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2003-04-03 20:15:41

April 3, 2003
President Tassos Papadopoulos reiterated, on April 2, his firm position that the U.N. process represents the best venue for a solution to the Cyprus problem, in spite of the breakdown of the U.N.- sponsored talks on the reunification of Cyprus at the Hague on March 11. ?It is my considered opinion,? he stated, ?that the mission of good offices of the Secretary General represents the best hope for us to proceed forward toward a comprehensive settlement.? This has also been the position of the United States, the European Union and the international community at large.

President Papadopoulos reaffirmed his position in response to suggestions by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, this week, to initiate a process of dialogue through some ?confidence-building measures,? without the involvement of the U.N. The Turkish Cypriot proposal was conveyed April 2, three weeks after the collapse of the U.N.- led talks for the reunification of Cyprus based on a framework proposed by Secretary General Kofi Annan. On March 11, the Turkish Cypriot leader, with strong support from Turkey, bluntly rejected the U.N. framework which was the culmination of more than two years of consultations and negotiations, a process that enjoyed unprecedented international support. The U.N. plan was seen as a very hopeful prospect for a comprehensive settlement before Cyprus accedes to the European Union on May 1, 2004.

International rebuke of the repudiation of the U.N. framework by the Turkish side was swift and strong following the breakdown of the talks. It came from all quarters: the Secretary General himself, the U.S. and other governments, the E.U. and the media.

A State Department spokesman made the following statement to the Cyprus News Agency and other media, on April 3, in response to questions on the prospect for the resumption of talks on the Cyprus problem: ?We believe the way to a comprehensive settlement is for both sides to resume talks under the auspices of the U.N. good offices and on the basis of the Secretary General?s very fair peace plan. These confidence-building measures between the two sides are really a matter for them to discuss. We believe that the best context for them to do so remains the U.N. good offices. Genuine confidence-building measures arrived at through the U.N. good offices mission would certainly be welcome. Our focus, however, remains on achieving a comprehensive, just and durable settlement to the Cyprus problem. Even genuine confidence-building measures are not substitute for this. We look to the upcoming U.N. Security Council session on Cyprus to reaffirm international support for the Secretary General?s good offices and to support Secretary General Annan?s plan as a basis for a future settlement.?

The timing of Mr. Denktash?s suggestion is suspect, since it comes two weeks before the government of Cyprus signs the Accession Treaty to the European Union on April 16. Without an agreement on the reunification of the Republic of Cyprus, forcibly divided by Turkey?s military occupation since 1974, the E.U. rules and regulations will be implemented only in the government controlled areas of the Republic, but will be suspended in the areas under Turkish military occupation. This will unfortunately deprive the Turkish Cypriots, whose vast majority support the U.N. process for the reunification of Cyprus, of the benefits of E.U. membership until reunification is achieved. At the Hague, the Secretary General had asked the two sides to submit the U.N. framework to a referendum to their respective communities before the signing of the Accession Treaty. But the Turkish side rejected the proposal, causing the collapse of the process.

The recent Turkish suggestion for opening a new dialogue outside the U.N. peace process is seen as nothing more than a tactical move to divert attention from the sharp criticism against the Turkish Cypriot leader and the government of Turkey, for causing the U.N. breakdown of the Cyprus peace process at the Hague. The Secretary General?s upcoming report to the Security Council is expected to point out that the Turkish side is responsible for the breakdown of the talks.

President Papadopoulos told the Turkish Cypriot leader in his response that: ?If any resumption of the talks is to be meaningful, giving hope for a solution of the Cyprus problem on a comprehensive basis in the very near future, I believe that you might indicate at the outset that:

(a) You accept the continuation of the good offices mission of the Secretary General, as provided for in the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

(b) You accept the Plan of the Secretary General as a basis for a further negotiating process.?

The government of Cyprus hopes that the U.N. Security Council will ask the Secretary General to resume his good offices mission toward a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, after reviewing Mr. Annan?s report on the impasse created by the Turkish side at the Hague.

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