Papadopoulos:talks for solution must ensure fair chance of success
Nicosia, Feb 1 (CNA) -- Any negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem must be well prepared to ensure a fair chance of success, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said here today, reiterating that a UN -proposed solution plan, as it stands, is not balanced nor can it be accepted and dismissed suggestions that there is a stalemate.
Speaking to foreign correspondents at a lunch, hosted by the Cyprus News Agency, he said a European Union regulation on intra-island trade (the Green Line regulation) cannot be implemented because of obstacles raised by Mehmet Ali Talat, Turkish Cypriot party leader, who insists on linking this regulation to another one relating to direct trade between the northern Turkish occupied part of Cyprus with the EU.
He expressed hope that amendments to the Green Line regulation, to be tabled in the next few days, would be approved by the EU and would facilitate trade for the Turkish Cypriots who will be able to export their goods from Cyprus' legal ports of entry, in the southern government controlled part of the island.
President Papadopoulos said his priority is to find a political settlement and not to see Ankara sign a protocol on its customs union agreement with the EU, noting however that such a signature would be a first significant step towards normalizing ties with Turkey.
He also said that the EU could play a more proactive role in the effort to find a negotiated settlement as it is going to be involved in a fresh effort by virtue of having three of its members (Cyprus, Greece and Britain) with an active interest in a solution and a candidate country (Turkey) directly involved in the problem.
He dismissed allegations that Cyprus is not doing enough to combat fraud and money laundering, pointing out that the Central Bank exercises daily checks on suspicious transactions the seven commercial banks operating in Cyprus report.
Responding to questions, Papadopoulos said the Green Line regulation was accepted last September but following some difficulties in implementing it, the government is proposing certain amendments to it which it has ''good reason to believe that the EU will accept.''
On direct trade, he said this concerns trade from the occupied areas directly to the EU under a preferential treatment regime for third states.
''We do not accept that the occupation regime is a third state, therefore we shall never accept that,'' he stressed, explaining that Turkish Cypriots are not set to benefit greatly from this regulation as their exports are worth 50 million euro a year, 25 m. of which go to countries outside the EU.
On prospects to operate Famagusta harbour, in occupied Cyprus, he said this cannot operate viably and economically for exports or imports for the Turkish Cypriots alone.
He reiterated his proposal to operate the port under an independent foundation and to open the fenced area of Famagusta to its legal inhabitants.
Questioned on Turkey's obligation to adapt the Ankara Agreement (extending it to Cyprus as well), he said ''this is Turkey's problem. The matter is simple, either they sign or they have no talks.''
''This is not an obligation of Turkey towards us only, it is mainly an obligation to EU by Turkey,'' he added, informing journalists that the Commission has sent to Turkey a new readapted protocol for signature on the basis of take it or leave.
''I do not know if Turkey will risk not commencing negotiations in 2005 when we do not know what would happen in some countries in 2006. I want to stress that the signing of the protocol is not our priority, this is not our main concern, of course it is important, our priority is the solution of the Cyprus problem,'' he said.
The signing of the protocol is a very important first step towards normalization of relations of Cyprus with Turkey but it is not our priority, he stressed.
On the EU role in efforts for a political settlement, he said that the EU accepts that the leading role must remain with the UN,
and added ''Europe is involved in the Cyprus problem and the EU must take a more proactive role in the negotiations which to a great extent affect the acquis communautaire.''
On prospects for Cyprus joining the ERM II, he said ''we have good indications that we will be accepted in the ERM II within the established time schedule.''
Responding to questions on efforts to find a solution, he said he is ready to engage in talks under UN auspices and added ''all the information I have from the UN is that the SG is reluctant to start a new initiative unless he has evidence, reassurances, suggestions, commitments that his plan will be accepted.''
Annan also points out that any changes to his plan must be limited so as to preserve ''the unique balance of the Annan plan'' as the SG says, Papadopoulos explained.
''We do not accept that the Annan plan is balanced, let alone being uniquely balanced,'' Papadopoulos stressed.
Responding to other questions, he said ''there is no stalemate, talks are always going on, talking with interested people and those involved in the decision making proces
s hoping to create the right conditions for talks to become effective. ''Any round of talks should be well prepared to ensure that the talks will have a fair chance of success,'' he stressed.
On Russia's position on Cyprus, he said Moscow's support is based on principles and there is no change, adding that there is a policy paper by Russia sent to all those who need to receive it outlining the Russian position.
On the US stance towards Cyprus, he said the US believes they are very helpful in the peace effort.
"We all know Turkey is a very important ally to the US, given the present situation in the Middle East and I do not know if the Cyprus issue comes anywhere into the equation of formulating US policy,'' he noted.
On Britain's position on Cyprus, he said ''their real policy on Cyprus is that if they cannot achieve acceptance of the Annan plan, their B plan is how to upgrade the regime in occupied areas to the highest possible level short of diplomatic recognition.''