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2002-06-01 03:28:36


I would like to thank the World Affairs Council of Northern California for hosting this event, as well as the Commonwealth Club of California for co-sponsoring it. I am grateful to both for giving me the opportunity to address you today and present some new prospects for peace in Cyprus, in connection with our process for membership to the European Union.

Today's European Union is the result of a vision born 52 years ago for a united, free and peaceful Continent as well as of a promise never again to experience the horrors of war that had cost the lives of millions of people. The idea behind the establishment back in 1950 of the European Coal and Steel Community, the ancestor of the European Union, was in the words of one of its founders, Robert Schuman " to place Franco-German production of coal and steel under a common High Authority. ..The solidarity in production this established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible".

Following two catastrophic World Wars during the 20th century and many more local conflicts, that brought about immense human and economic losses and suffering, the European countries were ready to shoulder the responsibility of making that vision and that promise a reality and ensuring a more peaceful and prosperous future for Europe.

The special character of the European Union as we see it today is the outcome of the further enlargement and progressive integration of the European Communities. The four successful enlargements have brought the six founding members to its present membership of 15. The next enlargement, which is under way, will incorporate up to ten new members, one of which is expected to be Cyprus, which is the leading candidate country.

European Integration has brought to the EU citizens among other things peace, stability and prosperity, as well as a common market, a single currency, the EURO and a fast developing common foreign and security policy.

Through this remarkable process of integration, centuries old foes became friends and partners within the European Union, working together for common objectives and common interests.

This positive EU environment and the prospect of being a part of it, has also changed the context of what we call the Cyprus problem and has injected new hope in the efforts to reunify the island and bring it whole and free into the European Union. This is the message I want to leave with you today as the central theme of my talk.

Reunification of Cyprus and its people has remained an objective consistently pursued by the international community over the years. Several UN Secretaries-General, numerous Special Representatives and Special Advisors, Presidential Emissaries and Coordinators, have devoted years of work and energy in efforts to untie the Gordian knot and to bring the two communities of Cyprus, the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, together again in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal arrangement.

Despite all the efforts, a settlement still remains elusive and the island remains the only divided country in Europe with an occupation army on its soil. Secretary of State Colin Powell was very right in describing the Cyprus problem as a sore that has been lingering and festering in the region, continuing to strain relations between NATO allies Greece and Turkey.

The present forcible separation of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities on the basis of ethnic lines, as a result of the continuing military occupation by Turkey of one third of the island, particularly at a time when Cyprus is about to become a member of the EU and Turkey is pursuing her own EU prospects, not only does not make any sense, but, moreover, constitutes an anomaly and a shameful anachronism in a twenty first century environment.

Unlike other international problems where the final settlement is not clearly prescribed, in the case of Cyprus all the ingredients for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem exist and they have been spelled out in two agreements reached between the leaders of the two communities in 1977 and 1979 and in more than a 100 resolutions of the United Nations that have endorsed the parameters for a Cyprus settlement.

Since the Turkish invasion of 1974, the continuing occupation of one third of the island by 35,000 Turkish troops and the forcible transfer of over 200,000 people from their homes, the United Nations has repeatedly called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the island, the return of the refugees to their homes in safety, the restoration of the human rights of all Cypriots and respect for the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and unity of the Republic of Cyprus.

The UN Security Council has also clarified several times its position on the specific parameters of a settlement by reiterating that:" a Cyprus settlement must be based on a State of Cyprus with a single sovereignty, and international personality and a single citizenship, with its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded and comprising two politically equal communities as described in the relevant Security Council resolutions, in a bi-communal and bi-zonal federation and that such a settlement must exclude union in whole or in part with any other country or any form of partition or secession"

Several initiatives have been launched and many efforts have been exerted throughout the years to reach an agreement on the basis of those resolutions and the parameters endorsed. But no progress has been achieved for the simple reason that the Turkish Government and the Turkish Cypriot leadership have all along lacked the political will for a settlement. In fact, they still maintain that that the new "realities" should be accepted, meaning the occupation, the forcible division of the country and the people, the illegal secession and the continuing violation of human rights.

Persistent efforts of the United Nations, the US and the EU to produce progress, have been frustrated by the Turkish side over the years. Nevertheless, as a result of a new concerted effort and the pressure generated by the fact that Cyprus' accession to the EU is imminent, peace negotiations resumed in Nicosia last January. This is the first time when direct negotiations are taking place in a sustained manner and without interruption. President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash have been holding face-to-face bi-weekly meetings in search of a long elusive resolution to the 28-year-old division of this strategically located island in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Despite the international attention and all the efforts exerted by so many players, no progress has been achieved so far and the negotiating process has been extremely slow to the point that the UN Security Council, which is regularly briefed by the UNSG's Special Adviser, has felt the need to recently make its concern known. In a May 3rd, 2002 statement the UN Security Council expressed regret that progress in the talks has been slow. The Council urged both sides, and in particular the Turkish side, to cooperate fully with the Secretary General's Special Adviser in efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement, which takes full consideration of relevant UN resolutions and treaties.

Two weeks ago, the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, visited the island to bolster the peace negotiations. On leaving the island, he stressed that " an historic opportunity exists now to reach a comprehensive settlement. There is no doubt in my mind", he added, " that this would be in the interest of both sides and the region and this opportunity must be seized". The Secretary General expressed his conviction that with the necessary political will a solution can be reached on the four core issues, governance, security, territory and properties, by the target date of June 2002.

It is our earnest hope that the day will soon come when Mr. Denktash will change his negative attitude and find the long awaited political will needed to discuss seriously within the parameters set by the UN resolutions.

The successful completion of these talks by the agreed target date of June 2002, offers an important opportunity for all interested parties, Turkish Cypriots, Greek Cypriots, Greece, Turkey, the United States, the European Union, and NATO.

What is of urgency needed right now is a much stronger U.S. push in the direction of the Turkish side to abandon its unacceptable demands for two separate, sovereign states in Cyprus, a demand that the U.S. opposes and which has been the cause for the lack of progress so far.

It also remains of paramount importance that the human rights of all the citizens of Cyprus should be fully respected and guaranteed under a federal arrangement, which has to be also compatible with the legislation of the European Union, whose membership Cyprus is seeking.

Failure on the part of the international community to impress upon Turkey to put an end to her illegal occupation and to reunify Cyprus, would strike a heavy blow on internationally accepted norms and principles and it would be an invitation to instability and tension.

On the contrary, a unified, multiethnic and multicultural Cyprus is in accord with cherished United States basic norms and principles, namely freedom, justice and respect for diversity that make up the American reality. Reunification would, therefore, be a triumph for democracy, for human rights and for the rule of law.

Reunifying peacefully the European Continent is the goal of the enlargement process. Cyprus is an integral part of this remarkable process and is leading the group of candidate countries currently negotiating their membership to the European Union. Cyprus has provisionally closed 28 out of the 29 chapters of the European legislation and is expected to complete negotiations within the next couple of months.

Membership of Cyprus in the European Union, which is expected to be decided this coming December, would provide the appropriate environment for the two communities to find a common home and live together as European citizens. The experience of other European Union countries to that effect is a very positive one in projecting a Union where reconciliation and cooperation have replaced years of enmity, confrontation and mistrust. Cyprus is a European democracy of long standing and is prepared and capable of playing a greater role by contributing to the Union's political and economic goals.

Admitting Cyprus to the EU will extend Europe geographically, politically, economically and culturally, to the edge of the Middle East. This will give the union a greater voice in efforts to promote peace, stability, democratization and economic advancement in this troubled region.

Cyprus? political, economic and security interests coincide with those of European Union member-nations and the United States. It is therefore in Europe's and America's interest to extend the benefits of the EU to Cyprus and to allow Cyprus to contribute to the strength and well-being of the Union.

Cyprus holds in common with the EU and the US some important values and policies: We are a democratic nation. We extend the full range of political rights and civil liberties to our citizens. We have developed a strong economy based on free trade and open markets. Through the European Union, we hope to secure the further advancement in all these spheres and to share the benefits and responsibilities deriving from membership.

Reunification and membership to the European Union is not a zero-sum game for Cyprus, the Union, Turkey or United States interests. Any gain for one can also be a gain for the other and could be to the benefit of the relationship between them. It can of course be primarily beneficial for all the citizens of Cyprus, particularly the Turkish Cypriots, who have been forced to grow separately for the past 28 years. The European Union can be the new catalyst that will work in the direction of bringing them back together in a new relationship of cooperation and partnership as citizens of a common homeland and as citizens of Europe.

Another important angle in the whole equation has been the fact that Greece and Turkey, two NATO allies, have been at the threshold of war during most part of the last 50 years, thus causing concern to the Alliance in general and to the United States in particular.

Tensions between Greece and Turkey have been a thorn in NATO's side, slowing down operations and diverting attention and resources to resolving conflict between the two allies, rather than attaining NATO objectives. Resolution of the Cyprus problem would remove one of the biggest problems in Greek-Turkish relations, helping to strengthen NATO operations, particularly after September 11 when international coalitions have become increasingly important to U.S. policy objectives in the fight against international terrorism.

It has to be noted that while a number of other issues have kept Greek-Turkish relations strained throughout the years, the Cyprus problem, has remained the most divisive and contentious issue, constantly poisoning and weakening their cooperation within the Alliance.

As a result of continuing Turkish threats and provocations, arms build-up and excessive arms spending have grown to dangerous proportions and have deprived Greece, Turkey and Cyprus of vital resources that could have been used in further strengthening and consolidating their respective economies and in augmenting the prosperity of their people. Particularly, in the case of Turkey with the crumbling situation of its economy, the half billion plus dollars spent every year to sustain the military occupation on the island, could certainly find a much better use back home.

The increased tension between Greece and Turkey over the Cyprus issue has manifested itself in a number of ways over the years. An illegally divided Cyprus only adds to the tension and increases the risk of a tragic confrontation that could have unpredictable consequences.

Undoubtedly, a Greek- Turkish rapprochement remains the desirable alternative. A lot has already been done in this direction as a result of a concerted effort on the part of the two countries. But, rapprochement and better relations will not go far and will neither be consolidated nor succeed without a just, workable and durable solution of the Cyprus problem.

It is to be expected that, as long as the present status quo on Cyprus continues and as long as Turkish troops occupy 37 percent of the island?s territory, forcibly dividing Cyprus and its people, Greek-Turkish relations will not be fully normalized and the inflammable situation in and around the island will continue to pose a threat to peace and stability in the region.

There is no doubt that a stronger and more stable enlarged Europe and a stronger and more stable reunified Cyprus can be to the benefit of the transatlantic relationship and can be a win-win situation on both sides of the Atlantic.

Cyprus has set itself a goal: of being fully integrated, peaceful and prosperous. Removing the barriers of division and separation is a historic challenge and responsibility. It gives a new hope for peace and for a better future for the island as a whole. It provides a forward- looking, positive vision that once fulfilled could help in realizing the wider goal of stabilizing the continent and unifying Europe.

Cyprus' membership in the European Union would primarily benefit Cyprus but it could also be of benefit to the European Union itself, because it will prove the therapeutic effects of the enlargement process and of the unification of the continent in ensuring democratic stability and economic prosperity to the countries of Europe.

As far as the European Union orientation of Turkey is concerned, the best way to facilitate and expedite Turkey's own EU accession process is through the solution of the Cyprus problem and reunification of the island, with Greek and Turkish Cypriots participating in a new federal arrangement. Turkey should also support Cyprus' accession to the EU and abandon its threats of annexation. That means definitely a shift from Turkey's longtime expansionist policies and the withdrawal of its illegal military presence on the island.

Finally accession of Cyprus to the EU would also benefit United States interests not only because of anticipated improvement of Greek Turkish relations, but also because Cyprus will become a vibrant outpost of the European Union closer to the region of the Middle East and ready to assist in bringing peace, stability and prosperity to a region that has been torn by confrontation and violence for nearly half a century.

Cyprus's geo-strategic value in the ongoing war against international terrorism and in the efforts for peace and stability in the explosive area of the Middle East as well as in the fragile Eastern Mediterranean region, is becoming increasingly important.

Continued division and instability in Cyprus is in no one?s interest. At a time when Washington is putting all its energy to combat international terrorism, it is essential that all conflicts that are remnants of the last century should be resolved and removed from the agenda, so that all attention and resources are focused on the big picture.

The implications and importance of a Cyprus settlement are increasingly being recognized, as is the need for engagement by all parties concerned to push for a sustainable solution. As the negotiations in Cyprus proceed, we look to the United States to exercise its unmatched leadership in that direction.

After more than a quarter of a century of division, Cyprus has managed to rebuild and develop politically and economically. It has also managed to sustain its democratic ideals and the values to which every European nation aspires. But it has been deprived of the opportunity to realize its full potential. The Cypriots, like all other people must be able to live and work together in a reunified homeland, member of the European Union. To make it happen is the big challenge and the big opportunity at this turning point in the 21st century.

For all the reasons outlined above, conditions have never been more auspicious for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem. I hope you share our belief that reunification of Cyprus and its accession to the European Union is a Win-Win and would serve the interests of all parties concerned , Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, the United States, the European Union, the UN and NATO.

We now, more than ever, have a historic opportunity of solving one of the most intractable international problems and bringing a whole and free Cyprus into the European Union. Such a development would benefit all. The U.S., the EU and the international community cannot afford to overlook the strategic interests at stake in Cyprus. Issues related to regional stability, NATO coherence and the European Union enlargement- including Turkey's own European orientation- are closely related to Cyprus' reunification and membership in the EU. Now is the time to end the division and create a Win-Win situation for the Cypriots, the region and beyond.

Based on the Helsinki December 1999 decision of the European Union, a Cyprus settlement, though desirable, is not a precondition for Cyprus' accession, which is imminent. We sincerely hope that our Turkish Cypriot compatriots will soon realize the benefits that they as a community and all citizens of Cyprus will have from bringing about reunification of our common homeland and its accession to the EU. We hope that their leadership and the Government of Turkey will finally cooperate to make this vision a reality.

Let me conclude with the words of the British Minister for Europe, Peter Hain, from a speech last month while visiting the last divided capital in the world, Nicosia:

"The original driving force of European construction- reconciliation between enemies, to heal the wounds of history - is nowhere more relevant than here, where I stand today. The new Europe consigned the Maginot Line to the dustbin of history. I want European Enlargement to do the same for the Green Line. Accession by a re-united Cyprus would be an example to all Europeans of what European Enlargement can achieve."

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