Embassy Newsletter Washington, DC October1999
U.S. Special Presidential Emissary to continue Efforts
Hopes that negotiations on the Cyprus problem would begin in mid-October were dashed last month when Turkey rejected U.N., American and Group of Eight (G-8) calls for a new round of talks with no preconditions.
President Glafcos Clerides and Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides traveled to New York for the 54th United Nations General Assembly, amid an international consensus that the Cyprus problem must be addressed, and that talks open with all issues on the table and no preconditions be set.
The U.N. Security Council, backed by the G-8 major powers, has called on Secretary General Kofi Annan to convene talks between the Greek and Turkish sides this autumn, without preconditions, with the goal of reaching a bizonal, bicommunal solution. President Clinton has also repeatedly endorsed such an approach.
Despite intense diplomatic activity, including a meeting between President Clinton and Turkish Premier Bulent Ecevit, the Turkish side continued to insist on the preconditions that are contrary to the United Nations framework backed by the international community.
During the President's visit, which culminated with an address to the General Assembly and his meetings with the U.N. Secretary General and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, statements by virtually everyone but Turkey backed a resumption of intercommunal talks, broken off by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash two years ago.
President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Albright, British Foreign Minister Robin Cook and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Holbrooke, among many others, all encouraged the Secretary General to quickly start the dialogue without preconditions. But there has been no positive response from Turkey or Denktash, and no give whatsoever in their hardline positions.
Upon his return to Cyprus, President Clerides said in Independence Day remarks, "We are fed up with the Turkish side defying and violating U.N. resolutions and the decisions of the EU, the European Court and the Commission of Human Rights of the Council of Europe as well as the constant efforts of some countries to intervene so as to help Turkey not to suffer the consequences of its negative stand."
Despite hopes that Turkish Premier Ecevit might modify Turkey's position as a result of his Sept. 28 White House meeting with President Clinton, little seemed to change in Turkey's stand in its aftermath.
Prior to the meeting Clinton said he has been "working for the resumption of the U.N.-sponsored talks without preconditions," and also that he supports Turkey's entry into the EU. Ecevit did agree to accept a visit from Presidential Emissary Alfred Moses, and U.S. officials said that offered "a window of opportunity" in the quest for a Cyprus solution.
In all his public statements in the U.S., Ecevit insisted on the precondition that the talks aim at a confederation of two states, dampening hopes for new U.N.-sponsored talks anytime soon.
State Department Spokesman James Foley reiterated Sept. 30 that the U.S. is still, "endeavoring to persuade both sides to enter into negotiations without preconditions under U.N. auspices," and is still committed to a "bizonal, bicommunal federation."
On Oct. 6, Ambassador Moses said that the way forward "is through comprehensive talks without preconditions consistent with the G-8 statement and the U.N. resolutions." But given Turkey's hardline position, U.S. officials concede than an early resumption of negotiations now appears "unrealistic."
President Clerides said that the government will be waiting for the outcome of the U.S. Presidential Emissary's mission. He noted, however, that "should Mr. Moses's efforts fail because the Turkish side continues to take a negative stand, I shall expect the international community to apportion blame and then go on to take other decisions and measures which will lead to the finding, by peaceful means, of the solution which is being sought." As Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou noted, Ecevit's decision to accept Moses "does not constitute progress."
On Oct. 6, Congressman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) summed up what many in the U.S. Congress feel the U.S. must do to achieve progress. "We will not see progress on Cyprus until Ankara feels compelled to act. We need to leverage our political and military relationships with Turkey. . . . Like the EU, the U.S. should condition its relationship with Turkey on progress on human rights and the resolution of the Cyprus question. If the European Union can play hardball with Ankara, when Turkey is in its backyard, certainly the United States can do the same."
State Department Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston said Sept. 25, that while both Nicosia and Athens have the political will for a settlement, it remains to be seen if the Turkish side does.
In his address to the General Assembly, and speeches at Seton Hall University and the Council on Foreign Relations, President Clerides stressed that any breakthrough depends on Turkey dropping its intransigent positions.
Clerides told the General Assembly "This year marks a quarter of a century since the Turkish invasion and unlawful occupation of 37 percent of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus." He said that while he could "point an accusing finger against Turkey and talk at length about the ethnic cleansing . . . which resulted in 180,000 Greek Cypriots being turned into refugees in their own country," he preferred to "look to the future and not to the past."
The President emphasized his willingness to begin talks. "I have already stated publicly . . . that we are ready to respond positively to the invitation of theSecretary General to attend the talks and to negotiate its solution within the parameters established by the international community through Security Council resolutions," he said.
He told a press conference that, "We are ready to go ahead full speed, if Mr. Denktash responds positively to the voices of the international community."
At Seton Hall, where he received an honorary doctorate, the President said, "We are prepared to sit at the negotiating table and talk to Mr Denktash or the representatives of the Turkish community in a spirit of good will and a spirit of understanding."
In New York, Clerides also won the full support of the permanent five members of the Security Council. The five issued a statement on Sept. 24 reiterating their position that the status quo in Cyprus, established through the use of force and sustained by military strength, is unacceptable. With regard to negotiations, they also reiterated their call for the sides to "commit themselves to the following principles: no preconditions; all issues on the table; commitment to negotiate until a settlement is reached; [and] full consideration of relevant U.N. resolutions and treaties."
So strong was the support at the U.N., that Secretary General Kofi Annan was waiting for the results of the Clinton-Ecevit meeting to announce invitations to unconditional talks in mid-October. After meeting Annan Sept. 25, Clerides said the two had even discussed "when the invitations will be extended and what they will contain."
Still, there are several upcoming events that might move things forward. President Clinton is set to visit Greece and Turkey in November. President Clerides will attend a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Turkey in November, and a European Union summit will be held in Helsinki in December.
On the occasion of the 39th anniversary of Cyprus independence, President Bill Clinton congratulated President Clerides and the people of Cyprus.
"The American people join me in reaffirming the strong bonds of friendship that exist between our countries" Clinton said. "The U.S. remains committed to finding a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem that will reconcile the differences that have divided Cyprus for far too long. Please accept my best wishes for you and the people of Cyprus for the coming year. May it be a year filled with peace and prosperity."
In his Independence Day message President Clerides pointed out that Cyprus's territory has been occupied for 25 years by Turkey but reiterated the Greek Cypriot side's desire for a solution that "will reunite the divided island, restore the human rights of all Cypriots and guarantee the security of the Cyprus state." He noted that this state "will be called upon to play its own constructive role within the ranks of the European Union, contributing at the same time to peace, security and stability in the region."
Heads of State from many other countries sent congratulatory messages, including those from China, France, Greece and Russia. And, in Washington Amb. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis hosted a reception to mark the occasion, which was attended by many officials and friends of Cyprus.
On Oct. 3, the Minister of Communication and Works, Averof Neophytou, announced that Cyprus will introduce a new policy for the registration of ships under the Cyprus flag. "Under the new policy there is a new ceiling on the age of ships which may be registered while the age of ships for which an entry inspection is required will be lowered from 17 to 15," the Minister said. The announcement came at the "Maritime Cyprus '99" conference which was attended by more than 1,000 participants from some 35 countries.
Cyprus and the United States signed a new extradition treaty and initialed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on Sept. 14, which will enhance the already close cooperation in law enforcement matters between the two nations.
On Sept. 28, President Clerides announced at a meeting of the Cyprus-U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that during its first year the organization had "fulfilled its principal aim of promoting and strengthening even further the financial and commercial ties between Cyprus and the United States. . . . The Cyprus government sees in the Cyprus-U.S. Chamber a valued partner who will assist in the efforts of expanding further" their multifaceted relations to their mutual benefit. The president added that the U.S. is, "by far the number one exporter to Cyprus with exports reaching $480 million." Total exports to the U.S. in 1998 reached $21 million.
Cyprus Airways signed a code-sharing agreement with the Northwest Airlines on Sept. 14, the world's fourth largest carrier. The agreement will be valid for a minimum of 8 years and will allow for the addition of the CY code to Northwest operated services.
On Sept. 14, the U.S. Department of State released updated Y2K readiness reports on 196 countries. The Department concluded that, "anticipated computer problems related to the year 2000 date change are not serious enough to warrant travel warnings anywhere in the world."
With respect to Cyprus, the State Department concluded that, "Cyprus is generally well prepared to deal with Y2K disruptions. With increased attention to correcting Y2K problems in food storage and fuel distribution and the lack of Y2K compliance by some private companies, the potential risk of disruption in Cyprus will be low by year's end. This information applies only to the southern area of Cyprus under effective control of the government of Cyprus." The Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus are expected to face some Y2K problems.
During his address to the 22nd Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly on the review of the implementation of the program of action for the sustainable development of small island developing states, President Clerides on Sept. 27 urged that small island states create the necessary climate to help them face their challenges, whether they are security concerns, environmental or other issues.
The international community, he continued, has a responsibility to assist its small members in meeting their needs. The "time has come for the international community to further enhance its effort to remedy" the severity of debt problems faced by many small island states.
Leaders of some 40 small island nations had gathered in New York to assess progress on the action plan adopted by over 100 countries five years ago.
In New York, Sen. Joseph Biden Jr. (D-DE), senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was awarded the "Justice for Cyprus Award" by the Cyprus Federation of America on Sept. 25. Speakers at the awards ceremony included President Clerides, Senator Biden and Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman (R-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on International Relations.
Biden criticized those who call the division of Cyprus "relative peace" saying it is a "disgrace and an abomination, an intolerable situation which must not be allowed to stand!" He continued that, "`relative peace' has meant the death of more than 6,000 civilians, the disappearance of well over 1,600 Cypriots, including four Americans of Cypriot descent, a 'peace' enforced by 35,000 heavily armed Turkish troops who continue to occupy 37 percent of a part of the world they should not have stepped on."
Cyprus Minister of Finance and Governor of the World Bank for Cyprus Takis Klerides addressed the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Group on Sept. 28 in Washington.
The Minister said that "It is encouraging to note that the world economic situation is now distinctly better than 12 months ago and that the global growth momentum during 1999 has been improving."
"In Cyprus," he said, "we are well aware of the vulnerability of small open economies to fluctuations in export prices and volumes. In 1999 a considerable fall has been recorded in the international prices of our main commodity export, namely potatoes, but fortunately our largest foreign exchange earner, tourism, has experienced substantial rises in both the number of tourists and their average expenditure."
Support Remains fort U.N. Efforts
In a Sept. 21 address to the U.N. General Assembly, Finland's Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen, speaking on behalf of the EU, reiterated positions on Cyprus set forth in a EU memorandum circulated during her speech. The memorandum states that, "The European Union remains fully committed to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question on the basis of the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. It reaffirms its strong support for the efforts of the U.N. Secretary General and his Special Representative to achieve such a settlement."
The memorandum continues that the EU, "warmly welcomes . . . the Security Council's request to the U.N. Secretary General, in accordance with the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, to invite the leaders of the two communities to comprehensive negotiations without preconditions in the Autumn of 1999."
"In view of the fact that the invitation of the Cyprus government has not been taken up so far," the memorandum states, "the Presidency and the Commission will continue their efforts to convince the Turkish Cypriot community of the benefits of EU membership and of an early association with Turkish Cypriots with the accession process, in accordance with the conclusions of the 1997 Luxembourg European Council."
The memorandum further states that a number of decisions have been taken which contribute to closer cooperation between the EU and Cyprus, in particular the decision to extend the 4th Protocol on financial and technical cooperation as well as the signature of an additional protocol to facilitate the participation of Cyprus in the EU's 5th Framework Program for research, technological development and demonstration activities.
Meanwhile on Oct. 3, the Finnish Presidency advocated "constructive engagement in the EU's relations with Turkey" in a bid to put them on a better track. With regard to Cyprus, the Presidency noted the "tragic and unnecessary division of the island" and hoped for a U.N. call for peace talks within a few weeks.
Progress also continued in Cyprus's accession negotiations, with the Deputy Director General of the European Commission's Environment Directorate Jean Francois Verstrynge visiting Cyprus to identify what is needed for Cyprus to implement the acquis communautaire in the field of environment.
On another front, a working team has been set up to monitor developments in the humanitarian issue of missing persons in Cyprus. The team will send written material to overseas ministers, deputies and politicians in a bid to better inform them about the issue. Attorney General Alecos Markides who heads the group said that the material will also refer to a report by the European Commission of Human Rights of the Council of Europe on Cyprus's fourth inter-state case against Turkey for human rights violations.
Also on Sept. 23, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Iceland's Foreign Minister Halldor Asgrimsson, questioned Turkey's credibility with regard to its obligations as it continues to disregard a European Court ruling in the Loizidou case. The Court has ruled that Turkey had violated the human rights of Titina Loizidou and ordered it to pay her some $800,000--a ruling which Turkey has failed to acknowledge.
And, on Oct. 6, the Committee adopted an interim resolution strongly urging Turkey to comply with the Court's decision and pay the compensation.
In late September a new book entitled Excavating Salamis of Cyprus-- 1952-1974, was introduced by author and archaeologist Vassos Karagiorgis.
The work contains 242 photographs and outlines in great detail Cyprus's most extensive and most important excavations from the period when Cyprus was a British colony until the city was captured by the invading Turkish army in 1974.
Karagiorgis explained that his work was complicated by the fact that thousands of photographs, hundreds of textbooks and other written material were abandoned by their owners as they fled advancing Turkish troops.
In late September, the Cyprus government protested illegal excavations at Salamis in the Turkish-occupied areas by archaeologists from the University of Ankara.
Cyprus's permanent representative to UNESCO revealed during the presentation of the book that the illegal excavations began about one year ago, and that all foreign universities approached by the Turks refused to be part of this unlawful act.
Salamis was founded by Teucer, a hero of the Trojan War and son of King Telamon of the Greek island of Salamis.
For more than 2,000 years, Salamis played the most prominent part among the kingdoms of Cyprus.