Kasoulides Calls for More Decisive U.S. Support
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides concluded his visit to the U.S. on Feb. 27, saying that American policymakers "should not be discouraged by Turkey's intransigence and negative attitude," and should press on with their efforts to find a settlement of the Cyprus problem.
The Minister, who met with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other officials, members of Congress and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, covered a broad range of topics, from the peace process, to demilitarization of Cyprus, to missing persons, to President Clerides's decision not to deploy antiaircraft defense missiles.
The Kasoulides visit comes at a time when Turkey, which illegally occupies over a third of the island, and the Turkish Cypriots are refusing to restart face-to- face negotiations. The Turkish Cypriots are also refusing to participate in accession talks with the European Union (EU).
In addition to Secretary Albright, the Minister met with Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, Under Secretary of Defense Walter Slocombe, James Steinberg of the National Security Council and members of Congress including Representative Sonny Callahan, Chairman of the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Senator Joseph Biden, Ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senators Paul Sarbanes, Peter Fitzerald and Olympia Snowe. Kasoulides said U.S. Congressmen are pushing for a special resolution and debate, on the human rights of the enclaved Cypriots, which Turkey's occupation troops abuse.
In statements following his meeting with Secretary Albright, Kasoulides described their talks as "very useful," and said they discussed a number of ways through which the U.S. can work actively for the implementation of the latest Security Council Resolutions, in keeping with President Clinton's recent public statement backing such an effort.
The Minister said "the people of Cyprus, Greek
Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike, have the right to
enjoy freedom, peace and stability like any other people
in the world. The commitment of the U.S. administration
was reiterated and we discussed a number of tracks that
have to be followed, in order to achieve progress in the
efforts for a settlement."
In her remarks, Secretary Albright emphasized that the U.S. firmly supports the U.N. efforts for a solution based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation. The Secretary and the President, she said, are "personally interested in helping to move ahead. We are urging both sides to work with Ann Hercus, the U.N. Deputy Special Representative for Cyprus, to put the Secretary General's initiative into action. We will continue to work with both sides in public and in private and we will encourage both to negotiate creatively and flexibly," she said, and "we will not hesitate to bring to the table whatever contributions we can make ourselves."
Furthermore, Albright told Kasoulides that "President Clerides's courageous decision not to deploy the S-300 (air-defense missiles) on Cyprus has opened new opportunities to find a resolution for the Cyprus problem."
Kasoulides said that the missile decision is a gesture that gives the U.S. the opportunity "to be much more convincing towards the Turks, that the time has come for them to withdraw their army from Cyprus."
Following his talks with Secretary General Annan in New York, which he described as "very productive," the Minister expressed the hope that the current shuttle diplomacy taking place through the U.N. Deputy Permanent Representative in Cyprus will prepare the ground for the Secretary General to convene talks between the two sides.
The Minister and Annan talked of ways of implementing two recent Security Council Resolutions (1217 and 1218) on Cyprus. Kasoulides said that any new diplomatic activity on Cyprus will presumably take place after the elections in Turkey in April.
He also noted that "the objective of diplomatic activity will be the resumption of the intercommunal dialogue on the basis of U.N. resolutions on Cyprus," which call for a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
The Greek Cypriot side would respond positively to an invitation to talks by the Secretary General, Kasoulides said, if these were to be held on the basis of U.N. resolutions. Kasoulides asked the U.N. chief to ensure that an agreement reached between President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in July 1997 on the issue of missing persons be implemented. The agreement calls for the exchange of information on the location of graves and the return of remains of those proven to be dead.
"We also asked Annan to look into the suggestions of his predecessor on the issue of enclaved Greek Cypriots living in Turkish occupied Cyprus on the basis of the Vienna III agreement (which provides for fundamental human rights and normal living conditions of the enclaved)," he said.
While in New York, the Foreign Minister also met with President Clinton's emissary for Cyprus Richard Holbrooke who said, the cancellation of the missiles was "a significant step towards reducing tension in the region and laying the framework for progress in the future."
Referring to his earlier efforts toward a settlement, Holbrooke said, "the current disposition of the Turkish side makes progress extraordinarily difficult," and stressed that a "breakthrough would require the cooperation, collaboration and active involvement of both sides. . . . Right now that is not what exists because of the positions that were taken last year by the Turkish side," he said.
The Minister described the missile decision as "a very painful one, it has cost President Clerides a lot domestically in Cyprus. . . . We have taken this decision because it was so much the wish of both the United States and the European Union, and we wanted to demonstrate that we are a credible and reliable friend of the United States, and also a reliable partner of the European Union, contributing in the common foreign and security policy of the European Union in that part of the world."
It has helped to give impetus to Cyprus's EU accession talks, he said, "which for us is very important." He said the negotiations are going very well and could lead to entry by the year 2003.
In February, agreements were concluded for the antiaircraft system to be leased to Greece and be deployed on the island of Crete.
Throughout his visit, and in meetings with U.S. officials, Kasoulides touched on repeated calls, including by the U.S. Congress, for demilitarization of the island and President Clerides's proposal on this issue. The Minister said that the Cyprus government believes that demilitarization would reduce tensions between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities as well as between Greece and Turkey.
Kasoulides said the plan would place a multinational
force on the island under a U.N. Security Council
mandate, replacing the armed forces of the Cyprus
Republic and all forces in the Turkish-occupied areas.
"If we withdraw the arms, it ends the arms race," he
said, adding "it has always been our position that Cyprus
should become a demilitarized country." He added that
Cyprus could help fund the multinational force with money
it would no longer need for the defense budget.
In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Kasoulides called the demilitarization plan a "win-win situation" for all sides. He said it "best serves the security interests of all Cypriots as well as those of Greece and Turkey, and could contribute substantially to peace and stability in the volatile eastern Mediterranean region." Regrettably, he said, the proposal has fallen on deaf ears in Ankara, which does not have the political will to work towards a solution.
Upon his return home, the Minister summed up his talks saying he advocated a more firm U.S. condemnation of Turkey and the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime, and a more firm stand on issues such as a case before the European Court of Human Rights which ruled that Turkey violates human rights and is responsible for what happens in the occupied part of the island.
"I suggested a more decisive support by the U.S. of efforts to settle the Cyprus question and asked that the U.S. policy should not be discouraged by Turkey's intransigence and negative positions, and must proceed with more pressing moves in the direction of Turkey," he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus, Thomas Miller, visited Cyprus on March 10-12. The U.S. Embassy statement announcing the visit noted that, Miller's visit was "part of a general trip to the region during which he will also consult with Turkish and Greek government officials in Ankara and Athens."
During his stay, Miller met with President Clerides, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, and the Deputy Special Representative and Chief of Mission of the U.N. operation in Cyprus, Ann Hercus.
The statement continued "Ambassador Miller's consultations are part of the U.S. government's on-going efforts, in close cooperation with the U.N., to reduce tensions on Cyprus and build a basis toward a lasting settlement."
"The United States and Cyprus have enjoyed very close relations for years, and we have an extensive trade relationship, we cooperate to fight crime, drug trafficking and terrorism and we have a common interest in building a Europe that is united, prosperous and free, a Europe in which all Cypriots fully participate."
--U.S. Secretary of State Albright
On Feb. 26, the U.S. State Department released two reports which give Cyprus high marks.
The annual Report on Human Rights says that the government of the Republic of Cyprus respects "human rights norms and practices." The report notes that an overall respect for democratic principles and the rule of law is being observed in Cyprus. Moreover, it notes that the freedom to hold meetings, associate and organize is protected by law and respected in practice.
It points out that freedom of movement was restricted in Turkish-occupied areas and notes that since December 1977 most bicommunal contacts between Turkish and Greek Cypriots have been banned by the Turkish Cypriot authorities which have sometimes attempted to prevent Turkish Cypriots from traveling to bicommunal meetings off the island as well.
Referring to freedom of speech and of the press it says they are freely practiced, but that some actions were taken against newspapers and journalists in the Turkish-occupied areas.
In a response to the report, Government Spokesman, Christos Stylianides said: "The government considers that the continuing occupation of part of the Republic is in itself a violation of human rights and should have been noted in the report."
In addition, on Feb. 26, the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs 1998 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report concludes that, "A signatory to the 1988 U.N. Drug Convention, Cyprus strictly enforces tough anti-drug laws, and police and customs authorities maintain excellent relations with the United States and other foreign government officials."
The report also notes that "a new extradition treaty between the U.S. and Cyprus was recently ratified by the United States."
The Strategy Report says that, "Cypriots do not produce or consume significant amounts of narcotics" but points out that the Turkish-occupied areas are "convenient stopover[s] for narcotics traffickers moving between Turkey and other countries."
The report also lauds Cyprus's efforts against money laundering, adding that the government has taken important measures in this area, including strengthening and enforcing of the relevant laws. "The United States anticipates continued excellent cooperation from the government of Cyprus," the report said.
Cyprus's Unit for Combating Money Laundering (UCML) came in for special praise. The UCML, "was very active in 1998 in receiving and investigating suspicious transactions." It has also conducted training of police officers, bankers, accountants and other financial officials. As a result, the Cyprus police now includes a module on money laundering.
Meanwhile on Feb. 23, the 1998 International Narcotics Control Board report also praised Cyprus's efforts to combat drug trafficking. "The control system for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances was working effectively," it reported.
U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Brill briefed Minister for Commerce, Industry and Tourism Nicos Rolandis on efforts of the U.S. Embassy to promote trade between the two countries on March 2.
Themis Themistocleous took over as the Director of the Cyprus News Agency on March 1. A seasoned journalist, he served from 1978 until 1999 in various positions in the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation.
Cyprus is among 5 countries that won the Europe 1998 British Airways "Tourism for Tomorrow" award. A total of 43 countries took part in the competition. Cyprus's award is for agrotourism, a program that encourages the conversion of traditional houses in certain picturesque villages for tourism while protecting the traditional architecture and promoting environmental integrity and cultural diversity.
On March 8, International Women's Day, the Women's Issues Network Organization in the U.S. gave Titina Loizidou the "Woman of the Year Award" for her long-term struggle against Turkey's violation of her right to property in the occupied part of Cyprus.
Cypriot children being treated at the Paraskevaidion Surgical and Transplant Centre will now be able to benefit from a new "telemedicine" link-up with the Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts. At both hospitals 1,000 VidiMedix workstations will be linked to allow live video and audio consultations.
On Feb. 17, a section of a Byzantine icon, looted from the church of Antifonitis in the Turkish-occupied area of Kyrenia, was returned to the island. The icon had been purchased by a Greek collector who willingly returned it to the Church of Cyprus.
Cyprus's European Union (EU) accession process continues apace, and with various important meetings on the schedule.
In March Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides will meet with his counterparts from Germany, Austria and Belgium to brief them on Cyprus's accession course and on the Cyprus problem. This is part of an effort to increase understanding of Cyprus issues by foreign ministers from other nations. In addition, Germany's and the EU Presidency's envoy for the Cyprus problem, Detlev Graf zu Rantzau visited Cyprus on March 8 for consultations.
On Feb. 26, the EU Commission reaffirmed its support for Cyprus's membership in the EU.
EU Commissioner Hans van den Broek expressed this view in a written reply to a question from Greek Euro MP Nikitas Kaklamanis, requesting the official position of the Commission on "unacceptable views" expressed by the head of the Commission's Enlargement Task Force, Klaus van der Pas, regarding Cyprus's candidacy.
Van der Pas had said that he was concerned that Cyprus's division might stand in the way of its accession.
Commissioner van den Broek responded as follows: "The Commission will continue to contribute actively so that the negotiations with Cyprus may proceed as soon as possible, and will continue to do so despite the continuing obstacles, such as the fact that the Turkish Cypriot community has so far not responded positively to the clear invitation extended to it to participate in the negotiations."
"The EU Commission fully shares the hope that has been repeatedly expressed by the EU that entry negotiations will contribute positively to a just settlement of the Cyprus problem through talks under the auspices of the United Nations, and aimed at the creation of a federation of two communities and two zones," he concluded.
Meanwhile, European Union Foreign Ministers have decided to extend the 4th EU-Cyprus Financial Protocol by one year. This decision was taken on Feb. 22 in the context of the General Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg after it was proposed by the European Commission.
On another front, on Feb 24 Government Spokesman Christos Stylianides and Press and Information Office Director George Hadjisavvas traveled to Brussels to brief EU officials on Cyprus's efforts to inform the public about European issues.
Stylianides and Hadjisavvas also outlined efforts made to keep Turkish Cypriots informed about the benefits of EU accession and Cyprus's progress through the Internet and television. They also sought financial and technical assistance for the project.
The two officials met Marcelino Orega, EU Commissioner re- sponsible for communication and information and his unit, as well as other Commission members in charge of communications.
Orega expressed satisfaction with the fact that the Cyprus government has fulfilled its obligation to inform Turkish Cypriots about the Republic's accession course through creation of a website for that purpose. It can be accessed at www.cyprus-eu.org.cy.
The website, was launched in January to sidestep efforts by the Turkish Cypriot leadership to suppress such information and to promote dialogue on EU issues and is available in both Greek and Turkish. Cyprus is among the first candidate countries whose website is currently linked to that of the EU.
In a move complementary to that of Cyprus, in early March the Delegation of the European Commission to Cyprus launched its own website with information on EU relations with Cyprus.
This site includes background materials, information on the EU's institutions, the Euro, a Euro conversion rate table and press releases related to Cyprus.
This website will also include links for more detailed information on the EU and its program of cooperation and the latest on accession negotiations. It is currently available in English but will soon be accessible in Greek and Turkish as well. The address is www.ec-eu-delegation.com.cy.
On Feb. 9, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe rejected a bid by Turkey to set up a joint commission of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to address issues relating to property. This proposal was presented to the Committee by Turkey in order to gain more time or possibly avoid compensation payment to Greek Cypriot refugee Titina Loizidou. In July the European Court had ruled Turkey must pay some $600,000 for depriving her of ownership rights and access to her property.