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US official says settlement should precede reconstruction
2003-05-29 14:53:05

Nicosia, May 29 (CNA) - Director of the US Agency for International Development Andrew Natsios said today that reconstruction and reconciliation on the island were not the solution to the Cyprus problem and that a settlement should be found in order to make progress.

Speaking after a meeting with President of the House of Representatives Demetris Christofias, Natsios expressed the readiness of the US administration to contribute financially to a possible Cyprus settlement.

Welcoming Natsios to Cyprus, Christofias wished him to return to the island, reunited with US assistance.

He said Natsios is head of the US special department that gives financial assistance to various countries facing problems and he is now in Cyprus to visit sites where US help is being put to use, such as the Apostolos Andreas Monastery in the Turkish-occupied areas.

Christofias briefed Natsios on the developments in the Cyprus problem, noting the easing of restrictions on the free movement of citizens. He added that they agreed that these half-measures cannot constitute a solution to the political problem.|

The solution will emerge from talks within the UN framework, Christofias said, noting that efforts so far have collapsed due to the stance of the Turkish side.

Natsios said that a solution plan put forward by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was ''the best way'' towards a settlement and urged the parties involved ''back to the negotiating table to begin the process of completing the negotiations''.

He said the US has been providing assistance in reconciliation and inter-communal programmes through the UN development programme UNOPS and that over the past twenty years it has contributed 300 million dollars.

''It is not widely known but it is the US who funds these programmes and I am here to witness them because we had very good reports in Washington of their success, and what they indicate is that the people of the island, regardless of where they live or what language they speak or what religion they believe, want a united island and a settlement'', he added.

Natsios said that in the event of a settlement, the US ''will participate in a donors' conference of the European Union'' to support the implementation of the solution.

Replying to questions, Natsios said ''a settlement has to be reached first'' and that ''reconstruction and reconciliation plans, the ones we have now, are not a substitute for a political settlement, which is what is needed in order for us to make progress''.

He added that ''this is the closest the people of the island have come to a settlement and there is a breakdown, but it is the closest we have come and it would be a shame if there is no way to bring energy back into the process so that a settlement could be achieved''.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

Asked if Cypriot companies have shown an interest in plans for the reconstruction of Iraq, Natsios said an independent contact has been chosen to evaluate and decide which companies would be selected for that purpose.

Natsios said there were Cypriot companies that fulfilled the criteria but noted that ''only competition can tell''.

He also expressed gratitude to the Republic of Cyprus for facilitating the UN office on the island and helping the UN effort to coordinate the Iraqi reconstruction.


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