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Ros-Lehtinen: Window of opportunity for Cyprus solution still open
2003-11-28 17:06:07

Nicosia, Nov 27 (CNA) -- Republican member of US House of Representatives Ileana Ros - Lehitnen stresses in an article that the window of opportunity for reaching a Cyprus solution is still open in view of the island's EU accession and urges Washington to persuade Turkey to abandon its aggressive stance.

In her article entitled ''Cyprus ripe for reunification?'' published Wednesday in "Washington Times" the Congresswoman says that while every administration in the US, both Democratic and Republican, has pursued a Cyprus solution since 1974, ''only recently has America's collective political will to solve the problem reached critical mass.''

Referring to Turkey's intransigence she notes it is ''bewildering'', explaining that ''here is a member of NATO illegally occupying what will soon be a member of the EU - the very family of nations Turkey urgently needs and wants to join - and continuing to deny the opportunity for both Greek and Turkish Cypriots to reunite their country and face a common future as a European nation''.

While many point to the intransigence of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash as the reason for the ongoing failure at the negotiating table, she adds, ''it is difficult to accept that this man alone has been able to thwart pressure from the US, the UN and the EU without the resolute backing of Turkey's hard-liners in Ankara, especially the military''.

Underlining that ''it is to Ankara, that we must focus our attention now'', the Congresswoman, member of the US House of Representatives' International Relations Committee, notes that in May 2004, Cyprus will become a permanent full EU member.

''The expressed goal of the United States, as well as the United Nations and the EU, is that Cyprus, the only remaining forcibly divided country in Europe, be reunited by May 2004, so all Cypriots enter the Republic's new EU era, with all of the attendant advantages shared by all'', Ros - Lehtinen adds.

She further notes that US State Department Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston recently re-emphasized the American commitment to restarting UN peace talks for reuniting Cyprus before it enters the EU next May, ''noting correctly, 'This effort has to concentrate on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots'''.

Noting that the window for achieving a settlement remains open and that ''Cyprus' imminent EU accession offers this opportunity'', the US Congress member adds that ''in a region battered by decades of instability and strife, the U.S. and the world community can score a remarkable, bloodless victory for peace by persuading Turkey to abandon, once and for all, its aggression against neighboring Cyprus, and constructively support the resumption of UN-sponsored negotiations to achieve a comprehensive settlement''.

The Congress, she concludes, ''stands firmly behind President Bush on this, and the opportunity before us should not be missed''.

Executive Director of the American Hellenic Institute AHI Nick Larigakis applauded Ros-Lehtinen's ongoing commitment to advancing a solution to the Cyprus problem in the Congress.

Leaders of the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH) Andrew Athens, Philip Christopher and Andrew Manatos said that "this article carries particular weight in official Washington, as Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen is a well-respected authority on foreign affairs issues in the US Congress and in the Bush Administration.''

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