Schwimmer: Council can help contribute to implement UN plan
by Maria Myles
Nicosia, Jul 29 (CNA) -- The Secretary General of the Council of Europe Walter Schwimmer has said the Council is willing to contribute to the implementation of a UN peace plan for a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus and warned against returning to ''square one'' in the negotiations, stressing that the window of opportunity for a solution will remain open until May 2004, when Cyprus joins the European Union.
In an interview with CNA, he said the European Court of Human Rights is evaluating all new facts with regard to the possibility of accepting as domestic remedies so-called courts, set up in Turkish occupied Cyprus by the Turkish Cypriot illegal regime of Rauf Denktash.
Schwimmer has warned Turkey that compliance with the principles of the Council and Court rulings is a factor it needs to take seriously into consideration, if it wishes to see its European aspirations progress.
The Secretary General reiterated that the government of the Republic of Cyprus is the sole legitimate government of Cyprus and said both the Council and the Court show due consideration to the UN position on Cyprus and will continue to do so.|
Invited to comment on press reports suggesting that the Council and Turkey have come to an understanding with regard to the so-called courts, he confirmed that there had been contacts with the authorities of Turkey regarding execution of the judgment of the Loizidou versus Turkey case, relating to property claims and violation of human rights.
''During these contacts, the Turkish authorities informed the Secretariat of their intention to establish remedies in respect of property claims in the north of Cyprus. Subsequently, the Committee of Ministers received information that new specific provisions have been adopted to that effect. It will be for the European Court of Human Rights to assess the new situation in the light of the ECHR's requirements,'' he said.
Asked if the Council can accept as ?domestic remedy? such ''courts'' set up by an illegal regime, he said that both the Council and the Court ''have constantly taken due account of the UN position on Cyprus and will continue to do so'' and recalled the official position of the Committee of Ministers that it continues to regard the Government of the Republic of Cyprus ''as the sole legitimate Government of Cyprus?.
Replying to questions about domestic remedies in occupied Cyprus, he told CNA that ''the Court will examine all new facts in accordance with this (a reference to the possibility of accepting such remedies) and other relevant principles, as highlighted in its previous judgments.''
Asked why Turkey has got away with executing the Court ruling in the Loizidou case, he said Turkey's failure to comply with the Lozidou judgment has been firmly condemned by all Council of Europe organs and member states.
''These positions have proven to be effective and positive signals started to come from Turkey and were confirmed during my official visit to Turkey in April 2003,'' he explained, recalling that in June the Turkish authorities announced that the necessary action will have been taken to allow the Committee of Ministers to find, at its meeting on 7 to 8 October 2003, that the just satisfaction awarded by the Court had been paid. "I trust that this concrete undertaking will be fulfilled as promised," he said.
Schwimmer pointed out that once the question of payment has been settled, the Committee will decide how to proceed on the other issues raised by the Loizidou case, including peaceful enjoyment of her property in occupied Cyprus and access to that property.
Invited to say if Turkey?s accession course should be halted if Ankara does not show respect for the principles of the Council and does not abide by Court decisions, he said that this is a matter for the EU to decide, not the Council.
''As a general rule one can say that implementation by candidate countries of Council of Europe standards in the fields of Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law plays an important role in the evaluation of a country?s request for membership by the EU,'' he stressed.
He welcomed the reform package Turkey has adopted and said joint initiatives are underway to consolidate these reforms.
Questioned on the role of the Council in the UN peace effort, he said ''the first thing the Council of Europe can do is to give clear political support to the Annan Plan as the basis for a settlement. With the 'window of opportunity' only open until May 2004, nobody can afford to return to square one with the negotiations and unravel this very sophisticated document.''
''We will limit ourselves to political support and expertise in the different areas of our competence and where we can possibly contribute to the implementation of the Annan Plan: Human Rights of course, but also strategies for reconciliation, protection of cultural heritage, history teaching etc,'' he added.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY