US President wants close cooperation with new Cyprus President
Nicosia, Feb 26 – US President George Bush has sent a congratulatory letter to Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, on the occasion of the latter's election, noting the desire of the US Government to continue cooperating closely with the Government of Cyprus on a wide range of bilateral issues and in the search for a settlement that will reunify the island.
Speaking after a meeting with Mr. Christofias, US Ambassador to Cyprus Ronald Schlicher said that Mr. Christofias assured him that he had similar intentions as regards bilateral relations.
“Today I had the pleasure of meeting with President elect Christofias and the honor of presenting to him a letter from President Bush congratulating the President elect on his election, noting the desire of the US government to keep cooperating closely with the government of the Republic of Cyprus on a wide range of bilateral issues and of course as the most important issue in the search for a settlement that will reunify the island,” the US Ambassador said.
He added that Mr. Christofias assured him that “that he had similar intentions toward our relationship and we agreed to keep in touch and make very real and very practical the desires expressed in the letter and then the President elect responded to the letter.”
Asked about a possible new initiative on Cyprus, the Ambassador expressed hope that the contacts between the new President and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community will produce a situation in which the UN track moves forward very quickly.
“I think the UN has its own ideas about how to move forward as well. I think the international community is sending many notes of encouragement to the parties to get a process back on track and of course there is a body of UN work that will help the parties do that. We need to get to a substantive engagement of the issues as soon as possible and the parties and the UN are very capable of doing that,” Mr. Schlicher said, adding that “all of the different political events of the last year that arguably have slowed down the process are now complete. We don’t have to devote any attention to that. So let’s all devote our attention to getting back to negotiations”.
Replying to a question regarding the 8 July Agreement, reached in 2006 between outgoing President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, in the presence of UN Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Imbrahim Gambari, Mr. Schlicher said “the agreement is there and it’s a vehicle to be used.”
“ It provides a procedure by which the parties can engage but engagement itself is necessary but what they really need to engage in is not just the preparatory work but the substance of the issues so we need to find a way to using the available vehicles to get to substance as soon as possible,” he added.
Responding to questions on the parties’ convergence on this, he said “that’s up to the two parties and the UN to define. I think they are perfectly capable of getting together and coming up with a mutually agreed basis of engagement and we think that they need to do so as soon as possible.”
The Ambassador said that at this stage he had no information on a possible trip to Cyprus by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza.