23 September 1999

Press Briefing


A solution to the Cyprus problem would be beneficial to the island's two communities, erase an obstacle in relations between Greece and Turkey and contribute to stability in both the Aegean and the Mediterranean, Glafcos Clerides, President of Cyprus, said at a Headquarters’ press conference this morning.

Responding to questions after his address to the General Assembly, President Clerides said that, above all, settlement of the Cyprus problem would allow Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots to meet again and to talk to each other.

A correspondent asked if cooperation, similar to that exhibited in rescue efforts between the Greek and Turkish people during the recent earthquakes, would be seen in Cyprus as well. Mr. Clerides praised the way the people of Turkey and Greece had acted. The two had worked side by side despite political difficulties and problems. Although the people of Cyprus had problems with the Turkish invasion of the island, they were enormously moved by the catastrophe which had occurred in Turkey. Greek-Cypriots saluted the new spirit of friendship that had begun to emerge between Greece and Turkey. He added that he believed that the experience would be conducive to finding a solution to the Cyprus problem.

His Government’s acceptance of a proposal for a bi-zonal, bi- communal federal republic in a small island like Cyprus, with a population of only half-a-million people, was evidence of its willingness to resolve the problem. "We accepted that because the international community found that no other solution will be possible", he said, adding, "So, we're ready to go ahead full-speed, if Mr. [Rauf] Denktash responds to the voice of the international community".

Asked if he thought there was a better chance now for success than a year ago, Mr. Clerides said he thought everything would depend on how determined the international community was to press both sides to get around the negotiating table and negotiate seriously with a purpose to find a solution. It was very important at this moment that the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Aligned Movement all become involved. A solution must be found, and now was the time to find it.

Asked whether he intended to request United States direct involvement in the search for a solution, he said that President William Clinton had made it clear to both sides that he considered that the time was right and appropriate for a maximum effort to be exerted towards that end. President Clinton wanted both sides to go to the negotiating table without preconditions and to negotiate with a real

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intent to find a solution. The United States had expressed the view that it would be ready to assist. Mr. Clerides added that the Secretary-General, in exercise of his good offices, could bring the parties together.

In response to another question, Mr. Clerides said that Mr. Denktash was aware that some of his views, such as defining the frontiers of two states, arranging the exchange of properties or a confederation of states, were not acceptable. The international community had set parameters for the solution of the Cyprus problem, which were a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with a common sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship. Therefore, one could come to the conclusion without doing injustice-- that Mr. Denktash is trying to change the basis on which the talks had been conducted. Stating that solutions could not be found if either side insisted on an extreme position, he said that there had to be a meeting somewhere in the middle.

Asked why he would not accept a Turkish-Cypriot state on the island, he said that would not be a viable proposition. The Turkish- Cypriot community even now relied for its protection on the presence of massive Turkish forces in Cyprus, and relied for its economy on a large subsidy from Turkey. That part of the island would at best become a Turkish protectorate. Although the Greek-Cypriot community did not rely on Greece for economic support, it would in that case also have to become a Greek protectorate to feel secure.

Furthermore, he continued, it would create another frontier between Greece and Turkey in the middle of Cyprus. Every tension that might arise would be exported to Greece and Turkey and create national problems between them. The international community had studied the issue many times and have concluded that the creation of an independent state of Cyprus, with both communities sharing in the government of the republic, was the best solution.

A correspondent, who observed that both sides accused the other of blocking a solution, asked what would be a fair solution. Mr. Clerides replied that a possible solution to the problem was the creation of a federal state in the two areas of the island: one in the north administered by the Turkish-Cypriots; one in the south administered by the Greek-Cypriots; and a federal government in which both communities would be represented.

Citing Mr. Clerides frequent references to Security Council resolutions, a correspondent asked if he was not in fact placing pre- conditions on a solution. Mr. Clerides responded that his views on a possible solution of the Cyprus problem were based on the parameters set by the international community, and not his own preconditions. On the contrary, he had accepted those parameters as a compromise.

Did he think the Cyprus problem would be solved during his presidency? A correspondent asked. Mr. Clerides said he believed that if there was political will on both sides, the three years remaining in

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his term was long enough for that to happen. He called upon Mr. Denktash to come to the conference table. He was sure that within the parameters laid down by the international community, the problem could be solved.

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