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De Soto: Crossing of divide does not address the remaining problems
2003-05-05 18:44:08

x by Apostolis Zoupaniotis-- New York, May 5 (CNA) -- UN Secretary General's special envoy on Cyprus Alvaro De Soto has said that the situation as regards crossings of the dividing line in Cyprus is ''deeply moving and long may continue'' but pointed out that ''is not stable and does not address the underlying problems that remain.''

Speaking yesterday at a two-day conference on Cyprus at Columbia University, De Soto noted that ''taboos are falling but that doesn’t' quite get you there'' and called on the Greek Cypriot side now that Cyprus has joined the EU ''to loosen the grip'', noting ''there are certain things on which it is now perhaps more possible to think big and think far.''|

''Having heard what I heard throughout the spectrum of society and political parties in the north, about number one, the reluctance to live - as opposed to visit – with the Greek Cypriots and second, the need for acceptance and respect for their separate identity within a unified Cyprus, I find that those things will be difficult to overcome in any negotiation, quite apart from the problem of territorial redistribution and the problem of security and the problem of governance which are dealt with extensively in the Secretary General’s report and of course in the plan,'' De Soto said.

''The fear of integration remains and the need for accepting a distinct identity for the Turkish Cypriots remains also in accordance with the plan,'' he added.

Invited by the EU Chief Negotiator with Cyprus, Leopold Maurer, who attends among other personalities the conference to say whether the UN have now the moral obligation to go on with its efforts on Cyprus, De Soto said he was certainly totally taken by surprise with what has been happening on the island ''because there was never anything said to us – at least in the course of the negotiations that led us to believe that something like what was done was done.''

''This time around, before we jump in again and lay on the line the prestige and the political weight of the Secretary General behind a good offices effort, is something more than an assumption that all will act in accordance to their interest as we perceive them. Which is why we would like some unequivocal statement of what the interests of the people are,'' he said.

De Soto wondered if one can conclude from what is happening on the island that people want a settlement within a realistic framework, a settlement in the terms in which it is attainable. He noted that he was not quite ready to make that link yet. ''In the meantime, we stick to what the Secretary General have said,'' he added.

De Soto expressed the view that the island is dysfunctional in many ways, saying that the UN peace plan is an attempt to reconcile two goals that do not necessarily converge

''The goal of democracy (the principal of one person, one vote) on one hand and the goal of insuring respect for two clearly identifiable communities or whatever you decide to call them,'' he explained.

Speaking about the final proposals of Kofi Annan to the two leaders, he said that Annan told them when he met them in Cyprus on the 27th of February that ''you are not going to make this plan any better by taking more time to negotiate it.''

''If you look at the essence of the plan, the whole philosophy of it is that the new state of affairs would have been brought about by the people themselves. And this is part of a somewhat extra-constitutional construction that we tried to put together, in order to get around the very difficult sort of a Gordian knot of this negotiation,'' de Soto added.

He said that this very difficulty was ''that the Turkish Cypriots on one hand insisted that a settlement should come about as a result of an agreement between two pre-existing states, which the Greek Cypriots would not and probably would never accept. But then you had the other problem, that the Greek Cypriots wanted the new state of affairs in Cyprus to be simply a continuation of the Republic of Cyprus.''

''And the Turkish Cypriot leadership, with substantial support amongst the Turkish Cypriot people, felt that they could not simply accept to collapse and fold under the Republic of Cyprus. So you have to find a way to reconcile these two apparently reconcilable positions,'' De Soto noted.

Referring to the crossings of the divide, after the easing of restrictions imposed by the occupying regime, De Soto said ''it is wonderful. And of course I am delighted.''

''It is deeply moving and long may continue. But of course it would be difficult to reverse it, politically it may be impossible to do it, but it is not permanent. It is not stable and it does not address the underlying problems that remain,'' he added.

De Soto said ''it is one thing to be invited by the occupants of your house for a cup of coffee, under controlled circumstances in which you are not carrying a suitcase trying to move out the occupant. And under circumstances in which the country still remains divided'' and ''it is another thing completely to think that this necessarily means that it would be easy to get beyond the division that exists now.''

''Taboos are knocked over left and right. It appears – for instance – the Greek Cypriots don’t much mind having to show their passport, fill out forms without signing them, paying for car insurance in going to the north. And the Turkish Cypriots don’t mind having to trudge across the check point, boarding a bus that is supplied by the government and the authorities don’t seem to mind that they are prevented so far by not taking their cars across,'' the UN diplomat noted.

He said that ''the wrath of (Turkish Cypriot leader) Mr Denktash has been awakened because of the Secretary General’s statement which is really a summary of what he described factually in his report that Mr Denktash bears prime responsibility for the fact that it was not possible to reach an agreement at the Hague to send the plan to referendum.''

He noted that the word ''prime'' was carefully chosen and that ''prime means that it is short of the main responsibility, doesn’t mean the only responsibility.''

He said that Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos ''at The Hague laid down a lot of conditions that are described in the report that would have been very difficult to meet.''

''But of course we never got around to the point of tackling the conditions that he laid down and trying to meet them or ask him to give up on them, because of Mr Denktash’s rejection,'' De Soto said.

Referring to Cyprus' accession to the EU De Soto said: ''you have arrived, you are in the EU. And of course you opened the door to the T/Cs on the other side by the measures that have been announced by President Papadopoulos last week, but, having arrived, my suggestion would be that it is now OK to loosen the grip, lighten up a bit. There are certain things on which it is now perhaps more possible to think big and think far.''


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