29 December 1997
Cyprus has expressed satisfaction with the UN Security Council resolution 1146 adopted on December 22, which reiterates the Council's support to the good offices mission of the UN Secretary-General.
In a written statement in Nicosia, Cyprus' Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides pointed out that the resolution also refers to Security Council resolution 367 (1975), which states that the negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem should be carried out between the two communities, and not as Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, wishes.
It also supports the decision of the UN Secretary-General for negotiations to resume in March 1998, after the presidential elections on the island, stating that the solution should be based on a single sovereignty and international personality.
Minister Kasoulides emphasized that the Security Council considers the Luxembourg European Union Summit decision for the start of membership talks with Cyprus on March 30,1998, as being an important development in the efforts towards a solution to the Cyprus problem.
The Cypriot Minister said the resolution refers to the July 31, 1997 agreement between President Glafcos Clerides and Denktash on the missing persons in Cyprus. He stressed that it was the first time that a Security Council resolution for the renewal of the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) mentions the humanitarian issue of the missing.
President Glafcos Clerides said important developments in the Cyprus problem are expected after the February presidential election on the island.
Addressing early December, a gathering of Cypriots living in London President Clerides said various initiatives aiming at a settlement of the Cyprus problem are expected to be launched around March. He referred to an American initiative led by US Presidential Emissary for Cyprus Richard Holbrooke and a British initiative under British Special Representative for Cyprus, Sir David Hannay. He added an initiative of the European Union will also be launched parallel to the other two.
Meanwhile The UN believes 1998 offers a unique opportunity to settle the Cyprus problem and warns of negative consequences, if this opportunity is not seized. It considers that the lack of political will is perhaps the single most important hurdle in the race for a settlement in Cyprus, but hopes this will change as all concerned realize it is in their interest to work out a settlement.
In an interview with Cyprus News Agency (CAN), UN Chief of Mission Gustave Feissel said "we are approaching a defining moment after the presidential elections and 1998 will be a very important year."
The period immediately after the elections in Cyprus, to be held February 1998, is "very, very important for Cyprus, Greece and Turkey and beyond," he added. If peace talks, scheduled to begin March 1998, were to end inconclusively, as the two rounds of UN-led talks in the summer did, "it would be much more serious."
Feissel explained that conditions, which perhaps did not exist in 1997, would induce everyone to become very focused on the Cyprus question. He said the start of accession talks with the European Union (EU) is one such condition, and marks an important factor which should impel everybody to display the necessary resolve to reach an overall agreement which has eluded them for centuries.
Cyprus is among the countries that signed the convention against landmines, as it believes it could help in removing some 16.000 landmines placed on the island since the Turkish invasion.
Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Alecos Shambos, on December 4, signed in Canada the Convention on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Landmines and on Their Destruction.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, organized on the initiative of the Canadian government, Mr. Shambos pointed to Cyprus' sensitivity on the landmines issue.
"It is estimated that since the 1974 Turkish invasion and continuing occupation of 37 percent of Cypriot territory and the forcibly imposed division of the country and its people, well over 16.000 landmines have been laid on the island, mostly in the buffer zone," he said.
On 13 December 1997, The European Council decided to open accession talks with Cyprus and another five Central and Eastern European countries and that the accession process will be launched on march 30, 1998.
The European Council has also confirmed Turkey's eligibility for accession to the European Union (EU), but that the strengthening of Turkey's links with the EU depends, among other things, on the support of the UN negotiations for a Cyprus settlement.
Cyprus welcomed the European Council decision to open membership talks with Cyprus and five Central and Eastern European countries next March. President Glafcos Clerides expressed his full satisfaction with the European Council decision and described as "very positive" the statements by Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, current EU president, who strongly criticized the Turkish stance on Cyprus' EU accession course.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Luxembourg reassured that a solution to the Cyprus problem is not a precondition for the start of accession negotiations with the European Union (EU). He said "there is absolutely no precondition in terms of a settlement in Cyprus for accession negotiations."
"What is envisaged by all countries", he added, "is that it will be easier to have this process of accession if there is a settlement in Cyprus. So, the one is not a precondition of the other."
Asked by the press how the British presidency will promote a settlement, Blair replied: "Of course, we will play whatever part we can as the (EU) presidency, both to take forward the accession negotiation, but also to make sure we can bring about a good settlement in Cyprus. We very much hope to see that and we want Greece and Turkey and the communities in Cyprus to work with this, in order to ensure that this happens."
On the other hand, Luxembourg's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jacques Poos, speaking to Cypriot reporters, said that Cyprus has a true perspective to be a member of the EU and expressed the opinion that the whole of the island should be a member of the EU.
President Glafcos Clerides upon his return to Cyprus from Luxembourg, said the decision taken for EU enlargement at the two-day Luxembourg summit was of "historical significance" for both the EU and Cyprus.
President Clerides said the EU decision would benefit the people of Cyprus as a whole, especially the future generations in terms of progress, welfare, but mostly for future security.
The Turkish occupation regime in the northern part of Cyprus has decided as of 27 December 1997, to suspend bicommunal activities because of the Luxembourg European Council decision which included Cyprus in the countries due to start accession negotiations with the European Union (EU) and excluded Turkey.
According to the Turkish Cypriot press the activities which will be affected are those organized by embassies, and especially the US Embassy, between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot trade unionists, business people, women's organizations, students and professors. The illegal regime's so called "state minister", Serdar Denktash, said that only those gatherings organized at the Ledra Palace hotel in the UN controlled buffer zone were suspended.
Commenting on the decision by the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime to suspend bicommunal contacts, British High Commissioner, David Madden said ""We regret the decision to suspend bicommunal activity but we very much hope that it will resume."
The Council of Ministers on December 17, approved the sum of 62 thousand pounds (about 124 thousand US dollars) to cover school expenses of 38 Turkish Cypriot children, living in the government controlled part of the Republic.
The Minister of Interior George Stavrinakis announced on 22 December, that Cypriots will go to the polls to elect a new president on February 8, 1998.