Speech by Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulides at the 30th Annual Cyprus and Hellenic Leadership Conference - July 15, 2014
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a distinct honour and pleasure to be with you today, amongst true friends.
I would like to convey President Anastasiades’ deepest gratitude and appreciation for the invaluable work you do for Cyprus here in the United States.
I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks to the organizers of the thirtieth Annual Cyprus and Hellenic Leadership Conference, and the leadership of PSEKA. We are truly grateful for your devotion to the cause of a re-unified Cyprus, which gives us courage and strengthens our efforts.
Though I have the podium at the moment, I am here primarily to listen, to discuss, and to develop with you strategies to advance our common purpose: promoting the interests of Cyprus and creating the conditions of prosperity for Cyprus. Before we look to the future, first I must acknowledge, as those before me have, the past, the somber weight of this day. Today we mark the 40th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, when close to 200,000 Greek Cypriots, including many of you here today, were forced to abandon homes, towns, villages, the lives you knew.
Forty years of occupation.
Forty years of historic injustice.
Forty years of flagrant violation of the human rights and the fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots.
This anniversary is a sad reminder of what all of us here are striving to achieve. It is a sad, but urgent call to enhance our common efforts through all available channels to end the unacceptable status quo and to reunite Cyprus.
Today’s dialogue is timely, not only because of the anniversary we mourn but also because of the future we envision and must actively realize together.
We have entered a new and unprecedented era in the relations between Cyprus and the United States. The Vice President’s historic visit in May – followed by visits only last week at Deputy Under Secretary level - provides ample proof of this new phase in our bilateral relations. Cyprus is deeply grateful for your own contribution making the Vice President’s a reality and a success.
During his visit, the Vice President, a true friend of Cyprus – whom you know very well from your own contacts here in Washington – sent clear messages to the Turkish side on the Cyprus problem and stressed the importance of the strategic partnership between our two countries. He clearly articulated this point once again during his speech at last week’s Congress in Philadelphia where he stated that, “Cyprus, under the leadership of a new Cypriot President has become a genuine” and “an essential strategic partner” of the United States of America.
This new era in the relations of the two countries is no coincidence: it was born out of our common efforts and proves that together we can create a new, stronger future for our country.
At last year’s Conference the starting point was the unprecedented Eurogroup decision to apply the so-called ‘bail-in’ model to Cyprus. This decision, which we all experienced with pain and disbelief, led to a crisis, which drew comparisons to the one that followed the 1974invasion.
One year on we see a completely different picture. Cyprus, against all the ominous predictions, managed to turn the economic crisis into an opportunity to reform and restructure. We acknowledged our mistakes and worked to address them. Once again, the hard work, perseverance, sacrifice and resilience of all Cypriots, at home and abroad, have yielded results.
I am proud to say that we have passed through the eye of the storm with unprecedented speed. Economic recession in 2013 was less severe than initially expected. The Troika has issued four positive reviews, we have received upgrades by Standard and Poor and Fitch following three years of consecutive downgrades, and we have managed to get back into the financial markets. The forecasts are for a return to growth as early as 2015. Is this a small miracle, as some have said? Not quite. The government of Cyprus and its people have made difficult decisions and even more difficult and painful sacrifices in order to make our economic turnaround possible. What is miraculous - and I continue to see it every day - is the resilience and resolve of the Cypriot people, which is fully and justifiably recognised at international level as the core of the current progress.
In part, our recovery stems from Cyprus’s ability to offer strategic advantages. Cyprus is a reliable partner to entrepreneurs and investors interested in using Cyprus as a base to access key markets in Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Asia. We count on you to continue passing this message here, in the United States.
Let me be clear: we still have a long way to go. But we are without a doubt on the path to recovery, without mortgaging our children’s future. Much the opposite. The steps the government has taken seek to prevent such economic catastrophe from happening again.
With the economy sailing towards full recovery we have redoubled our efforts on our national problem.
I cannot overemphasize how indispensable your contribution has been all these years, in raising awareness to the criminal injustice committed by Turkey in Cyprus, in defending the sovereignty and interests of Cyprus in the United States, and in mobilising the interest and the involvement of the United States in our efforts to find a settlement.
It took months of painstaking and arduous negotiations with the Turkish side to reach an agreement on the Joint Declaration of 11 February 2014, which signalled the launch of this new round of negotiations. The United States’ involvement in reaching agreement on the Joint Declaration, which sets the overall framework and general principles guiding the negotiations, was critical. You facilitated our efforts every step of the way.
Negotiations are under way, and we are negotiating constructively, always within the UN framework and Security Council Resolutions that call for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality as set out in the relevant Security Council Resolutions and the High Level Agreements; a re-united state functional and viable state with a single sovereignty, a single international personality and a single citizenship. This must be a settlement that safeguards the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens, Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike.
Cyprus will continue to be a member of the European Union and the United Nations following reunification. It is for this reason that the President insists on enhancing the role of the European Union in the negotiations, in a supplementary role to the United Nations. As the Joint Declaration clearly states, the settlement must safeguard and respect EU values and principles. We must ensure that reunited Cyprus is a fully functional member state of the European Union, which can participate effectively in European decision making without hindering it.
Let me present you the current state of play. During the first ‘screening’ phase each side presented its proposals. We are now in the second phase of in-depth negotiations. During this second phase we expect, and the UN expects, comprehensive proposals on all chapters to be submitted and discussed. We cannot continue the endless discussions of the past, concentrating solely on chapters that interest the Turkish Cypriot side, such as power sharing, without discussing inter-dependently – as called for by the Joint Declaration – all chapters, including territory, security guarantees, citizenship and settlers.
The proposals submitted by the Turkish Cypriot side, unfortunately, reveal a vision that contradicts the agreed UN framework of negotiations. This is not acceptable to us, it is not acceptable to the United Nations, and it is not acceptable to the United States or the European Union. That is a clear message we should all continue to send.
The Turkish side is using the so called ‘convergences’ from the past round of negotiations between 2008-2012 to avoid substantive discussions on all core issues, when they themselves have in the past repeatedly rejected these convergences. In fact, many of the proposals submitted contradict past convergences.
Our position is that we have started a new round of negotiations, and through the proposals submitted by the two sides, we need to create ‘Anastasiades - Eroglu’ convergences.
In order to avoid an impasse, President Anastasiades, at the meeting with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community on 7 July 2014, proposed a methodology to address the issue of convergences and the help negotiations advance. The proposal involves each side preparing a table clearly outlining what it considers to be convergences, issues where there is a small distance between the two sides, and core issues where there is a substantial gap. This methodology aims to bring clarity on where we are in the negotiations, and to help the process move along by allowing us to concentrate on core issues where significant distance separates the two sides.
All of us here know well that the Cyprus problem will not be solved with communication tricks, nor by hiding behind certain issues to avoid substantive discussions. We are hoping for a positive reaction from the Turkish Cypriot side in order to be able to move forward. We have informed the United Nations that we are ready to submit our table on convergences by September so as to inject dynamism in the negotiations.
The ultimate goal is reunification, but short-term measures are critical to achieving long-term goals. President Anastasiades has proposed a bold package of confidence building measures that includes the fenced area of Varosha, the port of Famagusta, Turkey’s EU accession negotiations and the full implementation of the Ankara Protocol vis-à-vis the Republic of Cyprus.
This proposal would be a game-changer. It would lead to a win-win result and most importantly it would inject much needed dynamism and momentum to the negotiations. It will contribute decisively to restoring trust between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, who have been kept apart for 40 years, restoring hope and confidence to the prospect of reaching a settlement. It would prove to the Greek Cypriots, who have learnt through history and experience not to trust Turkey, that Turkey is committed to a solution and can be trusted. In this framework, recent unacceptable statements made by Turkey that Cyprus is ‘defunct’ are not a promising indication of Turkey’s intentions with regards to the Cyprus problem and in no way facilitate our efforts to build trust.
During his visit to Cyprus Vice President Biden exerted enormous efforts to convince the Turkish side to agree on the implementation of confidence building measures; regrettably the Turkish side proved intransigent once again.
We are committed to continuing our efforts, in parallel with the negotiations, and with the support of the United States, to reach an agreement on confidence building measures because we believe they will have a catalytic effect.
We all know that no solution is possible without Turkey. Turkey is the root cause, “the key to this operation,” in Vice President Biden’s own words, and the decision maker with whom we must push our agenda. It is for this reason that President Anastasiades insisted on finding a way to talk directly to Turkey. For the first time in 40 years we have managed to have that direct contact with Turkey, with the visit of our negotiator to Ankara. The party responsible for the division, Turkey, needs to play a key role, to contribute concretely if we are to have any realistic hope for progress.
The US Government is showing great understanding and respect for our positions, and this was proven tangible during the Vice President’s visit. We know that the United States impresses upon Turkey that the status quo does not benefit Turkey militarily, politically, or economically, and that there is significant potential benefit for Turkey in a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation.
A solution to the Cyprus problem will enable Turkey to claim a much needed foreign policy success, particularly in light of the collapse of its ‘zero problems with neighbours’ policy. A solution will enable Turkey to be part of the regional co-operation underway in the field of energy, and will give a much needed boost to its accession path to the European Union.
We continue to ask for your assistance in getting this message through to Ankara, where the decision-making power ultimately lies.
Energy/ Regional role
One of the main goals of this Government has been to realign and reorient Cyprus’ foreign policy based on enhancing bilateral and regional cooperation, and exploiting the prospects created by Cyprus’ unique geographical position.
We have succeeded in demonstrating that stability, predictability, and reliability are unique and precious characteristics to Cyprus. We have done so concretely: for example, through our key role in the establishment of a support base for the joint OPCW and United Nations Mission on the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution to eliminate the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic.
We are cooperating more closely than ever with the United States and other allies in addressing assymetrical threats. Cyprus is now at the forefront of the joint struggle to combat terrorism, nuclear proliferation, illegal arms trade, human and drugs trafficking and organised crime. Our partners, including the United States, recognise our role. It is for this reason that during last week’s Clergy-Laity Congress Vice President Biden stated that: “little Cyprus has taken up an outsized draw in our pure national interest and within our strategic partnership.”
In essence we have proven, and will continue to do so, that we are no longer a single-issue country and that we have significant added value in a number of areas.
Vice President Biden also said the following during his May visit to Cyprus:
“Cyprus is uniquely situated at a critical time.”
I want to close by analysing the two elements in this simple equation:
The first is Cyprus’ geographical position, a European state at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa.
The second is the temporal element, which is crucial. And it is crucial because it is a variable in this equation that is in flux. Cyprus needs to seize this moment.
The European energy crisis, triggered by developments in Ukraine, continues to demonstrate the urgent need to diversify European energy corridors. This coincides with the discovery of significant hydrocarbon reserves in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. These reserves have revealed the leading geopolitical role that Cyprus can play as an energy hub, both regionally and within the European Union.
The involvement of energy giants such as the French company Total, the US company Noble, and the Italian-Korean consortium ENI-KOGAS – who have been granted hydrocarbon exploration licences in five additional offshore blacks – provide evidence of great potential waiting to be tapped. Exciting discoveries have also been made in the exclusive economic zone of Israel, while there are potential discoveries offshore Greece, Egypt and Lebanon.
Cyprus could be the first EU member state to become an exporter of liquefied natural gas.
For perhaps the first time Cyprus’s history, geography is a blessing rather than a curse. We are proving to be a stable partner that through regional cooperation provides a predictable corridor of access to the region and a visible role in European energy diversification. No other country is in a position to successfully negotiate the exclusive economic zones among Israel, Egypt, and Lebanon. Cyprus is without a doubt the key with regards to cooperation between Israel and Egypt. Vice-President Biden was very clear about that during his meeting with President Anastasiades in Cyprus.
Our flourishing cooperation with Israel, which does not limit itself to the exploration and exploitation of natural resources, is redrawing the geopolitical map of the eastern Mediterranean and drawing us closer into partnership with America, a strong ally able to exert pressure on Turkey.
President Anastasiades has briefed the US administration – and will continue to do so – on Turkey’s persistent threats to our exclusive economic zone rights. The United States, and the rest of the international community, have been crystal clear on Cyprus’ right to pursue exploration and exploitation activities in its exclusive economic zone. Your role in this respect is also crucial: Turkey needs to receive clear and unequivocal messages, particularly from allies such as the United States, to refrain from such actions.
We count on you to continue and to enhance your efforts as ‘ambassadors’ of Cyprus in the United States, educating and sending the clear message that Cyprus is the most predictable, reliable and stable ally of the United States in the region; that a solution to the Cyprus problem will radically accelerate the transformation of the region’s energy delivery infrastructure, which is of significant interest to the United States.
This is an unprecedented moment in the history of Cyprus, which provides us with unprecedented opportunity and leverage.
It is incumbent upon us to recognize the gravity and potential of the moment.
Thank you for having me here today to continue this conversation, which you have so steadfastly supported. We look forward to making further advances and achieving tangible results together in the coming year.