Bush sees real window of opportunity for Cyprus solution
By Demetris Apokis
Washington, Dec 5 (CNA) - US President George Bush said significant progress was made until March towards finalising the Annan Plan thanks, in large part, to the efforts of the government of Cyprus.
Receiving the credentials of Cyprus' new Ambassador to Washington, Euripides L. Evriviades, Bush also said that there is now a real window of opportunity to reach a settlement before Cyprus joins the EU.
Presenting his credentials, Ambassador Evriviades said Cyprus ''has consistently complemented the efforts of the US to fight terrorism and continues to stand in solidarity with the US following the callous attacks of September 11, 2001''.
In his speech, President Bush said the US ''has long believed that it is important to achieve a just and durable settlement to the Cyprus problem because it would benefit both sides in Cyprus and the region''.
He congratulated Cyprus on its upcoming accession to the EU on 1 May 2004, adding that ''it will provide new opportunities and guarantee a more secure future for the Cypriot people''.
''There is now a real window of opportunity to reach a settlement before Cyprus joins the EU'', the American President said and added: ''We must not let that window close''.
The US, he said, ''is working hard with all of the parties, including both sides on the island, and Greece and Turkey, to ensure that this opportunity is not lost''.
He assured the US ''will remain strongly engaged but it will be up to the leaders on the island, with the support of the international community, to reach a comprehensive, lasting settlement''.
''We believe that it is possible to reach a settlement that addresses the legitimate concerns of both sides and promotes regional stability'', he added.
Bush said ''there is now a settlement plan on the table, proposed by the UN Secretary-General, which the US believes is the best and only way forward to a comprehensive viable settlement'', noting that ''significant progress was made until March towards finalising this plan, thanks in large part to the efforts of your government''.
''We hope all parties will express the political will as required by the UN Secretary-General and return to negotiations based on the Annan Plan very soon. In so doing, it will become possible for all Cypriots to look forward to a secure and prosperous future'', he added.
Bush said the US and Cyprus ''enjoy a deep and productive relationship'' and that cooperation between the two governments is ''excellent''.
Furthermore, he said the US appreciates Cyprus' strong cooperation in counter-terrorism since the September 11 attacks and noted that ''our strong partnership and friendship on many other matters is important to all of us''.
The US President said his country is pleased that the government of Cyprus passed legislation in June making arms brokering a crime, adding that he looks forward to continuing cooperation with Cyprus on money laundering.
Presenting his credentials, Evriviades referred to the forcible partition of Cyprus since 1974 with one third of its territory under Turkey's military occupation and one third of the population ethnically cleansed from their ancestral homes.
He said ''the search for a negotiated settlement of Cyprus based on the plan submitted by the UN Secretary-General remains the top priority of President Tassos Papadopoulos and his government'', adding that ''a comprehensive, just and functional solution, consistent with the relevant Security Council resolutions, the rule of law and the acquis communautaire, can and should be found before the 1st of May 2004''.
Evriviades said that if it does not prove possible because of the continued ''obduracy of the other side, we will redouble our efforts with tenacity and perseverance''.
The new Ambassador said that ''the significance of the accession of Cyprus to the EU for international peace, security and stability cannot be underestimated'', noting that it ''ushers in new vistas of cooperation with enormous potential to further enhance our bilateral and multilateral relations''.
Furthermore, he said Cyprus' unique ''vantage point at the crossroads of three continents allows our country to play a more significant role in the wider region as a result of its membership in the EU, as a business, communications, educational and medical services centre''.