PRESS CONFERENCE BY FOREIGN MINISTER IOANNIS KASOULIDES
September 20, 2002
Minister Kasoulides: I have followed the General Debate in the General Assembly and the main conclusion from this debate is that what has dominated the debate on all the issues that were raised was the necessity to implement the UN Resolutions. I think on the issue of Cyprus about which I am going to speak today, the cornerstone of any future peace and security is indeed the implementation of the Security Council resolutions. Security Council resolutions that were a result of the wisdom of the international community and have not been decided upon lightly or from taking the side of one or the other sides in the dispute. This wisdom has to prevail in Cyprus and has to apply also in Cyprus.
As you know under the aegis of the Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Kofi Annan, and based on the Good Offices Mission mandated to him by the Security Council, talks are taking place in Cyprus since last January. If no progress has been achieved so far it is because on the main issues, the positions advocated by the Turkish side are well outside the spirit and the letter of Security Council resolutions. The Secretary General has met with the two leaders in Paris on the 6th of September and he will meet with them again on the 3rd and 4th of October here in New York. His recommendations and the thoughts he has expressed to both leaders may help in breaking the present impasse. So far, unfortunately, I cannot report that in Nicosia subsequently to the meeting in Paris, the recommendations given by the Secretary General were adequately addressed, in particular by the Turkish-Cypriot leader Mr. Denktash.
I hope that the window of opportunity that is getting narrower and narrower is still open in front of us and we will exploit it to the fullest, so that a settlement at long last is reached in Cyprus before the date that is considered to be the closing of the window of opportunity ? which is the 12th December when the EU in Copenhagen will decide about the accession of Cyprus to the EU. The Helsinki European Union conclusions do not consider as a precondition the settlement of the Cyprus problem before the accession of the country to the EU. Of course, all of us would prefer a reunited Cyprus joining the EU. If Cyprus is not reunited by then, be assured it will not be due to the lack of effort or constructive approach by the Government of Cyprus and President Clerides. I don?t think that any country should have the right to veto the accession of Cyprus. These are my initial remarks.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Ted Morello (First Vice-President of the UN Correspondents Association): Minister on behalf of the UN Correspondents Association let me welcome you to this briefing, my question is considering that on resolutions of any kind from the Security Council all the aspects are not implemented simultaneously, can you tell us of the resolution that you refer to, has a first step been taken? What do you consider to be the first step?
Mr. Kasoulides: I think that the issue of Cyprus has been debated for a very long time, we have been negotiating the solution of the Cyprus problem for the last 28 years. The time has come for a comprehensive settlement without considering first or second steps. Everything is there, everything has been debated. It?s a question of like a jigsaw puzzle, putting together into a comprehensive settlement all of the ideas that are mutually agreed upon by both sides. The main importance of the Security Council resolutions is the vision of the Security Council regarding the future of Cyprus. This vision has been repeated in numerous UN resolutions describing one state of Cyprus with a single sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship, with two politically equal communities and the Security Council is defining again what ?political equality? means, so that it is not confused with numerical equality. Political equality means equal rights for both communities both in the central state and in the regions. This country of Cyprus would be in the form of a bicommunal, bizonal federation. I think that this is a compromise that has been taking place since the 1977 and 1979 High Level Agreements signed by the late President Makarios and late President Kyprianou on the one side and Mr. Denktash on the other side and on this compromise we must build the settlement of the Cyprus question. Being asked now to compromise on the compromise is something that simply cannot be done.
Question: Mr. Foreign Minister, you stated that by December the window of opportunity is going to close and I wonder what will happen after that?
Mr. Kasoulides: After that I am sure that another window of opportunity will have to open. In diplomacy this always takes place. What I meant by this window of opportunity was the prospect of the decision by the EU for the accession of Cyprus into the EU. I believe that if we reasonably calculate what is in the interest of all parties concerned, in my view it is in the interest of all the parties concerned that a reunited Cyprus joins the EU. It is in the interest of Cyprus, and it is evident that it is in the interest of both the Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots. All the people of Cyprus will benefit from the accession of Cyprus to the EU, in particular the Turkish-Cypriot community that is now in a position of political isolation and economic disadvantage. A reunified Cyprus joining the EU will offer tremendous economic advantages to the areas of Cyprus that are now under Turkish military occupation and have been economically deprived from the progress that has taken place on the rest of the island.
Secondly, in my view it is in the interest of Turkey, that a reunited Cyprus joins the EU because a Cyprus co-governed by Greek Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots would be a country that would be an advocate of the serious desire of Turkey to proceed towards joining the EU when she is prepared and ready.
Thirdly, I think that this in the interest of Greece because in this way Greece will feel much more comfortable if Cyprus being an equal member with the other member states of the Union can proceed with her own role without the present responsibilities that Greece has towards Cyprus because of the presence of the Turkish army in Cyprus.
Finally, it will be in the interest of the EU as a whole, because a country without the problem of division will join the EU. This is the window of opportunity that this prospect is creating but for all this to apply properly the solution has to come about before the 12th of December, otherwise of course our position is that the efforts to reunite our country will continue. Other windows of opportunity will have to be created and I can visualize one that will combine the interest of Turkey to join the EU with the interest of the Cypriots to see their country reunited and making the best use of these two factors to achieve finally the reunification of Cyprus. However, the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem will continue until the problem is solved ? there should be no doubt about that.
Question: Is Cyprus occupied by one foreign power or two foreign powers?
Mr. Kasoulides: As far as I know and as far as the Security Council has always found, 37% of the territory of Cyprus, an independent, sovereign state, member of the UN is under military occupation by Turkey. This is also the finding of the European Court of Human Rights which considered both in the Loizidou case and the state case between Cyprus and Turkey that what happens in northern Cyprus which is under the occupation of the Turkish army, is the responsibility of Turkey. I have never seen any court or independent body finding that the other part of Cyprus is also under occupation.
Question: The other side claims that it has been occupied by the Greek side before, because the people of the Turkish minority were under occupation and that is why they wanted to have equal rights and responsibilities.
Mr. Kasoulides: You touch upon two issues, the first issue is of course what happened in the past and I am sure that if the people from both communities are asked about what exactly happened in the period of the ?60s they will have their own version of things. The claim that one community was under the occupation of the other community is something very far fetched. I suggest as you are here at the seat of the UN that you seek to read the reports made by UNFICYP ? the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, during the period of the ?60s when the peacekeeping force arrived after the intercommunal strife. You will read there, suggestions by the officers of UNFICYP that the Turkish-Cypriots that moved into enclaves at the time and were not allowed to circulate freely in the rest of the Republic of Cyprus, were there because of the choice of the Turkish-Cypriot leadership at the time and this was done despite UNFICYP?s advice that it was very safe and they were guaranteed that they could move freely and circulate freely with the rest of the population. Papers were also found in the custody of some Turkish-Cypriot leaders that talked about a plan to deliberately separate the population of Cyprus and deliberately create fear and propaganda about lack of safety in order to prepare the ground for the geographic partition of Cyprus. You will see that there are different versions of the history of that period.
Let me not dwell much more on the history of that period because I know that the Cypriots have been living together in peace and harmony for centuries and I do not accept that it is a justification to condemn our country to permanent partition and therefore perpetuate the present status quo with the presence of the Turkish army in northern Cyprus due to one version of a story of what took place in the ?60s. On the contrary I think that the future is common to all Cypriots and it is time to forgive and forget and look toward the future and not the past. A past that even I was only 12 years old at the time and I don?t think I can consider my generation or the one that followed mine as responsible for what happened.
On the other hand you raised the second issue of the claim of the Turkish-Cypriot community?s seeking political equality because of the events of some time ago. This acknowledgment of political equality, the acceptance of a bicommunal, bizonal federation and other issues have been agreed upon since 1977 and 1979. The response to this desire of the Turkish-Cypriot community has been accorded by the Greek-Cypriot community since then. Why then is there a question of ?that political equality has not been implemented?? Isn?t this really what they wanted to do? Or is it because as Mr. Ecevit said very recently ?northern Cyprus is necessary for the Turkish Army and is necessary for the protection of the southern flank of Turkey, and the Ceyhan Maritime routes?. Is it really because of the Turkish-Cypriots that the Turkish army is in Cyprus? Or is it for other expansionary reasons known to Turkey, this is the question.
Question: You said a compromise is in place, and being asked to compromise on the compromise was something that could not be done? Does that imply that there is no wiggle room in your position?
Mr. Kasoulides: On the contrary I am referring to the present positions of the Turkish side which insist on the creation of a settlement based on the concept of two separate, sovereign, independent states with a link between them which is not even a state without a central constitution, without a legislature voted directly for the central state by the whole population to hold allegiance to that state. In 1977 and 1979 Mr. Denktash signed agreements based on the concepts of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, now he is talking about confederation and what he is describing is even worse than that. That?s the compromise on the compromise.
Question: Minister, the position of the two parties is far apart. I wonder what do you expect from the meeting in October to achieve and secondly do you think there should be another meeting after the third and the fourth of October, before December?
Mr. Kasoulides: As you know, there are talks taking place in Cyprus twice a week. Following the Paris meeting of 6 September the leaders have met already four times and they are ready to meet for another two or three before the third and fourth October. And subsequently to the third and fourth October meeting here, they will continue meeting in Cyprus, and I think they will continue meeting up to December. So far as we are concerned, we will be there with our constructive attitude as was demonstrated by the statements made by the President of the Security Council up to that time, continuing the efforts for a settlement. Now the positions of the sides are far apart. It is true that it is the philosophy, which separates the opinions of the two sides so much. As I have described before, are we talking about one country, about one state, or are we talking about two states? If the Turkish side abandons, in line with general international opinion ,the concept of the two sovereign state solution and seeks a compromise within the concept of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with one single sovereignty, international personality and citizenship, then of course there is great room for compromise.
Question: Mr. Minister are you happy with the contacts you have had thus far? And secondly today you are addressing the General Assembly, what is the main point of your address tonight as far as the Cyprus problem is concerned?
Mr. Kasoulides: First of all yes, I am satisfied with the contacts. It was a very productive period of ten days during the General Debate because most of my colleagues from the European Union where there and I had the opportunity to talk to them. Also I had the opportunity to talk with officials from the United States Government and the UK and I met with Jack Straw, my colleague the Foreign Secretary. And also we had other issues, Cyprus is not a one issue country. Cyprus belongs to the region of the Middle East, of the Eastern Mediterranean. It has excellent relations with the countries in the region, the Arab world and Israel; Cyprus has been trying to be as useful as possible, using her capacity as everybody?s friend in the Middle East. One example is the contribution of Cyprus to the successful end to the standoff of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. There are other issues and these have given me the opportunity to have contacts about the Middle East and about other world affairs. I have had a lot of contacts with friends from the Islamic Conference. There is a present effort now that in all international fora, be it the Non-Aligned Movement, Islamic Conference, United Nations uniformly face issues like the issue of Cyprus and other issues will be faced uniformly. I don?t think it is serious that countries can vote in one of the forum for the same thing and differently in another.
My speech tonight is going to be addressing the international issues on the one hand and of course the issue of Cyprus on the other hand, in a way that reconfirms a number of principles, principles that have to apply for the rest of the world, that do apply for the rest of the world and have to apply for Cyprus. But also our readiness for a constructive attitude in order to reach a settlement in the coming months.
Question: The Church of the Nativity issue you have mentioned before - can you tell us what happened with the 13th Palestinian? Is there a permanent solution to the issue?
Mr. Kasoulides: The 13th Palestinian is a guest in Cyprus and he will remain in Cyprus until the efforts made by the European Union, by Mr. Solana and his associates are successful so that he goes to another country for a long-term duration. I think we are on a good track.
Question: What is the main obstacle you have now in order to unify the conflict of interests?
Mr. Kasoulides: I think that the main obstacle is the insistence by Mr. Denktash on two separate sovereignties. And I want to be very frank and explain. For us having known the past history, recent past history with the presence of the Turkish Army and the de facto division of the island we believe that separate sovereignty means the legal right for legal partition in the future and we love our country. We love northern Cyprus as much as we love southern Cyprus because Cyprus is not like Serbia and Montenegro or the Czech Republic and Slovakia where Slovakia belonged always to the Slovaks and Montenegro always to the Montenegrins. The whole of the island of Cyprus belongs equally to both communities and therefore one cannot designate a part of the country to belong to the one community and another part to the other. So for us, it is unthinkable to accept terms of a settlement that would prepare the ground for a legal divorce. And just saying ?secession is prohibited? is not good enough. Because secession was prohibited in the 1960 Treaties. Secondly it is not only a question of secession it is a question of dissolution of the State of Cyprus, the international personality of the State of Cyprus. We are seeking a solution and not a recipe for dissolution. This is the main stumbling block.
Question: There is a conflict in understanding because in the 60?s - of course you were younger - we saw pictures of tombs ?.
Mr. Kasoulides: Do you want me to show you tombs from the other side? Because you know only the one side?s tombs, let me show you from the other side. Do you remember a village named Kontemenos? Have you heard about a cargo ship named ?Deniz? that was found full of arms in 1961 before the intercommunal strife, coming from Turkey and destined for the Turkish Cypriot organization TMT? So if we begin with this, it will be a tit for tat and serves no purpose. I was 12 years old and I have no intention for me and my daughter tomorrow to perpetuate this issue. I prefer to talk about peace and about the future. ******