mediterranean Student Congress will take place between Feb. 15-19 at the University of Cyprus in Nicosia. Organized by the Student Union of the university, the Congress will attract some 100 students from many Mediterranean and European nations.
The coordinator of the Congress, Stelios Georgiadis stated, "The role of our generation in the region requires the exchange of ideas, thoughts and experiences in order to secure peace, prosperity and understanding."
On Jan. 7, the new Minister of Defense Yiannakis Chrysostomis and the new Minister of Education and Culture Ouranios Ioannides took office. Ioannides is a member of the ruling Democratic Rally Party and Chrysostomis has been a Supreme Court Justice.
The two succeeded Yiannakis Omirou and Lykourgos Kappas, who resigned from the government after their socialist EDEK Party decided to withdraw from the government coalition, following President Clerides's decision not to deploy new air-defense missiles.
In mid-January, French archaeologists, led by Jean Guilaine of the University of Toulouse, working at the Parekklisha-Shillourokambos Neolithic settlement, unearthed the oldest human remains found in Cyprus.
The settlement is believed to have been occupied between 8200 and 7000 BC. The remains were discovered in a trench thought to have been used as a communal burial site. The Cyprus Antiquities Department notes that the remains "constitute the earliest anthropological evidence to have been found in Cyprus to the present day."
A small human figurine of clay with a cylindrical neck and incisions marking eyes was the most interesting find and probably dates from the first half of the 8th millenium.
In addition, four wells were also excavated, revealing a collection of tools, fragments of mudbricks, stone vessels and a basin carved in rock.
Cyprus's team negotiating EU accession launched a website in January, designed to inform Turkish Cypriots on EU matters, in order to sidestep efforts by the Turkish Cypriot leadership to suppress such information.
In a message to Turkish Cypriots included in the homepage setting out its purpose, Chief Negotiator George Vassiliou said, "Our second aim is to share your assessments of the benefits which we expect to have for all Cypriots." He invited opinions and queries stating, "we will always be at your disposal to respond to your questions." He also expressed his conviction that the website "will prove useful for all citizens of Cyprus and a forum of constructive dialogue."
In both Greek and Turkish, the site can be accessed at www.cyprus-eu.org.cy.
On Feb. 2, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides began new consultations aimed at paving the way for the island's accession into the EU. After a meeting in Brussels, EU Commissioner Han van den Broek praised the President's decision not to deploy the S-300 saying this step "clearly removes a stumbling block" and that it will further strengthen EU-Cyprus ties.
Referring to Cyprus's accession negotiations Van den Broek said "so far Cyprus has made good progress" and that "we will do everything on our side to see to it that this pace is maintained." He also warned that "Turkey should refrain from any kind of action that should slow down the progress of integration of Cyprus."
For his part Kasoulides once again called for participation by Turkish Cypriots in EU talks. "It is time for the Turkish Cypriots to accept the proposal to participate in the negotiations with their representatives, so that we can all join the EU together at the next enlargement," he said.
On Feb. 1, Kasoulides and Greece's Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou announced plans to draft a memorandum of cooperation on Cyprus's accession course in order to "define steps in our meetings. . . . This will help our services to be more effective," Papandreou said. With regard to Turkey, Papandreou cautioned, "We want Turkey in Europe," but it needs to "meet criteria that are not only economic but related to democracy, human rights and respect for international law."
Earlier in January, during visits to Slovenia and the Czech Republic, Kasoulides had also expressed the hope that Cyprus would be unified before 2003, the target date for Cyprus's accession. The government of Cyprus has demonstrated political will to solve the Cyprus problem, he said, adding, "we hope that Cyprus will be unified well ahead of the next enlargement of the EU." On Jan. 15, Leopold Maurer, the European Union chief negotiator for Cyprus, praised Cyprus's efforts to harmonize its legislation with the <MI>acquis communautaire. He noted Cyprus has advanced more rapidly than the other candidate countries in the process. He pointed out that Cyprus is "treated now not only as a normal member state but as an ideal state."
Maurer further noted that the current division of Cyprus is a "big problem," but that the EU wants "to understand the problem . . . because we are interested that this process and the accession of Cyprus is a positive step for your people that you may benefit and become part of the EU."
On Jan. 29, Ambassador Donato Chiarini, head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Cyprus, expressed hope that Turkey would recognize the benefits to all those living in Cyprus from the island's EU membership. He said that 15 out of 31 chapters have already been covered and noted that Cyprus had submitted its negotiation positions on the last 16 chapters well before the deadline. That makes Cyprus,"the best pupil in the class," he stated, noting that Cyprus has not requested any transitional period on the last 16 chapters. Cyprus, he said, is now "at a stage where in many fields it can operate and should show that it is operating as if it is already a member-state."
Pointing out that the Turkish side's refusal to join in the EU accession process despite the repeated invitations of President Clerides was impossible to ignore, Chiarini noted that: "We believe that the Turkish Cypriot participation in the accession negotiations is an important confidence-building measure and this is why we have welcomed President Clerides's offer to the Turkish Cypriot community, and we are hoping strongly and expecting that it will be acted upon soon."
The "potential opportunities for a federal Cyprus within the Union will be limitless, and will benefit both communities, particularly the Turkish Cypriots more profoundly at least initially by lifting them out of isolation," he concluded.
In another development, the European Commission's sixth report on the socio-economic situation and developments in the EU issued in early February said that Cyprus's economy was in many ways well prepared for accession to the EU.
Tetralogy of the Times, subtitled Stories of Cyprus, written by G. Philippou Pierides, 94, should be "The Cyprus classic," wrote the Cyprus Mail for its "insights into the Cypriot people" and their difficult modern history. Written in four sections, the first covers the British colonization before 1955, the second the struggle for independence, the third the first years of independence and the last the post-1974 period or Times of Suffering. "If you have any interest in Cyprus and its people you should buy it," wrote the Cyprus Mail.
Translated from the Greek.
Nostos Books (612) 824-2996