Speech by President Christofias on: “The Cyprus problem: Back to the negotiation table,” at the 14th Round Table Discussion of “The Economist,” in Athens
Athens, April 29 – The President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Demetris Christofias, participated in a Round Table discussion organized by The Economist in Athens, entitled, “The Cyprus problem: Back to the negotiation table.” In his speech at the event, President Christofias said the following:
“It is a great pleasure for me to participate once again in the Round Table Discussion organized by The Economist, a renowned forum which always offers the opportunity for discussion and food for thought on important and topical issues.
The subject of my intervention is: “The Cyprus problem: Back to the negotiating table.” I have to say that when I accepted the invitation to attend and speak at today’s forum, I had a different content in mind regarding my intervention.
My original intention was to inform you about the efforts we made and the initiatives we undertook since the first day I took office as President of the Republic of Cyprus and as negotiator of the Greek Cypriot side to find a solution to the Cyprus problem as soon as possible. However, the election of Mr. Dervis Eroglu to the leadership of the Turkish-Cypriot community to replace Mr. Mehmet Ali Talat, who was until recently my interlocutor, obliges me to change the focus of my intervention.
I will start by making a very brief reference and evaluation of the negotiations until today, starting from the efforts and the initiatives we undertook that led to overcoming the stagnation of the Cyprus problem which had lasted for almost four years. These led to the resuming of dialogue and negotiations between the two communities of Cyprus aiming at putting an end to the occupation and at the reunification of our country our people, Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots.
Bi-communal dialogue is the means to the solution of issues regarding the structure of the Cypriot state and the role of both communities in it, i.e. the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem, as provided for by many Resolutions of the United Nations Organization.
Since 1974 many rounds of talks took place and many initiatives were undertaken without, however, leading to the desirable result, which is the solution to the problem.
A solution providing for the evolution of the unitary bicommunal state of the Republic of Cyprus into a federal, bicommunal one. This solution had been agreed upon by both Cypriot communities since 1977 and was reaffirmed in 1979 in the Agreements between the leaders of the two communities under the auspices of the United Nations. The solution of bi zonal, bicommunal federation is the historic compromise on the part of the Greek-Cypriot side, the largest community in terms of population, in order to terminate the Turkish occupation and the de facto division and to reunite the country and the people.
The bizonal, bicommunal federation has been adopted by a number of UN Resolutions and all efforts to reach a solution have been undertaken on this basis. Of course, in order to solve the Cyprus problem, solving the internal aspects of the problem is not enough. The international aspects of the problem also need to be solved: Τhe presence of Turkish troops, in violation of the international law, that occupy a large part of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus since 1974; the presence of tens of thousands of settlers that Turkey has illegally installed in the northern occupied part of the Republic of Cyprus, thus altering the demographic character of the country; the issues regarding security and guarantees which are unnecessary for a member state of the European Union.
With our initiatives and the positive response by the former leader of the Turkish-Cypriot community, Mr. Talat, we resumed bicommunal dialogue under the auspices of the Secretary-General of the UN. Together with Mr. Talat we reaffirmed the basis of the negotiations in two joint communiqués, on 23 of May and on 1July 2008.
We agreed that the solution would provide for the reunification of Cyprus in the framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality as described in the respective resolutions of the UN, for a state with one and indivisible sovereignty, single citizenship and single international personality.
Together with Mr. Talat and the Secretary General of the United Nations, we had also agreed on the negotiating procedure. This provides for reaching a mutually agreed solution between the two communities, without artificial timetables and arbitration procedures, which shall be put forward for approval by both communities in simultaneous and separate referenda.
On this basis we worked together with Mr. Talat in the framework of direct negotiations for almost eighteen months. These bore fruit, there was progress in some aspects of the essence of the Cyprus problem but it is true that we were hoping for greater progress. We worked by submitting reasonable and realistic proposals on the negotiating table which are based upon the principles of solution of the Cyprus problem. Our proposals take seriously into consideration the true interests of all Cypriots, Greek-Cypriots, Turkish-Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins.
The progress that was reached was a result of convergence that we achieved in the chapter on governance and power sharing but also in the chapters on the economy and European issues. In all other aspects, even in those where we achieved convergence, significant disagreements and points of divergence were ascertained that require hard work to bridge.
It is our belief that in the eighteen months of the discussions with Mr. Talat the progress that was achieved could be greater, if the Turkish Cypriot community had adopted a position similar to ours. This would have been achieved had it been truly autonomous and not under guidance from Turkey, if it had a more constructive stance at the negotiating table and if it had worked hard to formulate the content of the solution in a consistent way on the basis of bizonal, bicommunal federation.
As it is well known, negotiations were interrupted due to the electoral process in the occupied part of Cyprus to elect a leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. The victory of Mr. Eroglu, given his long-held divisive positions on the Cyprus problem, gave rise to a justified concern in the international community regarding the prospects of negotiations. We have to say that we are very much worried as well.
Since the beginning we had believed that Mr. Eroglu’s policy would create further problems in the negotiations. I have to say that the first indications of Mr. Eroglu’s approaches reaffirm and reinforce our concerns.
The content of the letter he sent to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, as well as his interviews and statements prove that Mr. Eroglu continues to maintain the same positions on the Cyprus problem. These positions are in direct conflict with the UN Resolutions on Cyprus as well as the 1977 and 1979 High Level Agreements.
Mr. Eroglu refers to the existence of two peoples and two Republics. But it is well-known that on the basis of the Treaty of Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus but also the 1960 Constitution, there is only one people in Cyprus consisting of two communities, the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot. Besides, this is the reason why the High Level Agreements between the leaders of the two communities provide for bicommunal federation.
The declaration by Turkey of an illegal state, the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, in the occupied part in November 1983, has been condemned by the UN Security Council Resolutions 541 and 550 as a secessionist act. It has been considered as invalid and they call upon all states not to recognize the illegal status.
The political equality to which the UN Resolutions refer and which Mr. Talat accepted, is the political equality of the two communities and not of two sovereign peoples, as Mr. Eroglu supports.
In Mr. Eroglu’s statements there is no reference to bizonal, bicommunal federation which is the agreement between the two Cypriot communities, and it is also the UN position as well as the position of European Union’s and other international organizations. Mr. Eroglu reiterates his position on co-operation of two separate different states. This is a model of loose confederation and not of a federation. A federation is a state, confederation is not even a state.
We are not in a hurry to reach final conclusions. We calmly wait to see which are the true positions Mr. Eroglu will put forward on the negotiating table. However, we consider that it is useful and necessary for the international community and the European Union to assume their responsibilities and move towards the direction of Mr. Eroglu and Turkey and ask them to clarify their positions.
What is imperative is to reaffirm the agreed basis on which talks are carried out for the solution of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality as described in the respective UN Resolutions, on one state with one and only sovereignty, one nationality and one international identity. It is also imperative to continue the negotiations in the framework of the same procedure from the point they were interrupted.
There is an essential reason for doing this and it is related to the solution sought. Reaffirmation of the basis of the solution will not allow any of the two sides, and especially Mr. Eroglu with his well-known divisive positions, to deviate from what both communities have agreed.
Following Mr. Eroglu’s victory, with letters to the UN’s Secretary-General and the five permanent members of the Security Council as well as the European Union, we clearly reiterated our commitment to the basis of the solution as well as our readiness to continue negotiations from the point they were interrupted. Our position was heralded by everybody.
The Turkish-Cypriot side cannot handle on its own the Cyprus problem and first and foremost take decisions on the solution of the problem without the consent and the respective decisions of Turkey. The role of Turkey in solving the Cyprus problem, as indicated in the Conclusions of the European Council of last December, is critical.
As the Conclusions ascertain once again, Turkey did not play this critical role as it should have done in order to achieve a solution based on the UN resolutions and the principles and values of the EU. It is the European Union that calls upon Turkey to work in order to promote the solution and not merely confine itself in declarations as it has been doing until today.
Turkey must change its stance. It is imperative that it abandons the communication tricks and prove in reality that it wants to solve the Cyprus problem. Turkey has to prove that it respects the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus which it violates and to give the green light to the Turkish Cypriot leadership for a serious and effective negotiation to achieve a true federation.
Turkey needs to understand that the solution of the Cyprus problem will help in realizing its ambitions to join the European Union. We, as the Republic of Cyprus, support the European perspective and the accession of Turkey to the European Union. Its accession to the European Union, however, cannot be a carte blanche. The progress of its accession course is linked to the degree it fulfills its obligations. This is a position that Turkey must take into consideration and adapt its conduct accordingly.
With regard to its obligations vis-à-vis the European Union in relation to the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey insists on its negative stance. It continues not to recognize the Republic of Cyprus and does not open its ports and airports to it. This causes even greater problems since a large number of its accession chapters are frozen.
Reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem shall be a catalyst for the promotion of the broader ambitions of Turkey and it shall upgrade its credibility. The continuation of the same stance which impedes the achievement of a solution, the continuation of Turkey’s refusal to implement its European obligations undermines and shatters its credibility and causes first of all problems to itself.
It is obvious that the solution of the Cyprus problem on the basis of the UN Resolutions, the principles of the international and European law and the High Level Agreements between the two communities will be a positive marker in the international political arena and also for all stakeholders.
The solution to the Cyprus problem will work positively for the United Nations Organization, which has been dealing with it since 1964, since the negotiations for its solution are undertaken under its auspices and initiatives.
The solution of the Cyprus problem will be to the advantage of the European Union since it will not have to content itself with a problem that has many side effects.
Undoubtedly, the solution will be a positive step for the further development of Greek-Turkish relations but also for the creation of conditions to ease the situation in the turbulent region of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.
As we have demonstrated, the benefit will be important for Turkey as well.
The greatest benefit, however, will be for the reunified Federal Republic of Cyprus and its people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The solution shall open up new horizons for development and progress and Cypriots will be able to reap the benefits of lasting peace, security and prosperity in a modern European state.
The reunified Federal Republic of Cyprus shall be the solid ground on which Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will build their common future and, at the same time, each community will be able to cultivate its distinct cultural, religious and linguistic identity. A peaceful, reunified and prosperous Cyprus is my vision. I shall continue to dedicate all my efforts in order to make this vision a reality.”