US Ambassador: very feasible to reach a settlement by May 2004
by Maria Myles
Nicosia, Aug 6 (CNA) -- US Ambassador to Cyprus Michael Klosson believes that it is ''very feasible'' to clinch a deal on a comprehensive settlement by May next year, before Cyprus joins the European Union, saying that many factors are conducive towards this direction.
In an interview with CNA, on completion of nearly a year since he presented his credentials, Klosson said the US wants to see a change of perspective on the part of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and indicated that a new negotiator for the Turkish Cypriot community might be a breath of fresh air to the talks.
The Ambassador said the US is and will remain an active player in the peace effort and stressed that there can be no political settlement without US participation in this process.
Klosson reiterated his government's strong support to a UN peace plan on a comprehensive settlement and urged the two sides to return to the negotiating table with a view to finalizing what they had started before the collapse of the most recent UN effort to find a settlement.|
On a more personal level, he said Cypriots are not known for ''beating around the bush'' when it comes to outlining their views and noted that often the substance of his talks here with the two sides is the problem.
v Referring to bilateral relations, he described them ''very sound and constructive'' adding that there is always room for improvement.
''I still subscribe to the view that a solution is possible before May 2004, there remains a window of opportunity that should be seized with a great deal of urgency, we encourage all parties to recognize that and get back into talks and finish what they started,'' Klosson said, replying to questions.
Asked how feasible it is to clinch a deal by May next year when Cyprus will join the EU, he replied ''very feasible'' and added that the Kofi Annan plan is still on the table and it is virtually completed.
''This document can bring about tomorrow a new situation,'' he said, noting that the million or so crossings of the divide by Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots with virtually no difficulty ''speaks volumes about the good will of Cypriots, their interest and their readiness to reach for a solution.''
He said it is up to the political leadership to get back into talks to bring up any additional issues they are concerned about and said the US would welcome a resumption of talks tomorrow if that were to happen.
Invited to clarify what is expected from the parties, he said ''they have to state their commitment to complete plan in a specific period of time and to put it to a referendum within a specified period of time.''
Asked if the removal of Denktash from the political arena could improve the chances of a settlement, he replied ''we do not choose the negotiators, we continue to talk to Mr Denktash and we certainly would like to see a change of perspective on his part, we have not seen that, but that does not mean we are not trying.''
''If there is a new negotiator, we will deal with the new negotiator and he may bring a new perspective,'' the Ambassador pointed out.
Referring to the Annan plan, he said it contains the SG's judgment on what is best able to resolve the issues in the Cyprus problem and the island's political leadership will have to decide if this plan serves the general interests of each community in such a way that they would give it their seal of approval.
Ambassador Klosson dismissed criticism that the US is not really concerned about the contents of a solution in Cyprus, but acknowledged that Washington wants to see a dispute between its two NATO allies Greece and Turkey resolved and noted that a Cyprus settlement would bring more peace to the region.
''We support the Annan plan, it is the most balanced way forward, the most comprehensive UN effort ever undertaken, it is the only way forward,'' he told CNA.
Questioned on his personal rapport with President Tassos Papadopoulos and Denktash, he said ''unlike some other places I have been where formality can get in the way, I have not found that beating around the bush is really a Cypriot character trade, it is pretty straight forward to do business, there are frank and open conversations.''
He pointed out that the ability to communicate has not been the problem, and added ''sometimes the substance has been the problem.''
Asked if the two leaders stick to their guns, he replied ''yes, until they change, people do change their mind.''
On his assessment of whether the two sides regard the US an honest broker, the Ambassador said the sides are constantly asking the US to get involved and do things and "everybody has their own view on how to conduct our honest broker".
''We are not going away we shall remain very active because it is very important to have a solution, whether people trust us or not, everybody seems to feel that the solution will not come about without the US being part of the process and we accept that responsibility,'' he said.
On US-Turkish relations, he said Washington has been ''very active'' with Ankara in pointing out a political settlement in Cyprus would serve Turkey's interests too.
''There is a clear focus on the period between now and May 2004 as an opportunity that needs to be seized, this was acknowledged by the Turkish side,'' Klosson said, referring to a recent meeting between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
He said both countries recognize that they need to maintain a strong and sound relationship, as they share fundamental interests.
Replying to questions about the EU factor in the peace effort, he said there is now a more positive situation, and referred to the UN plan, the expression of good will, Turkey's desire to accede to the EU and Cyprus' accession.
He said the past year was a ''key period for Cyprus'' and expressed great pleasure when he hears young Cypriots, from both sides of the divide, talking about their future after a settlement.
On bilateral relations, he said Cyprus' accession has expanded and deepened US-Cyprus ties.
Commenting on bicommunal projects, he said these help towards developing the habits of getting to know one another and working together.
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY