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US Assistant Secretary of State Visits Cyprus
2008-07-07 10:54:41

Nicosia, July 7 - The United States support the solution of a bizonal bicommunal federation in Cyprus, US Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried said during a short visit to Cyprus, adding that the time has not been so favorable in many years for a settlement.

He described his meetings in Cyprus as productive and useful and expressed hope that the leaders of the two communities will be able to make progress and open full-fledged negotiations soon, pointing out that the US want to help but have no plan of their own to propose, since a settlement cannot be imposed from the outside.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr. Fried said the purpose of his trip was ''to demonstrate the support of the United States for the efforts of the two leaders, President Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat, to make progress under UN auspices to reach the point where comprehensive negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem can begin.''

''The US want to see a reunified island. We support a bizonal bicommunal federation, one nation, one citizenship, an undivided country, and we are impressed by the recent work of the two leaders, President Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat, as expressed in the March 21, May 23 and July 1 statements,'' Mr. Fried noted.

He added that during his short visit to the island, he met President Christofias, Mr. Talat, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus Tayie Brook Zerihoun, as well as senior officials, negotiators and politicians.

''My meetings were productive and useful. I was able to listen, to hear the concerns of both sides but also to hear the commitment of both sides to make progress. We hope that the leaders of this island will be able to make progress and open full-fledged negotiations soon,'' he said.

Mr. Fried pointed out that ''there is no American plan,'' explaining that ''we want to help but this is not an issue on which a settlement can be imposed from the outside.''

''We look to the leaders to show the way forward and we look forward to supporting them. There has been progress, not just good statements but the opening of the Ledra Street crossing, which I saw yesterday, is a tangible expression of the leaders' verbal commitment and written commitment to progress and it is a sign that progress is possible, so we applaud the efforts of the leaders of Cyprus to reunite this island,'' Mr. Fried added.

He noted that ''the time has not been so favorable in many years for a settlement'' and said ''we pledge ourselves to help as we may, working with the UN.''

''Time will not improve things so I hope things can move forward and we can see negotiations and progress towards a settlement as soon as possible,'' he added.

Asked when negotiations should be expected to start, Mr. Fried said the US look forward to the July 25 meeting between the leaders of the two communities. ''This is their timetable, not ours,'' he pointed out.

Invited to say what the US were prepared to do in order to avoid any possible consequences on the ongoing process by the situation in Turkey, Mr. Fried expressed certainty that the Turkish government supports a solution and hope that the Turks will settle their political differences in a way that will strengthen their democracy.

Mr. Fried pointed out that ''the problems are hard, these issues are not easy, they are tough, but I think the time is right to make progress,'' and expressed hope that developments in Turkey would not affect efforts to reach a settlement.

To questions regarding Cyprus' membership of the EU in relation to the content of a solution, Mr. Fried said ''the EU may have the ability to support this progress with technical and legal advice and I think that is a good thing but I should not prejudge and we should not prejudge or try to box in the leaders.''

Asked about remarks attributed to him that the US were giving Cyprus to Turkey through the Annan plan, Mr. Fried said this was ''the silliest press story I have encountered in some years'' and assured ''I never said it, I never thought it, that is a ridiculous thought and there is no truth to that, happily.''

Regarding press reports about the appointment of Alexander Downer as the UN special envoy for Cyprus, Fried said this was a matter concerning the UN. ''There have been a number of stories that the UN are prepared to take this step,'' he said, adding that ''we will work on ways in which we can support this process.''

He noted that UN Undersecretary General Lynn Pascoe, who was recently in Cyprus, is ''an extraordinarily able, capable, diligent and creative diplomat, so I think the stars are aligning for progress and I hope that we can make it.''

Invited to say if the US would be appointing an envoy for Cyprus, Mr. Fried said ''we want to do so when it makes sense,'' adding that ''this is something we will do in consultation with both sides in Cyprus.''

Asked about the recommendations he would be making on return to the US, Mr. Fried said his ''bottom line assessment will be that we need to get ready because there is a real chance, not a certainty, that we will be moving forward again in a way that we have not in some time.''

Replying to other questions, Mr. Fried said a lot of work has been done over the years regarding the Cyprus problem and that this work is available for the leaders and the negotiators to draw upon.

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