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2002-01-19 17:07:12

Lecture by the Ambassador of Cyprus to the USA,
Mrs. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis
at the University of Texas at Austin
on Monday, November 9, 1998

Dear members of the staff
and students of the University of Texas at Austin,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be with you tonight in this prestigious academic environment. I am indeed grateful to the University of Texas and the sponsor of this event for their kind invitation to visit the University and have the opportunity to speak on the international and US efforts for a solution of the Cyprus problem as well as on our people's vision and expectations for a better future.

Recent developments, particularly those relating to the process of EU enlargement, have refocused international attention on the long-standing "problem of Cyprus" and the need to find a viable and lasting solution. This is only right since the Cyprus problem remains a test-case of the effectiveness and credibility of the United Nations and of the application of the basic rules of international law. It is also a tragic anachronism and a continued source of tension and instability in the Eastern Mediterranean, affecting the interests of many countries, including the United States and the European Union.

It is now more than twenty-four years since the invasion and occupation of 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkish armed forces in 1974, with all its disastrous consequences in terms of human suffering and its deplorable implications for international legal order and for peace in this volatile region. It is the nature and extent of these consequences, coupled with the wider issues of principle involved, that render the present status quo unacceptable and the Cyprus problem one of international concern, which needs to be urgently addressed.

It should be stressed, at the outset, that the Cyprus problem is a solvable problem, much more than other seemingly more intractable problems, such as apartheid in South Africa, German reunification, Bosnia, Northern Ireland or the Middle East, which have either been solved or are moving decisively towards a solution. With the political will and determination from all sides and a consistent stand on the part of the international community based on international law and UN Charter principles and resolutions, the Cyprus problem can and should be solved, to the benefit of all concerned.

Although bearing intercommunal and other aspects, the Cyprus problem in its essence is an international problem. It involves the illegal invasion and continuing occupation by more than 35,000 heavily-armed Turkish troops of a small country by a far larger and militarily stronger neighbor. It also involves attempted secession in violation of international law and the 1960 treaties establishing the Republic of Cyprus, which solemnly guarantee its independence and territorial integrity; the UN Security Council condemned the unilateral declaration of a secessionist entity in the occupied area in 1983 as legally invalid and no country in the world, except Turkey, recognizes this illegal entity. It further involves the systematic destruction of the cultural heritage of an ancient land with nine thousand years of history and civilization. It involves "ethnic cleansing" on a massive scale with the forced displacement of practically all of the Greek Cypriots from the occupied area, constituting eighty percent of the inhabitants of that area and one third of Cyprus' total population and the importation of nearly 100.000 Anatolian settlers aimed at altering the demographic composition of the island; and it involves the tragedy of the missing and enclaved persons, both humanitarian issues of major concern.

Turkey's illegal actions in Cyprus have been denounced by the UN and by virtually all other international fora. By adopting numerous resolutions, the UN Security Council and the General Assembly have called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Cyprus, the voluntary return of the refugees to their homes, the implementation of all basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for Cyprus' sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and unity, the condemnation of the secessionist actions in the occupied area and for an end to the present status quo, established by the use of force and sustained by military strength, which is deemed by the international community as unacceptable. Turkey has over the years ignored these decisions of the international community. Such defiant attitude tarnishes the credibility of the United Nations because no country has the right to claim special grounds for putting itself beyond the rules of international law and the international community has a special obligation to demand strict adherence by all its members.

Despite Turkey's failure to comply with UN resolutions, the Cyprus Government showed goodwill, a sense of pragmatism and a genuine wish for a peaceful solution, by entering into negotiations with the Turkish Cypriot side, in the conviction that there is much more that unites all Cypriots than differences that divide them.

The Greek Cypriot side made a number of significant concessions, including the acceptance of a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution, when no geographical basis for such a solution existed prior to 1974, in the hope that the Turkish Cypriot side would respond with reasonable proposals and thus reach a solution. Basically, our objective is the establishment of a viable and genuine federation based on democratic principles and respect for human rights, with provisions to meet the particular concerns of both communities.

The demand from the other side has all along been the establishment of two separate states, with separate sovereignties, separate armies, separate treaty-making capacity, separate economies. In short, while paying lip service to a federal system, the Turkish objective has always been a partitionist solution, through the legitimization of the results of the invasion. The recent proposal and open demand of the Turkish Cypriot leader, for a confederation solution, made in the presence of the Turkish Foreign Minister, clearly exposed the long-standing partitionist objective of the Turkish side. This is in direct defiance of the High Level Agreements and key Security Council Resolutions, which define very clearly the parameters for a solution of the Cyprus problem, reaffirming that: "a Cyprus settlement must be based on a State of Cyprus with a single sovereignty and international personality and a single citizenship". The confederation proposal aims not at unification but the creation of two protectorates of Greece and Turkey and at the permanent division of the country and the further alienation of the two communities.

It is this lack of political will on the part of the Turkish side that has so far frustrated all efforts to reach a negotiated settlement on Cyprus and has prompted the UN Secretary General to conclude in his May 1994 report that: "The Security Council finds itself faced with an already familiar scenario: the absence of agreement due essentially to a lack of political will on the Turkish Cypriot side".

Primary among the factors sustaining the Turkish negative attitude is the continuing presence and overwhelming military strength of the Turkish occupation troops on the island, an alarming fact which has also prompted the UN Secretary General to describe the occupied area of Cyprus as "one of the most densely militarized areas in the world".

The answer to this lies in the proposal of the President of Cyprus, Mr. Glafcos Clerides, for the complete demilitarization of the Republic of Cyprus, which was formally submitted to the UN Secretary General in December 1993. This comprehensive plan provides, among other things, for the disbanding of the Cypriot National Guard and handling over all of its arms and military equipment to a substantially strengthened UN Peacekeeping Force, suspension of all defense acquisitions and using the money saved to fully finance this Force and for development projects to benefit primarily the Turkish Cypriot community which is lagging behind. This offer is of course conditional on the parallel withdrawal of the Turkish troops and elements from Cyprus and the disbanding of Turkish Cypriot armed units.

It is a significant and constructive proposal with far-reaching implications in terms of meeting the security concerns of all parties involved. Its acceptance would substantially enhance prospects for a peaceful solution of the problem and could provide a constructive way out of the current stalemate. It also provides a convincing answer to any concerns raised regarding the legitimate efforts of the Cyprus Government to upgrade its defense capabilities, which were made necessary in the face of the continuing Turkish occupation and escalating military threats. The Turkish side has so far not accepted this proposal, which has nevertheless, received considerable support internationally. More specifically the UN Security Council on different occasions has stressed the importance of eventual demilitarization, while a number of foreign Parliaments, including the United States Congress, have supported the total demilitarization of the Republic of Cyprus.

I wish to elaborate now on another development, the prospect of Cyprus' accession to the EU, which has introduced a new dynamic in the situation. Cyprus' application for membership to the EU was guided by historical, cultural, political economic and security considerations. In our membership to the European Union we see fulfillment of our people's aspirations and expectations for the future. The safety net of the European Institutions provides the best guarantee for a peaceful and prosperous Cyprus, a home for all its people, irrespective of ethnic origin, culture or religion and the appropriate framework for their co-operation and harmonious co-existence.

In a series of landmark decisions since Cyprus' application in 1990, the EU has confirmed the eligibility and vocation of Cyprus to belong to the Union, it set a firm date for the start of accession negotiations (six months after the conclusion of the Inter-Governmental Conference) and it reaffirmed at the level of several European Councils that Cyprus will be involved in the next phase of the Union's enlargement. In July last year the Commission's Agenda 2000 included Cyprus in the first group of six countries recommended to begin accession negotiations. Last December, in a historic decision the European Council in Luxembourg decided to open accession negotiations with Cyprus and five Central and Eastern European countries, which started in March this year. Tomorrow, November 10th, Cyprus, having already covered a large portion of the necessary screening process, will embark on the irreversible journey towards membership with the commencement of bilateral substantive accession negotiations with the European Union.

The prospect of Cyprus' accession to the EU is viewed as a catalyst in the efforts towards a solution of the island's political problem, a view shared by the European Commission, the UN Security Council and the EU member states, while membership itself would provide the best safeguard for the viability of a solution, affording increased security and prosperity for all Cypriots.

Through all its crucial decisions on Cyprus the EU, without conditioning the prospect of Cyprus' accession to a settlement of the Cyprus problem, has set in motion this catalytic effect of the accession process and has, in fact, put this process at the service of the efforts for the solution of the Cyprus problem.

Turkey is now realizing the inevitability of this process and is measuring the pros and cons of either remaining intransigent or changing its attitude and adjusting its policy, taking into consideration its own European orientation.

In response to the EU's decisions, Turkey has repeatedly threatened to annex the occupied part of Cyprus. Recently, both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership have further hardened their position, demanding recognition of the illegal entity in the occupied areas and withdrawal of Cyprus's EU membership application as a precondition for Turkish Cypriot participation in the UN talks. The recent efforts of both the UN as well as those of the US Special Presidential Emissary, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, failed to produce any results because of this intransigence of the Turkish side. In fact, Ambassador Holbrooke has placed primary responsibility, in no uncertain terms, for this impass on the Turkish side's insistence on these unacceptable conditions. At the same time, a very generous and constructive proposal of President Clerides, inviting the Turkish Cypriot community to nominate representatives to be included as full members of the Cypriot team which will conduct the accession negotiations, a proposal welcomed by the European Union and individual EU member states as positive and constructive, has been rejected by the Turkish Cypriot leadership and Turkey.

All these reactions, though negative, show that, for the first time, Turkey is concerned about her policies and their potential cost. But for the moment, she appears to be measuring the resistance of the EU and weighing how far she can go in her demands and how many benefits she can gain by using Cyprus as a bargaining chip for her own European ambitions.

This is why it is of utmost importance to have a firm and unwavering position of the EU on the issue of Cyprus' accession course.

The firm stand of the EU will finally make Turkey realize that it is in her best interest to solve the Cyprus problem before the next enlargement, so that a federal, bicommunal and bizonal Republic of Cyprus joins the Union. Turkey should eventually realize that this is not only to the benefit of the Turkish Cypriot community, but also to the benefit of her own European orientation and aspirations.

Another important aspect of this catalytic affect of Cyprus' accession process has been the increased interest of the international community and increased diplomatic activity around the efforts for the solution of the Cyprus problem. A number of individual countries, as well as the EU Presidency, have appointed Special Representatives on Cyprus, who are closely monitoring developments. European and other countries are now determined more than ever before to see this long lasting problem resolved, so that the EU enlargement process may proceed without complications and that peace and stability in the volatile Eastern Mediterranean region may finally prevail.

The United States has renewed its commitment and intensified its efforts through the appointment in June last year of Richard Holbrooke, as President Clinton's Special Emissary for Cyprus. Despite U.S. strong commitment to finding a solution, the efforts exerted so far have seen no results because the Turkish side refuses to cooperate, putting instead obstacles and unacceptable preconditions impeding any progress. For the first time, US officials now openly criticize the Turkish side, including the Turkish Government, for this negative attitude. This criticism has been consistent during the last six months, being repeated by different US officials, but has remained at the verbal level.

On our part, we look forward to being a part of the EU, a Union of people based on democracy, human rights, the rule of law and the principle of solidarity. We sincerely believe that the process of European integration that has turned former historic adversaries into European partners, will continue to have its positive effects on developments in and around Cyprus.

We hope that our Turkish Cypriots compatriots who are being kept hostage of Turkey's interests and objectives, will come to realize the considerable political, economic and social benefits that membership to the EU could offer to both communities, but particularly to the Turkish Cypriot community. The EU has already started to explain these benefits to the Turkish Cypriot community and the results are encouraging. We hope that the opportunities from membership will be the driving force for the necessary change in the minds and attitude of the Turkish Cypriot leadership who, regrettably, still put as priorities other considerations alien to their community's interests.

As far as we are concerned, we shall continue our constructive approach and fully cooperate with the United Nations Secretary General in its efforts to achieve a just, viable and workable solution, on the basis of the relevant UN resolutions and High-Level Agreements, to which we remain fully committed.

The wind of historic change that has demolished blocks and barriers that have divided Europe and the world for half a century, gives hope and expectations that the virtues of peace, freedom and justice are no longer a dream but can be a reality. The many international problems that have found their way to a pacific settlement have brought stability, peace and prosperity to countries and peoples that have been torn with hatred and division for far too long. In many of these unprecedented changes and solutions, the United States has been and continues to be in a unique position to effect them or help bring them about. The recent Wye River Agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, made possible primarily because of the personal dynamic engagement of President Clinton, showed clearly not only what can happen when the will for peace is strong, but also the leading role that the United States can play in helping to resolve longstanding conflicts that have been the source of bloodshed, mistrust and suffering in many parts of the world.

This is why, while we applaud the US contribution in the peace process in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and elsewhere and express our gratification for the US commitment to finding a solution of the Cyprus problem, we express the hope that Cyprus will now be next in the high priority agenda of the US government and they will exert the necessary influence in the direction of the Turkish Government to end the occupation of Cyprus and to cooperate in the efforts for a solution, with international law and the UN resolutions as a point of departure.

Our dream is to see our country enter the new millennium whole and free, to see an end to the shameful and anachronistic division of the island and its people, to see our children, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike, to join hands and to grow up in peace, prosperity and harmonious coexistence. With only 417 days left until the threshold of the new millennium, let us all work together to make this dream a reality.


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