March 31, 1997
Proximity talks on the Cyprus question between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides began early March in Nicosia under the auspices of the United Nations, in an effort to determine whether sufficient ground exists to allow for direct negotiations to begin between President Clerides and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mr. Rauf Denktash.
The two sides agreed not to make any statements or reveal any information regarding the content of the proximity talks. However, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus Mr. Gustave Feissel stated to the press that the UN expects the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides to come up with some unilateral good-will gestures to give a push to the current efforts.
Mr. Feissel said that the Secretary-General is determined to make every effort to get the face-to-face talks by the mid of the year and that unilateral good-will gestures in line with the Secretary-General's objective for a bizonal, bicommunal federation, but one country, would improve the atmosphere during the discussions.
"We all agree that our main effort, which is to move towards an overall settlement, could be helped by improving the atmosphere and the feelings of the two communities and this could be done by each community making certain gestures which are positive towards the other community," the UN envoy said.
According to the Spokesman of the Secretary-General, Mr. Fred Eckhard, the goal of the Secretary-General on Cyprus is to set the stage for direct talks between the Cypriot leaders by mid-this-year. To this end Mr. Han Sung-Joo will be visiting the region on 12 April where he will stay for about a week.
* GREEK AND TURKISH TRADE UNIONS JOIN FORCES
Greek and Turkish Cypriot Trade Unions declared on March 19 their unanimous approval of Cyprus' accession to the European Union (EU) which will bring benefits to workers and the people of Cyprus as a whole.
The joint declaration issued at the end of the second All-Cyprus Trade Union Forum Study Conference, stressed the need to safeguard within a future federated state, one system of employment and standards of wages and salaries, the freedom of association and movement throughout the island and protection from discrimination of any kind.
The 16 trade unions from both communities stated these objectives take on a heightened importance given Cyprus' course towards EU membership.
The declaration also noted the willingness on the part of the trade unions to expand their contacts and broaden the spectrum of their cooperation by organizing working groups on social security, wage, industrial relations and educational issues.
The trade unions also reaffirmed their previous joint declaration of 18 January, 1995, in which they demanded a quick and just solution to the Cyprus problem based on 1977 and 1979 high level agreements between the two communities and relevant UN Security Council resolutions on the matter, respect for the human rights of all the Cypriot citizens and the establishment of a unitary economy devoid of any type of discrimination.
The declaration urged international and regional trade unions, the UN, the EU, Cypriot political leaders and all other interested parties to facilitate a peaceful solution to the Cyprus issue.
* BICOMMUNAL TREE PLANTING
"Pyla symbolizes what we are trying to achieve for the whole island, Greek and Turkish Cypriots living together in peace in a bizonal federation." This was said by the UN Resident Representative Gustave Feissel, speaking during a bicommunal tree planting at the mixed village of Pyla, a village northeastern of the coastal town of Larnaca, inhabited by Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The village is situated in the no man's land controlled by the UN Peace-Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
The bicommunal event began with ceremonies in both Greek and Turkish Cypriot community schools. The tree planting was followed by a reception in the village market square.
The newly appointed UNFICYP Commander, Major-General Evergisto de Vergara, from Argentina, also attended the event. Mr. Feissel described the bicommunal tree planting ceremony as "a vote of confidence in the future" and added that "for the children attending the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot schools, who will nurture these small plants, these trees will serve as a constant reminder of the need to strive for a common and brighter future."
* CYPRUS PARTICIPATES IN GLORY OF BYZANTIUM EXHIBITION
On March 3, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York officially opened its landmark exhibition, "Glory of Byzantium," showcasing some of the rarest and most exquisite examples of Byzantine art from Greece, Cyprus, as well as other countries.
About 600 dignitaries from the United States, Greece, Cyprus and other countries attended a gala dinner hosted by the museum including the Director of the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), Mr. Andreas Christofides.
Mr. Christofides attended as the official representative of the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos. The Archbishop has lent five priceless icons to the exhibition from the churches of Ayios Nicolaos tis Stegis in the village of Kakopetria, Holy Cross in Pelendri village, the Bishopric of Limassol and the Bishopric of Paphos.
Mr. Christofides told reporters on his arrival to the museum that "all of us are pleased and gratified that the art of Byzantium in its uniquely Greek character, is being given due recognition. "But it should also remind us that at the same time so much of our past is being preserved from mankind, the desecration of churches in occupied Cyprus continues and priceless religious treasures are being plundered and lost almost daily".