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AP interview: Ambassador says Washington shouldn't discount Cyprus when supporting Turkey
2006-01-30 11:47:40

AP Worldstream
January 28, 2006

By GIOVANNA DELL'ORTO
Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA-Washington should not wave aside the needs of Cyprus in its push for Turkey to become a member of the European Union, Cyprus' ambassador to the United States said Friday.

"My fundamental problem is when major powers look at Cyprus questions through their bilateral, regional and strategic interest with Turkey. ... If they look through that prism, we have no chance," Ambassador Euripides Evriviades told The Associated Press.

The ambassador gave an interview in Atlanta, where he traveled to bolster trade relations and meet with former President Jimmy Carter over Middle East developments.

The United States has long backed Turkey's bid to join the EU, which formally started talks in October, saying membership of the overwhelmingly Muslim nation will boost stability in the region. Cyprus became an EU member in 2004.

Cyprus, which is divided between a Greek Cypriot south _ ruled by the island's internationally recognized government _ and a Turkish-occupied north, also supports Turkey's membership bid, but can't be as accommodating as other powers appear to be, Evriviades said.

"Sometimes the United States push too hard, to the point that some European officials have told them to lay off," he said. "In Nicosia, we're open to the assumption that Turkey will become a member, and we're supporting it. But Turkey has obligations to the EU which include obligations to Cyprus."

Foremost among those obligations is the "normalization of relations" between the two countries, starting with Ankara's recognition of Cyprus and the opening of its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels, Evriviades said.

To reunite the island, he said, Cyprus is ready to return to U.N. talks, as President Tassos Papadopoulos had said earlier this month, but any new plan must include the complete withdrawal of Turkish troops cannot require arbitration of substantive issues by the U.N. or other third parties.

"There needs to be an agreement between parties before going to a referendum," he said, referring to one of the problems with a draft settlement plan brokered by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Turkish Cypriots approved but Greek Cypriots rejected in separate referendums in 2004. "Cyprus as a member of the European Union shouldn't have any overlords."

Turkish troops also have no place on Cypriot soil, and property taken in Turkey's 1974 invasion should be acknowledged as belonging to refugees, who can decide whether to go back or seek compensation, Evriviades said.

A Cyprus reunited on those terms, poised as symbol of "the avoidance of the clash of civilizations" amid Middle Eastern tensions, would provide the EU and the U.S. with a member and ally "35 minutes away from Tel Aviv."

Evriviades said Nicosia is optimistic a solution to the island's division can be found in the 10 to 15 years he said Turkey would need to complete EU accession.

"Much more intractable problems were solved," he said.

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