Interview by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the un ambassador andreas mavroyiannis to Aktina TV


May 30, 2004 

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM): Ambassador Mavroyiannis it is a great pleasure to have you on our program.  The decision of the Greek Cypriots to reject the UN Secretary Generalís proposed plan during the April 24th twin referenda in Cyprus was not well received by the United Nations, the United States and to some extend by the European Union. In fact according to Mr. de Soto , the UN Secretary Generalís Special Advisor for Cyprus , who was a guest on our program very recently, they were surprised and disappointed and they are still trying to understand why the Greek Cypriot side rejected the plan. Furthermore they would like to know better what the Greek Cypriots actually want because as he said and I quote ď there wasnít clarity as to what they were prepared to settle for; where the bottom line is because, as he noted,  there seems to be a never ending list of lingering concerns afterthoughts and footnotes. Mr. de Soto also told us that there were even more surprised by the Ė and I quote- ďVehemence with which the plan was rejected by President PapadopoulosĒ. This, Mr. Ambassador, leaves a question mark whether or not he Greek Cypriot side left the negotiating table without clarifying its position and whether or not after leaving Burgenstock they gave the impression that they were satisfied.

Ambassador, you participated in the recent negotiations both at the UN Headquarters and in Burgenstock, can you give us some clarification?

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: Of course, I would like first to thank you too for inviting me on the program. Itís an honor and pleasure to be with you.

I must tell you that I have a completely different view on this issue. I think that one can be disappointed but one cannot be surprised. I think the rejection of the plan by the Greek Cypriot community was an expected outcome. As far as the stance of President Papadopoulos is concerned, I think that he has been very clear through the whole process, that unless we improve the plan to make it acceptable for the Greek Cypriot community, at least the way he was seeing those improvements, he would not be in a position to support it. In this respect, I have to tell you that since the Hague , our side was trying to convince everybody that we should continue negotiations. Nobody was forthcoming for quite a long time and it is only this year, two months before the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, that Turkey decided to change its position and come back to the negotiating table.

In February we had the meetings here in New York . Although we were very reserved to the idea of having the Secretary General filling the gaps, at the end of the day because we wanted so eagerly and genuinely to have the plan improved, we accepted even the widening of the role of the Secretary General in exercising his discretion and filling the gaps. There was, however, a very clear understanding that at the end, every side and every player in this process reserved his position to judge the final product on its merit, and we have done so in absolute good faith. Do you think that it is easy for us to accept and to recognize that we have failed in our effort to have a settlement? But we have to be honest and the fact is, that at the end of the day, the final product fell short of our minimum expectations and we were not in the position to go along. This was the feeling of the President of the Republic but as it appeared this was the feeling of the overwhelming majority of the Greek Cypriots.

Let me also say a word about what Mr. de Soto called lack of clarity. I think this is not a fair judgment because throughout the process we have made our positions very clear on the changes we wanted and we have confined all the changes we wanted within the framework of the plan. On each change we wanted, we have submitted, during the negotiating process, very thoroughly thought papers, explaining our positions very very clearly on every single issue and they knew it. It is true that the things we were asking to improve were not easily tractable Ė we were talking for instance about functionality. When you talk functionality itís not just remedying one leading weakness that you have. A lot of things should be done in order to have the feeling that functionality was achieved. They might be right that, it was not easy for them to grasp exactly what was our bottom line but I think, time and again, and during the negotiations in Cyprus and in every occasion, we have made clear to them what our red lines were. They knew very well, in Burgestock for instance, that there were many things we couldnít go along with and of course the feeling we had at the end of the day is that they paid much more attention in getting Turkey on board because of the difficulties of Mr. Erdogan with the military rather than having our side on board. Maybe somewhere there was a slight misunderstanding or they got the wrong message that we would go along anyway. But it was impossible for us. You know, itís a historic responsibility for the President of the Republic, for the leadership of the country, for the negotiating team to come out and say to the people clearly what we have in front of us, whether it is something we can support or not.

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM): Speaking about what we have in front of us, what the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots had in front of them, Mr. de Soto complained that on the Turkish Cypriot side they held year long seminars, there was a booklet that was distributed, about 30 pages, explaining the plan, while on the Greek Cypriot side, Mr. de Soto alleged that there was no discussion about the plan until the very last moment. Would you like to give us some clarification on that as well? Why the Greek Cypriot side after the 2003 talks, the previous plan was in a way similar to the final plan, I mean you made some changes to the final plan but the plan from the year 2003 I believe from February was in a way the basis of this final plan, why wasnít it discussed in Cyprus ? Why the Greek Cypriot side did not hold any seminars to educate people about the plan?

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: Let me tell you that nothing is more far from reality than this assertion. Very honestly, there has never been in Cyprus , but I suppose in no other country, such an open debate on an issue like the one that took place in Cyprus on the Annan plan. And not only now but since the first version of the plan was presented in November of 2002, there was a very open debate.

What you mentioned about the leaflet or the paper, the same paper was circulated in Cyprus in thousand of copies. There was a debate in the press every day, on television and there were even many polls in Cyprus and the percentage of the people that said that they didnít know about the plan was really very very low. Everybody in Cyprus knew about the plan and there was a very very open debate in an open society. Cyprus is an open society and it is not because of lack of information that the people voted against it. It is because the people felt that their concerns were not taken into consideration and the necessary effort to have them on board has not been made.

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM): Now when we raised the question about the security concerns of the Greek Cypriot side, Mr. de Soto told us that if the Greek Cypriot side was truly unhappy with the guarantees of implementation and compliance there was nothing to prevent them from going directly to the Security Council as they have done on other issues and no such effort was made and as far as what Mr. Christofias requested, Mr. de Soto also informed us that the Security Council was asked to strengthen the draft resolution, however, the request was prefaced by reiterating the Greek Cypriot position that the Council should take no action at all before the referenda took place. I would like you to elaborate on this.

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: You know, I have to tell you that I donít feel very comfortable because once again I have to say that what Mr. de Soto told you is not true and I donít feel comfortable because I have a high esteem for Mr. de Soto and we are good friends and I donít like the idea of being critical of his work and of the Secretariat of the United Nations but I was here, was responsible for the position of Cyprus during the efforts to have this resolution adopted by the Security Council and as a matter of fact we have submitted a paper to all members of the Security Council with all the changes we wanted and with ways and means that could if you like remedy the text in order to make it acceptable to us. By that I mean strengthening the content of the resolution giving additional guarantees for implementation of the settlement, giving additional guarantees to the Greek Cypriot side as far as the whole security structure of the settlement is concerned. For instance submitting the exercise of the so called rights of unilateral intervention by the Guarantor Powers in Cyprus to a previous decision by the Security Council. So it is true that our preference was for any resolution to be adopted after the referendum, in order not to influence the outcome by decisions of the Security Council, because it would not have been fair for the Council to interfere with the expression of the democratic will of the people. Very clearly we have stated that our number one priority was to ensure a proper resolution on the operation of the United Nations after the settlement and if our demands were accepted the question whether the resolution would have been adopted before or afterwards was completely secondary and we were ready to go along but the fact is, that despite of all our efforts, and we have made huge efforts here, to have those concerns taken into consideration the door was closed. The door was closed and nobody, I mean the drafters of the resolution, were not willing to discuss with us strengthening the draft resolution and they have even told us that the idea for them was just to take what  was in the plan and transforming it  in to a resolution and we have very frankly and openly told them that this is not enough because if it was enough then there would have been no reason to try and have a resolution before, because everybody in Cyprus knew that if there was a settlement the Security Council would go along. The reason we wanted something from the Security Council was that we wanted something more, something additional and we have done our utmost to achieve something more so I regret to disagree with what Mr. de Soto said.

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM): In fact he did say that the authors of the draft resolution lifted from the plan and gave it to the Security Council and I am glad that you are giving us some clarification as far as the Greek Cypriot sideís position and that you did in fact request additional guarantees and you did go to the Security council requesting those guarantees. Now as far as the concern of the Greek Cypriots that this plan as you know the Greek American Community by a large percentage did not support the Annan Plan and one of their concerns was and still is that in preparing this plan the UN Secretary General did not take into consideration past resolutions calling for the demilitarization of Cyprus, the return of the refugees all of that. We raised this question with Mr. de Soto again and he told us that this plan is part of the negotiating process that started back in 1977 when Archbishop Makarios and Mr. Denktash had decided to work on a bizonal bicommunal federation which means sharing power, sharing everything and all of that and he said based on this idea and throughout the negotiation process all these years this was the final outcome and I wanted to just explain to us this particular issue and this particular complaint of the Greek Cypriots that this plan does not take into consideration past UN Resolutions. One more thing I want to add is that Mr. de Soto said the Plan does not try to put blame on either side cause there were problems on both sides in the sixties and then in the 1974 so I just wanted your reaction and your comments on this.

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: It is true that in 1977, in the aftermath of the invasion of Cyprus , we were in a very difficult position and from the beginning we started a huge effort to see what we could do to solve the Cyprus problem. President Makarios at the time took this important initiative to accept the idea of a federation in Cyprus. We thought itíd be difficult because Cyprus is such a small place and because of all other difficulties on the ground but still he stated that we accepted the principle of federation. In í77 there was a high level agreement between president Makarios and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mr. Denktash on a settlement based on the idea of a bicommunal federation. There were some qualifications as to what this idea meant and since then the Greek Cypriot side in spite of all difficulties remained faithful to this issue. Today again we confirm that we are trying to find a federal solution in Cyprus based on the principle of bicommunal bizonal federation .This is one thing. From there to induce that the only possible outcome of the acceptance of the principle of the bizonal bicommunal federation, is this particular version of the plan which was put into a referendum, I think that itís a long way and one should be very careful. I suppose that there are thousands of ways to express this idea of bicommunal bizonal federation and it is not only one. It is not viable and it is not cast in stone or something that cannot change because it is the only incarnation of the principle of a bizonal bicommunal federation. How can seriously one claim such a thing?

In addition to that, I believe that, and it is very clear throughout the years, if this process moved forward itís thanks to the efforts of the Greek Cypriot side which has always been the weak side. It was the side that had to make a lot of sacrifices and a lot of sacrifices we have made and we stick to them but there are some limits. At the end of the day as I said before we have to judge the final result and we have to say whether this result is a viable one and whether it meets your minimum requirements and if it improves not necessarily the day after but in the middle and the long run, whether it improves the situation for the country, whether it creates a better future for the people.

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM): Mr. Ambassador, why in your opinion this federal government would not work? Although there were agreements that there would be sharing of power and all of that?

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: Power sharing was not into question. The problem as far as functioning in the European Union is concerned was mainly about three areas. The first one is decision making at the federal level. We think the framework of the constitution as it was proposed in the plan was very difficult. It was impossible to have a decision without having votes from both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. In the plan there is a very complex deadlock resolving mechanism which would have created, in the framework of the European Union, many difficulties in having timely decisions and important decisions. This is the first element.

The second element has to do with representation in European Union Institutions. Because of the complex structure of the settlement there were many questions as to how and who would represent Cyprus in the European Union. The third element had to do with the effective participation in the meetings of the European Union were again the question of proper decision making was again raised. As a matter of fact, our fear was that most of the times Cyprus would have not been able to take a very clear position on issues raised in the European Union and would have first not participated fully in the day to day work of the EU and second towards a vote, taking a stand, we would have abstained most of the times. In the framework of the European Union abstention is not neutral Ė abstention in case of qualified majority voting, amounts to a no and abstention in case of unanimity amounts to a yes. Therefore we must take into consideration those things.

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM):Yes but all these problems would have occurred in the event that the Turkish Cypriot side did not agree, donít you think that some good faith should be taken into consideration that you are not going to have the Turkish Cypriot side always creating problems and that they are ready to work with the...

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: No. This is our hope for the future. The conditions right now were not met and I have to tell you that throughout the negotiating process the main difficulty we found in dealing with the Turkish Cypriots and in discussing the structures of the new state of affairs was that they were not willing to think in terms of federal government. They were always thinking in terms of their own constituent state, and they were doing their best in order to defend this constituent state against the federal structures. They were considering the federal structures, as their enemies so it was almost impossible to make them understand that federal structures are for everybody, they are not Greek Cypriots. Second problem is that, and I am not blaming the Turkish Cypriots, they have also as far as European Union matters are concerned, the fear of the unknown. They have no experience at all with the EU, they donít understand, they donít have a real perception on how things work in the EU and because of the disparities between the two sides, economic and other disparities, there is a genuine fear on our side that, at least for the first year, we are going to be faced with a very difficult situation where the Turkish Cypriot side in order to defend what they consider the interests of the Turkish Cypriot constituent state would block the operation of the federation. For instance if they wanted more money, they would block the decisions in order to get the money.

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM): A couple of more points Mr. Ambassador. Thereís been much talk that Turkey received all eleven points in Burgenstock. Mr de Soto told us and I quote ďThere is nothing to that story there was a leaked paper that gave the impression that they were getting certain thingsĒ. He said ďlooking carefully at those points you will see that they might have gotten part or a few of them. Some were compensated by other things and the idea that the Turks got eleven out of eleven seems to mask the fact that the Greek Cypriots get out a lot out of this plan, a lot of benefits which he said are now foregone. Did Turkey get eleven points?

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: Yes. I have to tell you that I donít like this approach because at the end of the day as a British author mentioned two weeks ago this plan amounted to an old fashioned horse trade and when you are talking about the future of the country itís not good to see things like that but it is true that there was a paper with eleven points presented by Mr. Ziyal on March the 27th to Mr. de Soto and the negotiating team of the United Nations and a couple of days later this paper was leaked by the Turks themselves in order to show exactly that they got all what they wanted. Maybe they did that for internal reasons again because Mr. Erdogan wanted to show to the military that the plan is good for Turkey . But the fact remains that they had eleven requests, ten point five were satisfied by Match the 30th , the last one which had to do with the Turkish request to have the derogations and the Act of Adaptation of the solution to the European Union Acqui becoming European Union primary law was not completely satisfied in the first version of the plan presented to us on the 30th but it was satisfied at the end behind our backs and they got eleven out of eleven.

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM): Well did the Greek Cypriot side get more things because Turkey got the eleven points or no?

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: I have to recognize that there were some improvements for the Greek Cypriot side as well but not sufficient improvements that would counterbalance what the Turks got and I am not judging this only from this point of view but as I was saying before not sufficient improvements to make us feel that we were in a position to go along with the plan.

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM): Mr. de Soto made it very clear to us that the United Nations and the UN Secretary General is not willing to renegotiate this plan and they are not willing to go back to the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey again and tell them well and I quote again ďthe Greeks did not like the plan; letís renegotiateĒ. So Mr. Papadopoulos keeps talking about reviving the plan and I donít believe that this plan will be revived or be renegotiated. How would you react to that and how does the Cyprus government now react to all this bitterness from the United Nations from Britain from Washington ? How are you dealing with all of this and the fact that I donít think they will be a chance to renegotiate this plan?

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: Let me start by the last point and tell you that we understand and appreciate the human feelings, bitterness, disappointment, emotions in people that were involved in the negotiating process for years. Of course they feel disappointment. But from there to say that because of those human feelings we are going to change the policy of the United Nations is another thing. And I donít thing that the United Nations should behave in such a way. The United Nations is an institution trying to solve a problem and there is no other way around other than to continue trying.

Therefore, we understand that we might be short of ideas or short of ways forward now, for we need some reflection time. Letís reflect but we cannot just say because we are disappointed we are going to criticize the bad Greeks and we are going to reward the good Turks and that is all. This is not a responsible way of dealing with issues. Yes, we have some difficulties with a lot of countries and people that felt disappointed because they wanted to get rid of the problem but at the end of the day I think one has to respect the democratic expression for the will of the people and weíll have to take it from there. There was a provision in the plan that if it is not carried at the referenda it would become null and void. We do not say that the plan is necessarily null and void but what we say very clearly and very frankly is that there is no question for us that we are going to have second thoughts to take this same plan as it stands now. Therefore if this plan is not subject to changes the plan is dead. In order for this plan to live again it must be changed Ė the plan requires substantive changes in order to become acceptable to the Greek Cypriots.

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM): Well there is a suggestion from Mr. de Soto for some soul searching and consider the type of solution that was envisaged in 1977. Is that solution still appealing to the Greek Cypriot side today as a compromise and if they are really ready to share power why not start from scratch why not indeed do some soul-searching and come up with new ideas and I mean you had all this experience in all these years since 1977 why not start fresh instead of renegotiating this plan?

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: I think that you know that any settlement, any plan by definition is a compromise and we knew this from the beginning and before that. You have to make a lot of sacrifices and I believe that throughout the years we have gone out of our way in order to meet the concerns of the other side. Therefore to start from scratch, there are no magical ideas and magical ways for dealing with things. If we can come up with something completely new that can meet our expectation and our requirements why not? But I donít see this happening, and I have to tell you very clearly that when you have a plan in front of you like the Annan Plan,  I mean the various versions of the plan, you know you donít say I love it,  you cannot love a compromise. What you say, and President Papadopoulos stated this very clearly, I accept this plan because this is the one I have in front of me and because I know that if it is withdrawn I am not going to have a better one on the table. I accept it as a basis for negotiation and I am trying to negotiate on the basis of this plan in order to make it acceptable in order to have my minimum concerns and requirements met. There are no magical solutions. We would love to have magical solutions, there are not.

But I have to add that now there is a new factor. The new factor is the accession of Cyprus to European Union. The situation has drastically and dramatically changed since the first of May. The whole exercise in the plan was to have a solution before the first of May. Now we are beyond that, the situation is a new one. There are new parameters there are new things that are happening on the ground and in the EU. Certainly if we want to achieve a solution we need to take fully into consideration this new situation and the fact that Cyprus is a member of the EU. My personal view has always been that the dividing line in Cyprus cannot survive for long the accession of Cyprus to the EU.

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM): And one final point Mr. Ambassador and I thank you for taking all this time I know you are very busy. How would the Cyprus government react if letís say in the upcoming days months the United Sates who has stated that they would like to offer some support to the Turkish Cypriot side start moving product through the occupied areas and then we see letís say flights going into the Turkish Cypriot side through the illegal airports or ports? How would you react to that? What are you doing to prevent that from happening?

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: We are doing whatever we can to confine this  debate concerning the so called easing of isolation of the Turkish Cypriots community within the framework of legality and I have to tell you that sometimes we question the motives of all those countries that are trying today to talk about the poor Turkish Cypriots and the need to end their isolation.

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM): They are not that poor compared to other poor countries.

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: Yes, of course and this isolation is mainly the result of the refusal of their leadership to abide by the rules and regulations established not only by the Government of Cyprus but also by the agreement between Cyprus and the EU and this position was very very clearly upheld  by the court of Justice of the European Community. And there are also United Nations and Security Council resolutions and there is international law. So there is a very clear framework. Within the framework of legality we can do a lot of things and we are the first that were trying to do things for the Turkish Cypriot community because we want them to catch up economically and we want them to be on board with us in the accession to the EU. At the same time I believe that if the US embark on a policy trying to go beyond what is legally permissible in order to achieve their own political aims this is very wrong and I hope they are going to think about it again.

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM): And as we conclude any final thoughts I know the President is coming to town very soon and he will be meeting with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and of course with the Greek American and the Greek Cypriot American leadership, is there anything that you can tell about this upcoming meeting with Mr. Annan?

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: Yes, the President is coming to the United States in order to sign an agreement with Harvard University for establishing in Cyprus a Harvard Regional Center for Public Health and Environment and he will take advantage of this occasion to come to New York and have a meeting with the Secretary General. This meeting is, in the ordinary course of our relationship with the United Nations. The idea is, in the current context to take stock of where we are and make an assessment of the situation and discuss where the problem is because I think that the most important thing, the message we want to convey at this juncture is that what has been done has been done, now what matters most is how are we going to move forward from here

Elena Maroulleti (Aktina FM): Well Mr. Ambassador thank you so much for taking all this time to talk to us thank you Sir.

Ambassador Mavroyiannis: Thank you very much.

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