"So-called realities created
through force of arms cannot be accepted"
Foreign Minister says
August 31, 1999
Speaking to the 11th World Congress of Overseas Cypriots which took place in Nicosia on 23 August, the Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said, inter alia, that "no one can dispute that Turkey practiced ethnic cleansing against the people of Cyprus in 1974." He underlined the importance attached to the protection of human rights which has been upgraded since the events in Kosovo and stressed that Cypriots living abroad should be more demanding in the restoration of human rights in their home country.
Kasoulides rejected the demand put forward by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for recognition of the illegal regime unilaterally set up in the occupied areas. "According to international law, a state can be recognized if it controls land, it has a population and an administration. Denktash does not control land in Cyprus. It is the Turkish occupation forces that have control in the occupied areas," he said.
He expressed the view that Mr. Denktash wants to gain the acknowledgment of the presence of his illegal regime in the occupied areas and will then do his utmost to ensure that peace negotiations will fall through. "Acknowledgment is the last step before the recognition of a state and it would be suicidal on our part if we accepted it," Kasoulides said. The Foreign Minister said the Greek Cypriot side would not accept "the so called realities created through the force of arms in violation of all principles of International Law."
Referring to Mr. Denktash's demand for a confederation in Cyprus, Kasoulides said that "only someone who is ignorant can believe this is a good solution. In reality this would legitimize the status quo. Mr. Denktash is demanding two sovereign, independent and internationally recognized states which will have a loose connection between them," he said. "We are prepared to cooperate for a settlement of the Cyprus issue but not to consolidate the status quo," he said.
The Foreign Minister said "the time has come for us to stop looking at the past. What is important is how Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will build our common future." Kasoulides said the international community, and especially the U.S., should step up their pressure on Turkey so that the Cyprus problem is settled before the Republic joins the European Union. "Turkey has so far shown no signs that it will change its policy on the Cyprus issue," he said. However, the Foreign Minister pointed out that the Cyprus problem is in no way connected to Cyprus' accession course that got underway last year.
AUSTRIAN DEFENCE MINISTER
VISITS UNFICYP'S AUSTRIAN CONTINGENT
Austrian Defence Minister Dr. Werner Sasslabend came to Cyprus on 17 August in order to visit the Austrian contingent serving with the UN peace-keeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). During his visit Dr. Sasslabend, who was accompanied by a 12-member delegation, met with UN Special Representative for Cyprus Dame Ann Hercus and UNFICYP Commander Major General Evergisto Arturo de Vergara. He also inspected the 250-strong Austrian contingent and visited the fourth sector of the Force, on the eastern part of the island where Austrian peace-keepers are serving. From Cyprus the Austrian Minister and his entourage, went to Lebanon to inspect the Austrian peace-keepers there.
Speaking to Cyprus News Agency (CNA) on arrival, Dr. Sasslabend said he came to Cyprus to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of three Austrian soldiers, killed near the village of Koshi, in Larnaca district, while on patrol during the 1974 Turkish invasion. The three soldiers were serving in the Austrian contingent of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). "This is an occasion to think over the whole situation, especially to think of the people who had to give their lives in order to try to bring a little bit of peace and stability here to the situation," Dr. Sasslabend said. He added that the soldiers "were killed by Turkish soldiers."
The Austrian Minister said his country has been participating in UNFICYP for "a total of 27 years which is a very long period." Dr. Sasslabend said Austria has had one battalion during the years, in which Hungarians and Slovenians participate.
Referring to his visit to the village of Pyla, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots live together, Dr. Sasslabend said "it shows the whole tragedy that has happened to this island. People who lived together for 130 years peacefully were divided and for a quarter of a century now, people are not only separated but live in a sort of cold hostility," he added. He said his message to Cypriots is that they will "have to live together" in the future, noting that procedures should be found for people to work together.
UNFICYP COMMANDER GETS AN EXTENSION
The Commander of the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has been given another extension of his term in office until the end of the year. Major-General Evergisto Arturo de Vergara, from Argentina, who assumed office in March 1997, has accepted a request to stay on until the end of the year. Earlier this year, de Vergara's term in office, which expired in mid-February, was extended until October. The UNFICYP chief is commanding a force comprising 1,223 military personnel and 34 civilian police from nine countries.
The Argentinean contingent is the largest contingent with 412 men serving. UNFICYP currently has 41 international civilian staff and 215 local civilian staff.
GREEK-CYPRIOT AND TURKISH-CYPRIOT ARTISTS MEET IN SWEDEN
Twenty-nine Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot artists met on Gotland island, Sweden, for a week of joint creative expression in various workshops in the service of peace and friendship. Poets, painters, actors, film-makers, photographers and translators from both communities took part in the meeting, held between July 26 and August 1, which was organized by Gotland University and the Umbrella Organization of the Swedish Artist Union (KLYS). The event was funded by word organization UNESCO, Leventis' Institute in Cyprus, George Papandreou Institute in Greece and Swedish local authorities.
Greek Cypriot writer Niki Marangou told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) "we came back with the best impressions," adding the group worked together in different workshops very successfully. She said "it is very important to build bridges of communication" between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot artists and added they will try to expand the group. Marangou said there is an invitation by the Swedish Institute for the next bicommunal artist meeting to be held in Constantinople.
Turkish Cypriot painter Ashik Mene, who also took part in the meeting, told CNA the artists gave a good example in Gotland, adding, "we can do something together since our politicians think differently and talk in different languages." He pointed out the Turkish Cypriot artists were all impressed by the meeting although it was a short one. "What can you do in a few days?" he said.
Mene, who was born in the southern coastal town of Larnaca but now lives in the Turkish-occupied northern part of the island, said "the people from both communities love their homeland and are responsible for what is happening in Cyprus. "We have to do something for our children," he stressed."
The Gotland meeting was also attended by UNESCO's General Director Frederico Mayor and representatives of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mayor expressed the hope for further meetings between intellectuals from the two communities in Cyprus.
CYPRUS SIGNS CONVENTION ON PROTECTION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE
The Republic of Cyprus signed on 19 August the Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which is expected to make the implementation of the Convention more effective. The protocol, is of particular importance to Cyprus as its cultural heritage in the areas occupied by Turkey since 1974 is being systematically destroyed and looted.
According to an official announcement, after efforts by the Cyprus delegation an article on the protection of cultural heritage in the occupied areas was included in the Protocol. Article 9 of the Protocol stipulates that a country which occupies part of or the whole of another country is obliged to prohibit or prevent every illegal export or transfer of cultural heritage. It should also prohibit and prevent archaeological excavations unless they are necessary to protect the cultural heritage and must avert any change in the use of the cultural heritage, which aims at the destruction of cultural heritage. The new Protocol, adopted in the Hague on March 26th this year, also includes articles that attribute legal obligations in cases where the Convention is violated.
It is estimated that more than 500 churches in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, some of them hundreds of years old, have been destroyed, desecrated or turned into ware-houses, coffee-shops or even stables. Deep concern has also been expressed by the Cypriot authorities over the fate of archaeological sites in the occupied areas which are not being looked after or are left unprotected. At the same time priceless ecclesiastical and other ancient artifacts are often sold in the international black market, forcing the Cyprus Orthodox Church, the government and private institutions to be on a permanent lookout to trace and return stolen items.
PALESTINIAN DELEGATION IN CYPRUS
The Palestinian Autonomous Areas Environmental Affairs Minister, Yousef Abu-Safieh who visited Cyprus in early August at the invitation of the Technical Chamber of Cyprus (ETEK), had a meeting on August 4 with Cyprus Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Costas Themistocleous. The problem of water shortage was one of the main topics of the discussion. The Palestinian delegation visited the first desalination plant to operate on the island, in Dhekelia on the eastern coast. Both Themistocleous and Abu-Safieh described the problem as "acute" and said Cyprus and the Palestinian Autonomous Areas are "in the same boat."
"We are on the same boat here in Cyprus and in Palestine. We are facing almost the same problems, like the problem of water shortage," Abu-Safieh said. He added they discussed "the activities that are being done here and what we hope to do there. In Palestine we are trying to secure the basic needs of our people We need balance between the needs and the environment," the Palestinian official said. The Palestinian Autonomous Areas are planing to construct three desalination plants.
On his part Mr. Themistocleous said that Cyprus and the Palestinian Autonomous Areas are in the early stages of trying to effectively tackle issues affecting the environment.
On August 5 the Palestinian Autonomous Areas Environmental Affairs Minister Yousef Abu-Safieh met with Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou and discussed issues of common interest including that of the abolition of visas for Palestinians visiting Cyprus. Speaking after the meeting, Christodoulou said they exchanged views on local administration and urban planning. He said the Palestinian Minister briefed him on developments in the Middle East peace process and put forward the issue of facilitating the exchange of visits between Cypriots and Palestinians by abolishing visas. Christodoulou explained that the issuing of visas also concerns the Foreign Ministry and said discussions are going on at an official level.
Abu-Safieh described the meeting as "fruitful" and said they discussed many issues "especially in the field of the environment, in terms of planning and zoning and local government. Local governments have a very important role to play in the issue of the environment," the Palestinian Minister remarked.
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