December 31, 1998
On 29 December, President Glafcos Clerides announced his decision for the non-deployment of the Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles in Cyprus.
He said in a two-page written statement after a three-hour session of the island's National Council that he would negotiate with the Russian government the possible deployment of the missiles in Greece's southern island of Crete.
The anti-aircraft missiles were ordered by the Cyprus government in January 1997,in a bid to bolster the island's air defence in case of a new Turkish offensive.
President Clerides, who had earlier the same day, talks inAthens with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, said in hiswritten statement that there was no unanimity among theisland's political parties. He said "as a result of this, as President of the Cyprus Republic, being fully aware of the responsibilities I am shouldering and being fully conscious of the critical times our national issue is passing through, I reached the decision not to deploy the missiles in Cyprus and I agreed to negotiate with the Russian government for their possibledeployment in Crete."
The President said "I assume the responsibility for thisdecision and I feel duty bound to underline that the onlyand exclusive guideline in taking this decision was the bestinterest of the Cyprus people and the broader interests ofHellenism."
The President admitted that his decision "constitutes a change from the previous decision concerning the deployment of the missiles in Cyprus."
"But I do not accept that today's decision was theresult of giving in to pressures, threats and blackmail. Itwas simply the result of responsible assessment andrealistic evaluation of all the existing conditions, factorsand prospects, which affects, directly or indirectly, thecourse of our national issue," President Clerides said.
At the same time, he said "I believe that the decision Ihave taken today is correct. And I am absolutely sure thatour national cause and our national interest would be servedeffectively with this decision."
He said Cyprus is now waiting for the implementation ofthe UN Security Council resolutions and the fulfillment ofinternational commitments undertaken at the highest level.
The UN Security Council on December 22 in two separate resolutions renewed the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force on the island (UNFICYP),and expressed "grave concern" at the lack of progress towards a political settlement, underlying its full support to the UN Secretary General's initiative towards that end.Resolution 1218 (1998) asks the Secretary General to work with the two sides on "an undertaking to refrain from the threat or use of force or violence as a means to resolve the Cyprus problem" and "a staged process aimed at limiting and then substantially reducing the level of all troops and armaments on Cyprus".
President Clerides stressed in his statement that by taking the decision not to deploy the S-300 missiles "we give the international factor the opportunity to open up the way for the demilitarisation of Cyprus and for a solution of the Cyprus problem and we expect to see results within a reasonable time period."
On December 23, the US President Bill Clinton expressed support to an initiative launched by UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, aiming at a Cyprus settlement, pointingout that he is encouraged by the cooperation and engagementdemonstrated by the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides.
At the same time the US President urged all parties torefrain from actions that could increase tension on theisland, including the expansion of military forces andarmaments.
In a statement on the adoption of UN Security Councilresolution 1218 of 22 December, President Clinton stressed "theUS remains deeply committed to finding a viable solution tothe Cyprus problem". He added that "a political settlement that would put an end to the tragic division of Cyprus has been and continues to be a high priority of my administration".
Similarly, British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed his commitment to work for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1218 requesting the UN Secretary-General to continue to make progress for the reduction of tension and a just and lasting settlement in Cyprus.
In a written statement issued also on December 23, Blair stresses that it is important for all parties in Cyprus to avoid actionwhich might increase tension on the island. "Britain is committed to working for full implementation of this resolution," the British Premier says, calling on all parties "to continue to cooperate with the UN Secretary-General and his Deputy Special Representative in a constructive and flexible manner and to secure progress onthe issues it identifies."
The government considers resolutions 1217(1998) and 1218(1998)on Cyprus approved by the Security Council on 22 Decemberas positive and that they offer new prospects to efforts for a settlement to the Cyprus problem and the reduction of arms on the island.
"The Cyprus government considers these two resolutionsas positive because we believe they create some hopefulprospects regarding efforts to open the way on the coreissues of the Cyprus problem, but mainly for the reductionof all armaments and the demilitarisation of theisland," Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told a pressconference in Nicosia.
Referring to resolution 1217, the Minister welcomed thereaffirmation that "a Cyprus settlement must be based on asingle citizenship, with its independence and territorialintegrity safeguarded and comprising two politically equalcommunities as described in the relevant Security Councilresolutions, in a bicommunal and bizonal federation."
Kasoulides pointed out that this reaffirmation isimportant in view of the Turkish side's demand for aconfederation of two states in Cyprus.
Regarding resolution 1218, Kasoulides noted that theSecurity Council requests the UN Secretary-General to work intensively with the two sides for a settlement in Cyprus and for the reduction of arms, and does not restrict itself to urging the two sides to work to this event, as in previous UN resolutions.
He pointed out that for the first time it calls upon thetwo sides to show compliance with these objectives,cooperating fully with the Secretary-General.
On December 12, European Union leaders in Vienna expressed their support to the efforts of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for a Cyprus solution and in particular to his latest initiative to embark, through his resident representative, on shuttle talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides.
The EU position was outlined in the conclusions of thesix monthly rotating Austrian presidency at the Vienna EUsummit held on 12 December.
In a separate paragraph on Cyprus, the EU Council"reaffirms its support for the efforts of the UN SecretaryGeneral for an overall settlement of the Cyprus problem andin particular for the process which his Deputy SpecialRepresentative has developed with a view to reduce tensionsand achieve progress towards a just and permanent solution."
On enlargement, EU leaders note "with satisfaction thatthe six accession conferences with Cyprus, Hungary, Poland,Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia have entered intosubstantive negotiations and reached the first concreteresults."
UNESCO has included the neolithic settlement of Choirokitia of Cyprus in its world heritage list. The decision to add 30 sites from various countries to its list was taken early December at the annual world heritage committee meeting, in Kyoto, Japan.
Speaking to Cyprus News Agency the deputy director of Cyprus' Antiquities Department Pavlos Flourentzos, stressed the importance for the whole region to include Choirokitia in this prestigious list. He described the Choirokitia neolithic settlement as "one of the most important ancient sites in Eastern Mediterranean."
The head of the Antiquities Department Sophoclis Hadjisavvas expressed great pride with the inclusion of the neolithic settlement of Choirokitia in the UNESCO world heritage list.
"It took six years to prepare the site and its naturalsurrounding which has to be protected," Hadjisavvas told apress conference, noting that this is normal procedurebefore submitting an application to UNESCO.
He underlined that "Cyprus can compete with biggercountries, in the cultural field" and said the inclusion ofthis important archaeological site in the world heritagelist is "a great honour for Cyprus".