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President: Our hardest diplomatic battle with Turkey is yet to come
2002-09-30 15:46:04

Nicosia, Sep 30 (CNA) -- President Glafcos Clerides has said that in the coming months Cyprus will have to fight its most fierce diplomatic battle against Turkey in the past 28 years, which will determine the future of the country.

In a televised address to the nation, on the eve of the 42nd anniversary of independence, the President described the current period as ''probably the most crucial'' after the 1974 Turkish invasion and called for the widest possible unity in the domestic front.

On Cyprus' accession course, he warned against complacency and said wisdom and flexibility are essential in order to make a correct assessment of the international political scene and avoid mistakes.

Referring to the Republic's defences, he said the defence capability of the country is quietly being upgraded and sent a message to Turkey that its threats against Cyprus, if implemented, would harm Ankara's own interests with regard to Europe.

The President did not fail to thank and express appreciation to Greece for its unwavering support in the effort to reunite the country, divided since Turkish troops invaded in 1974, but in particular in the effort to join the EU and in defence matters.

''Today we are at the beginning of perhaps the most crucial period in the Cyprus question, after the Turkish invasion, a time that coincides with the final stages of our accession course,'' the President said, adding that his objective is to solve the political problem and see Cyprus join the EU.

The solution of the Cyprus issue, he pointed out, depends not only on the Greek Cypriot side but also on the Turkish side, whose positions as the international community has ascertained are contrary to UN resolutions.

''In the next few months, we shall be face to face with the Turkish policy in the most important diplomatic battle of the past 28 years, a battle which shall determine the future of this land,'' the President stressed.

President Clerides called on the political leadership and the people of Cyprus to show the broadest possible unity at home and to cooperate fully with Greece, to have an even closer cooperation with the UN Secretary General and those foreign governments playing a substantive role in the peace process.

He noted the unprecedented interest on the part of the EU and powerful nations in the UN-led peace effort.

On Cyprus' accession course, he said ''we are at the threshold of EU accession but we must not become complacent with what has been achieved so far.''

''We are on the final track of a very difficult and complex course, which could be affected by the worsening of the situation in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf,'' the President said.

He said Cyprus does not have the luxury to make ''even the smallest of mistakes'' and cautioned everybody to show wisdom, moderation and flexibility.

''It is essential to see what international interests are at stake, to assess the balance of power in the wider region and evaluate the strategy of Turkey,'' he told the Cypriot people.

He said his biggest ambition is to see the Cyprus question resolved and Cyprus a member of the European Union and to this objective he pledged to devote all his strength in the next few months.

''A just, viable and workable solution, in line with international law, UN resolutions, the acquis communautaire and conventions on human rights, would be to the benefit of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots,'' the President said.

Referring to defence matters, he said the country's defences are being strengthened quietly in accordance with the joint defence pact with Greece, agreed in 1993 and providing for air, land and sea cover from Greece in the event of a fresh Turkish offensive.

As far as Turkey's threats against Cyprus are concerned, the President said precautionary moves, on the political and diplomatic front, are in place but stressed also that Nicosia is preparing for any eventuality.

''I believe that any attempt by Turkey to implement its threats will harm Turkey itself and prevent its accession to the EU,'' he warned.|

Ankara has repeatedly said that there would be a major crisis if the EU accepts Cyprus in its ranks prior to a political settlement. The EU has said a political settlement would facilitate accession but it is not a precondition.


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