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Papandreou calls for common educational culture in Cyprus
2003-09-11 09:35:37

''The solution will come from society, Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike through their desire for a settlement,'' Greek FM remarked.

Nicosia, Sep 10 (CNA) -- Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou has called on the people of Cyprus, and especially teachers and students alike, to work for a common educational culture to help everybody understand that diversity can be a country's wealth and not a weakness.

Addressing a gathering of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots here tonight, he said the task to instill a new educational culture should start now, acknowledged it would be a ''difficult and important'' venture but said Greece would give its full backing to any such attempts.

''Cyprus is turning a page in its history,'' he told an audience in the grounds of the Ledra Palace hotel, in the UN-controlled buffer zone in Nicosia, the world's last divided capital.

Some 200 people from both sides of the divide came along to hear the minister speak about the value of education in helping the peace effort.

In his remarks Papandreou, a former minister of education himself, appeared confident that Cyprus' accession to the European Union would bring such changes that would help unite people and create a state based on the rule of law, democracy and tolerance.

The open discussion at the Ledra Palace was organised by the Organisation of Secondary Teachers of Cyprus (OELMEK) and the Association of Social Reform (OPEK).

Papandreou pointed out that a modern democracy needs informed citizens who have to get ready for active involvement in society after a political settlement.

He said that Cyprus has a wound, the dividing wall that separates Greek Cypriots from Turkish Cypriots, but the people of this island also have the privilege to see new paths being opened before them.

''We can turn the Cyprus problem from the most intractable problem into a prototype of cohabitation. Cyprus can be a beacon of prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean,'' the minister said and explained that this conviction arises from the determination and the will he sees in civil society in Cyprus to overcome old disputes and differences.

The Greek Minister was confident that there would be a solution in Cyprus and this solution would be a ''continuous exercise in self-discipline''.

''The solution should be democratic and European because this is what the young people of Cyprus want to have. It must also be the common pride of Cypriots as it would be proof that they have overcome old enmities,'' he said.

He pledged Greece will do all it can to help in this direction and the EU can contribute towards a solution.

''However, the solution will come from society, Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike through their desire for a settlement,'' he remarked.

Replying to questions about attempts to revise school textbooks, he said ''all books tell the same story, the other party is to blame'' and described the review of books as a very important matter.

On Turkey the Greek minister said ''we want to welcome a Turkey that has led us to a Cyprus solution and that meets the Copenhagen criteria,'' noting that respect for EU principles is absolutely essential for EU membership.

Commenting on Turkey's fears about its security, he said ''the best security Ankara can have is a free Cyprus where there are no troops opposing each other and which is part of Europe.''

Replying to questions, he said ''we should do away with the logic of interference from the motherlands'' and said Greece has learned its lessons from history.

The military coup engineered by the then junta ruling Greece to topple the late Archbishop Makarios was a tragic mistake, he said and added ''let us hope that we can all recognise our mistakes and overcome the past.''

Asked to comment on fears that the so-called elections in Turkish occupied Cyprus might be rigged, he said that the international community will be monitoring developments and said it would be very important to see what kind of message is sent through the outcome of these ''elections.''

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