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2003-01-29 16:11:20

On the Cyprus issue itself, I will just say that I?ve returned from Cyprus about a week ago and I will be returning to the area next week. But what I?d like to do, is maybe making a couple of comments of where we actually stand in terms of the negotiations in search for a settlement , where I think we are going and what the prospects are and then I will answer your questions and hear your statements.

You understand that in a public forum it is very difficult to talk about the actual details in the settlement itself and where it stands in the negotiations. It is a passive way undermining any ability to complete the negotiations. But because this is very active obviously and will be very active and I will be deeply involved, I do want to, even though I may not be able to respond in a detailed fashion to a lot of the concerns that people have about the settlement, in order to be able to take them into account.

So where are we? I was at Copenhagen, obviously in a very unusual situation having an American diplomat operating out of the Foreign Ministry of the Presidency of the European Union during the European Council and I think unprecedented and it was incredibly interesting. But what happen at Copenhagen? We didn?t get a Cyprus settlement. But what was attained there makes me believe that Copenhagen was a great success. In the first instance one of the key results of Copenhagen was an unconditional assessment to the accession of Cyprus to the EU. Cyprus will be signing the accession treaty on April 16, without conditions, there was no member state that was raising conditions, the Commission was not and if I can use the phrase it was an absolutely clean decision. That is a very positive outcome here. It?s obviously positive in terms of the future of Cyprus but it is also positive in terms of the ability to get the Cyprus settlement.

The second thing that I think was a success was the actual decision on Turkey that in December 2004 the European Council will assess whether or not Turkey has fully met the political Copenhagen criteria and if they have found they?ve done so then accession negotiations for Turkey will commence. I think that that was a good outcome because it is very important in order to maintain the most powerful leverage on Turkey in moving towards a Cyprus settlement to have that kind of constructive attitude in Europe.

Copenhagen was very important in terms of fostering a Cyprus settlement and it has two elements. The pressure of Copenhagen was instrumental in getting the types of revisions to the existing plan of the Secretary General which came about with revisions on December 10. There were revisions that some of which can be viewed as in favor of the Greek side and some of them can be viewed as in favor of the Turkish side. You can argue about what those revisions are but I believe that those revisions made it more likely that we will actually get a settlement based on this plan. The second and even more important point- that because of the participation of the new government of Turkey in Copenhagen, as a candidate country, I believe that it was made crystal clear to the new government of Turkey the importance which is the Cyprus settlement as in terms of Turkey?s European aspirations and that was very important in creating the sort of atmosphere which makes it more likely to the Cyprus settlement. Those were all positive outcomes.

Where are we now? We are working in the wake of Copenhagen to achieve the settlement of same timeline as contained to the pre-Copenhagen Secretary General?s plan. Why? Because-I certainly believe-that it is still viewed by all the participants in this process that it would be far better to have a settlement prior to the actual signature of the accession treaty on April 16. Why? Because if you have it before that, not only can the elements of the settlement be incorporated as necessary in the accession treaty but you walk in as a settlement which is in essence guaranteed by the European Union. Moreover a settlement achieved before the actual signature of the accession treaty also means that it is a settlement already endorsed by the Treaty of Cyprus in a referendum, endorsed not only as settlement itself but endorsed in terms of the participation in the accession of all Cypriots to European Union. That leads you back to the timetable which I am sure you are all familiar with, the date of February 28th- is not a sacred date- it comes from an assessment that if you are going to have a settlement in effect by the time of the signature of the accession treaty on the 16th of April which is a date where there is no flexibility because it involves so many other countries to European Union, you need some period of time between the completion of referendum and the signature of the accession treaty. In order to have democratic referenda you need to have some period of time before referenda in which voters can examine what the settlement is to make an important decision, yes or no, on that settlement through referendum. Whether that?s a month?s period which is in essence the period contained in the time line of the Secretary General?s plan or whether it is three and a half weeks it is something that it is not certain. But it is some period of time like the timeline we are working on. So we are working against that deadline-is too strong a word-but very important period of time, a point in time in which a settlement will be tested in referendum and be incorporated in the accession treaty of Cyprus to the EU.

Of course the key question is. Are we going to get there? I am not going to give you an answer to that that other than to say that we the United States are going to do anything we can in order to get there and that includes the involvement at the highest levels of the American Government on this issue which have been going on in private diplomatic exchanges and will continue to go on to make the maximum effort possible to get to where we want to be.

In the talks themselves, there are several elements which give some hope that a settlement will be achievable. You all know that one of the elements going on now are the work of two commissions which are designed to fill in the large gaps that exist in the Secretary General?s plan which relate to treaties, to the necessary legislation and so on. That work has been going on at a pace that at some days is encouraging and at others is discouraging but it continues to go on and make progress to the point that because there is an obvious willingness to keep working in those two commissions on the part of both sides, I think that?s encouraging.

Another area that I think is encouraging is Greece?s very concerted attempts to resolve with Turkey outstanding issues in the security elements of the settlement. Greece has been very forceful in doing everything possible to try and resolve those questions and they will continue to do so including this week when we will have the Foreign Minister of Greece in his capacity as President of the EU and Commissioner Verheugen and Javier Solana in Ankara and one of the items of the agenda is to continue to try to resolve this question.

And of course the third part is the phase where are the most questions and that is, what is going on in the direct talks themselves. Because it is there that this, will either be done or not done obviously. In the talks themselves, I obviously will not go into details other than to say that there is a regular work program going on, that the core issues are being discussed in a sense that both sides are making their views known in what they believe needs to be changed in the plan, to make it rather acceptable or more acceptable. Can that work? There is an awareness by both sides of the time constraint that they face. Once again, are we going to get there? I can?t give you an answer to that question. I can tell you that we will do everything possible to try to get there. As I said, I returned from the area lat Thursday, I will leave again Monday.

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