Senator Sarbanes asks US Ambassador-Designate to Nicosia for transparency and consultation with Cyprus Government
Washington DC, Nov 9 - US Ambassador-Designate to Cyprus Mr. Ronald L. Schlicher has pledged to ensure notification, participation, transparency and consultation with the Cyprus Government regarding the allocation of US aid to Cyprus.
He was replying to a question by Senator Paul Sarbanes, member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, during Mr. Schlicher's confirmation hearing on Wednesday, November 9th.
The Senator asked whether he would take steps to ensure that notification, participation, transparency and consultation between the US and Cypriot Government will take place. Mr. Sarbanes had referred to the Senate’s report accompanying the foreign operations appropriation bill for this year which says the committee is concerned that funds made available for bicommunal projects on Cyprus have been obligated without appropriate notification and participation of the government of Cyprus.
Mr. Schlicher replied: “Absolutely. As I understand it, we have standing mechanisms to work with the government of Cyprus and with the institutions on the northern side of the Island with whom we work. Those mechanisms are meant to afford the transparency that you so rightly point out. Frankly, before you pointed out the issue to me, sir, I was aware that it was a problem. But if I am confirmed I will make sure that that transparency which we seek and that consultation takes place.”
Senator Sarbanes also asked the Ambassador-Designate whether “the Cypriot government to which you refer is the Republic of Cyprus that is now a member of the European Union, is that correct?” Mr. Sclicher replied: “Yes sir, absolutely”.
Mr. Schichler also said: “The overwhelming challenge for an ambassador to Cyprus is to work with the Cypriot government, to work with the two communities, with the UN, other interested international players, to find a way to re-spark the political negotiations leading to a reunification of the island. Because all of these other issues, in fact, are touched by that overwhelming issue.”
On Senator Sarbanes’ concern that steps taken by the State Department, "to ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots" carry with them the risk of creating the impression that there's the possibility of the recognition of this rump state, therefore working counter to the objective of achieving a reunification of the island, the Ambassador-Designate said:
“Yes, sir, it is very important and thanks for the question. We recognize the government of Cyprus that is sitting in the Nicosia, we have since the creation of the state. The question of recognition of any other entity as a government is not on the table, it's not being sought, it's not being discussed.”
Senator Sarbanes then pointed out that this would be counter to UN resolutions.
Mr. Schlicher said: “I believe 541 and 550. In fact with the government in Nicosia we actually seek an even deeper and broader relationship, based on all the new issues that we have together. At the same time that we seek to broaden and deepen that already good relationship, we do see the need to keep channels of communication and cooperation open with the Turkish Cypriot community as well.”
He added, “That desire has always existed, but we think that it's been actually made more important in the wake of the referenda. We see the referendum on the northern side as actually changing the historical norm in the sense that it moves the Turkish Cypriot community from talk of succession to talk of reunification, we think it's really important that that dynamic of reunification remain there on the island. So the measures that we're taking vis-a-vis the north are in fact intended strictly to underpin that move toward reunification, not succession.”
Meanwhile, the American Hellenic Institute sent a letter to the Senate on the occasion of Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for the new US Ambassador.
In the letter, AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis calls upon the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as they conduct the confirmation hearings to take into consideration a number of undisputed facts, such as that the Republic of Cyprus, an European Union member, is currently in its 31st year of being illegally occupied and divided by Turkey – a US ally, a NATO member, and an aspiring EU country.
Referring to the rejection of a UN-proposed solution plan (the Annan Plan) by 76% of the Greek Cypriots, he notes that ever since the referendum the State Department has been openly looking for ways to shift the blame on to the Greek Cypriots by pursuing certain incremental measures to “ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots”.