President: Common Views with Turkish Cypriots but Differences with Turkey
Nicosia, Feb 5 - President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias said on Thursday that the Greek Cypriot side shares common views with the Turkish Cypriot side but has serious differences with Turkey regarding the interpretation of a federal solution of the Cyprus problem.
The President stressed that Turkey cannot expect to join the EU as long as the Cyprus problem remains unsolved.
In his opening statement at a lunch for foreign correspondents in Cyprus, President Christofias said Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat has shifted his stance compared to the shared views they had as leaders of political parties, noting that Turkey has a serious role to play in a Cyprus settlement.
He said his vision was the reunification of Cyprus and its people, and for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to determine their fate, adding that the interpretation Turkey is giving for a new partnership of two equal states is unacceptable.
Regarding the direct negotiations he has been engaged in with Mr. Talat since early September 2008 for a settlement, President Christofias said they share views on the deadlock solving mechanism regarding the legislative authority and the judicial authority, with the issue of the deadlock solving mechanism for the executive authority remaining open, since there is a serious gap in views on how it will function.
Referring to the issue of properties, he said Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots have created fait accompli on the ground, noting that the main difference between the two sides is that the Turkish Cypriot side, while recognizing the right of choice, gives priority to compensation and exchange of property.
In his opening statement, President Christofias said the Cyprus problem is one of invasion and occupation, a problem of violation of international law over the past 35 years, a problem of restoring the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a state which is a member of the UN and the EU.
President Christofias made a short review of the history of the Cyprus problem, noting that his vision was “to see this country truly independent, free” and to see Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots living and working together in their common homeland.
He referred to the agreement between the first President of the Republic Archbishop Makarios III and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for a bizonal bicommunal federation, noting that each side interprets it differently.
“From the beginning there was a very different interpretation of the bicommunal bizonal federation from the two communities. The Greek Cypriot side considers to date that the state must be governed by a central government with strong powers, and be a result of an agreement between the leaders of the two communities.”
The interpretation of the Turkish side for “a new partnership of two equal states is unacceptable,” he added.
He also noted that with Mr. Talat, “we have agreed to talk as leaders of the two communities for a bizonal bicommunal federation solution, with political equality, as described in UN resolutions, for a united state with a single sovereignty, undivided, a single citizenship and a single international personality.”
“We share views with Mr. Talat in these issues and we have a serious difference with Turkey, which interprets in a totally different manner and of course in an unacceptable way the meaning of the federation we will reach,” he pointed out.
Referring to the issues being discussed at the talks, President Christofias said that on governance “our opinion is that the presidential system is tried and tested,” adding that “in order to secure the unity of the state and people, the President and Vice-President should be elected by both communities together” on a common ballot for a six-year term. Furthermore, the Greek Cypriot will be President and the Turkish Cypriot Vice-President for the first four years and then they will swap for the remaining two years, with a Council of Ministers from both communities.
Regarding the legislative authority, there will be a Senate and a House, with an equal number of senators and a proportional number of members of the House.
“In the legislative authority we are very close, although there are still some divergences,” he pointed out, adding that “there is agreement in the judicial authority, there is agreement in the deadlock solving mechanism for the legislative authority and the judicial authority but the issue of the deadlock solving mechanism for the executive authority remains open” since the Turkish Cypriots believe the President and Vice-President should be elected by the Senate and there should be a Presidential Council, with four Greek Cypriots and three Turkish Cypriots.
He added that “there is a serious difference in views on the issue of how it will work and there is agreement on other aspects of the governance issue.”
Regarding the issue of properties, President Christofias said it was a complex aspect of the Cyprus problem. “We base our view on principles,” he noted, adding that “we acknowledge that unfortunately Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots have created a fait accompli on the ground, have exploited Greek Cypriot properties they had no right to exploit, while the Republic of Cyprus placed the Turkish Cypriot properties under the protection of a guardian, in order to return them to the Turkish Cypriots.”
He explained that the owners of the properties should have the first word, with options including the return of the property to the owner, compensation, leasing or exchange of property, while the Turkish Cypriot side gives priority to compensation and exchange of property.
President Christofias noted that Mr. Talat “has shifted greatly from our common positions as leaders of parties,” adding that “Turkey is the occupying force, unfortunately with the presence of thousands of troops illegally, and of course unfortunately there is the financial dependence of the Turkish Cypriots on Turkey.”
“Turkey has a serious role to play, if it wants to play a positive role for a Cyprus settlement. We want to compel Turkey to play this positive role,” President Christofias added that “we support Turkey's accession to the EU, I want to make this clear, but not unconditionally” and that “the EU itself does not support Turkey's accession without any conditions.”
He noted that it was “a paradox for a country that wants to join the EU not to recognize a member state and not to open airports and ports to airplanes and ships of the EU member state.”
“We do not accept any terms from Turkey to meet its obligations towards the EU and Cyprus. So, Turkey itself holds the key to its EU accession, not Cyprus,” he added.
Regarding relations with Greece, President Christofias said they are based on friendship and cooperation, without any intervention in Cyprus's home affairs or the handling of the Cyprus problem. “Greece does not draft policies for us. Greece fully respects us,” he pointed out.