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2002-12-02 16:45:54

Speech by Foreign Minister Dr Ioannis Kasoulides at the Cyprus Independence Dinner, organised by Greek Cypriot Brotherhood in London
Thank you very much for being, once again, here tonight. I have been coming here in front of you for the last six years and I have been presenting to you, the developments regarding Cyprus, both regarding the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem and also our efforts to join the EU.

I thank you very much because your presence here demonstrates, year after year, your keen interest in my country and the efforts to bring, at long last, peace to Cyprus and also to join the European family of nations.

I have been talking to you, in the last six years, about the efforts that have failed in Troutbeck and Montreaux due to the fact that Mr Denktash walked away from the talks and how the UN Security Council reacted, expressing its disappointment for his attitude. I have been talking to you about the proximity talks and how Mr Denktash again walked away from the talks and how the UN Security Council reacted to this. I have been talking to you about Mr Denktash refusing yet another invitation by the Secretary General to resume the proximity talks and then we have all been watching the direct dialogue, which has been taking place in Cyprus since last January in an effort to find a settlement to the problem. The dialogue, which as you know, has not yielded any results, began to show that the patience of the Security Council is being tested, by demonstrating once again their uneasiness with the position taken by Mr Denktash and finally we come to the present when the UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, has tabled a comprehensive plan for the solution of the Cyprus problem.

I have also been talking to you about the application of Cyprus to join the EU. How we began the negotiations, what sort of difficulties we had to face, about the decision of the EU European Council at Helsinki, where it was decided that the solution of the problem of Cyprus was no longer a condition for accession, even though the desire was that every effort must be made, until the day before accession, for the solution of the problem of Cyprus, so that a reunited Cyprus joins the EU.

We are now at the final stages of the negotiations with the EU. Next week we are supposed to complete these negotiations with the EU and we will be ready to join the EU, as being the first pupil in the class among the candidate countries, after a tremendous effort that has taken place and which has involved Government, Parliament and the Cypriot society in order to be ready to join the EU as a full member. This effort has taken place in all areas. In particular I mention to you areas like money laundering and maritime safety, which at some stage in the past have appeared to be problematic and I am now saying that they are our strong points.

I am sure that all of you are interested in the current developments, and that?s why this time I don?t have a prepared text because the developments are such that are changing from day to day and from hour to hour and that any written text would have been useless. I am sure that all of you are interested in finding out about the most recent developments, most crucial for the history of my country and most crucial for the efforts to secure peace in Cyprus and at the same time for joining the EU.

I would like to begin first by saying that major developments have been taking place. After the recent elections Turkey, for the first time after many years, has a one-party Government, with an absolute majority, - a Government as indicated by many statements made by the leader of the Governing Party but also by the new Prime Minister and many others, with good intentions, very good intentions about Europe, very good intentions about Cyprus, very good intentions about solving the problem of the ESDP. And it is true that there is no comparison with what we were accustomed to hear from Mr Ecevit, from Mr Gurel and, of course, from Mr Denktash. At the same time, we have, unfortunately, the illness of Mr Denktash. He had to undergo open-heart surgery at the beginning of October. An open-heart surgery that unfortunately has created a number of complications. He is in and out of hospital, he is still in New York but now he is out and about and I think he is in a position to take decisions and deal with the matters concerning the Turkish Cypriot community.

At the same time, on 11 November, the UN Secretary General has decided to present to both sides in Cyprus a comprehensive plan regarding the solution of the problem of Cyprus. The Government of Turkey is making a great deal of effort to present itself as very keenly interested in getting from the EU Council at Copenhagen a date for the commencement of accession negotiations for Turkey and, of course, it portrays a positive picture regarding her good intentions about Cyprus and her good intentions about the resolution of the ESDP. The question now that remains to be answered is whether these intentions are sincere, whether they have decided that the time has come for a settlement of the Cyprus question, or whether they are more interested in getting their date, or what is nearer to that, depending on the extent that the EU Member States are prepared to offer Turkey and then to deal with Cyprus. And I don?t know how they are going to deal with it ? whether they are going to deal with it, as they say, in a positive way, or whether they will come back to their previous policies. I?ll come to this a little bit later.

The plan proposed to us by the UN Secretary General Mr Kofi Annan was given to us on 11 November and we were requested to study it. It is a very complex document. It is not just a political text, it is a text which is accompanied by many legal notions and it is 137 pages long. It is also accompanied by two maps as two alternative proposals for the rearrangement of the territorial issue and it is divided into two parts. The first part deals with what it?s called the ?Foundation Agreement?. It is true that it contains all the elements, which if they are agreed upon, constitute what we can describe as a settlement of the question of Cyprus. In the second stage, it leaves a great number of other papers, mostly legal, to be agreed upon between the sides so that from day one of implementation this package is self-executing and there will be nothing else to be agreed subsequently to that. It provides for many issues. They are considered to be of a more technical nature but the most important part of the Kofi Annan plan is the first part where there are all the elements of a framework agreement that, if agreed it will lead to a settlement.

The Secretary General has requested that both sides study this plan and give him their reply if they are prepared to negotiate on the basis of it within 7 days. Part and parcel of this plan are certain timetables. Kofi Annan would prefer that the first part should be agreed and signed, if possible, before 12 December, before the decision in Copenhagen. The second part will take us up to 28 February and then, if everything is agreed, we will go for two referenda, one for each community and if those referenda are approved, then we enter ?Day One? of the implementation of the plan.

We have studied the plan. We acknowledge that the UN Secretary General has made a good effort in order that this plan becomes an equitable plan and appeals to both sides. I am sure that it should appeal much more to the Turkish side, because it responds to a lot, or to all, I would say, the concerns of the Turkish Cypriots, than it appeals to our side. Our side is expected to make a lot of sacrifices. I don?t think that there is anybody who doubts that the Greek Cypriot leadership has worked sincerely, with the necessary political will in order to reach the necessary settlement. For us the division of our country is an open wound, an open wound that needs to close. And for us the desire to reunite our country is higher than any other desire, including our desire to join the EU.

As we have proven in the past and as we have proven during these negotiations that started at the beginning of January, we have always been constructive and positive. President Clerides has made many openings that attracted the commendations of the international community and perhaps allowed Kofi Annan to be able to get an idea as to how to prepare the plan, which he has proposed to the two sides.

Our side, as it has always been our policy, has replied to the Secretary General within the 7-day deadline that was requested from us, and it has replied that it is prepared to negotiate on the basis of this plan, as it was requested by the Secretary General. The Secretary General has made it clear that this plan is not a ?take it or leave it? document. He has spoken to President Clerides over the phone, but also in the letter he has sent to him, it is very clear that both sides are invited to negotiate on the basis of this plan and the reactions of both sides are solicited. Until this very moment the Turkish side has not responded to the Secretary General whether they are prepared to accept this plan as a basis for negotiations. Today is the 26th November. The days which remain until 12 December, until Copenhagen, are becoming fewer and fewer, and the period becomes shorter and shorter, to such an extent that the number of days are so critical that practically, it might render it impossible to reach a deal before the 12 December target date.

Even if no side raises any requests for amendments, or observations or even clarifications, the plan itself leaves open a number of fundamental questions that have to be negotiated and settled. I?ll mention as an example only two.

The first is the number of troops from Greece and Turkey that will constitute the contingents that will remain in Cyprus, according to the Treaty of Alliance and the Treaty of Guarantee that have been in force since the 1960 Treaties. The plan of Kofi Annan says that this number will be a four-digit number to be negotiated. You realise that as far as we are concerned, this number can in no way be near the upper limit of 9, 999. The presence of troops and their size should be such that it creates conditions of trust and confidence between the two communities. We understand that a number of troops from Turkey may inspire confidence for the Turkish Cypriot community. And we acknowledge this. But above a certain number you realise that they immediately create a sense of insecurity for the Greek Cypriot community. And what we want this time is a settlement, which allows no room for misunderstandings, mistrust or lack of confidence because this time whatever we agree upon will have to work.

A second major example is that it leaves open, or within brackets, the question of settlers, which has to be decided whether they can stay or not in Cyprus. It deals with the humanitarian cases. We have always been saying that the issue of the settlers has to be settled on the basis of international law and of humanitarian principles. It deals with certain humanitarian issues, but it leaves open many others. Let me say this: we are neither xenophobic nor intolerant people but, I think, that this case has to be faced in such a manner that the demographic composition of Cyprus is not distorted.

Let me remind you that in Lebanon, the Christian community became, after a number of years, a minority that has no say today in the running of the affairs of its country. This happened because of the different cultural characteristics and the birth rate of each community. Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots have exactly the same patterns of cultural behaviour, but Turkish Cypriots and settlers have great differences, including birth rates. If we also understand that following a settlement, a big number of Turkish Cypriots who have emigrated because of the lack of prospects, will return to Cyprus, then this issue has to be arranged in such a way that the demography is not altered. Besides, how can a settler have more rights than a Cypriot, who is a displaced person? We are asking Cypriots to forfeit their rights to return or their right to their property for reasons that you understand and we say to them that they can be compensated. Why should we not have a fund to give incentives- financial incentives- to settlers?

Besides, there can be a distinction between a resident and a citizen, but I am talking about incentives and a specific policy for these people to return to Turkey. If we look at the map, we will also see that many areas that will come under Greek Cypriot administration, to which the present inhabitants of those villages will be relocated elsewhere, a great number of these villages are inhabited by settlers. If they are going to be relocated, why can they not be relocated in Turkey with the same amount of money, than being relocated in Cyprus?

I gave two very important examples, explaining to you that even without anything else, without touching on the plan of Kofi Annan at all, we have to deal with these two issues, which are very serious issues and where the plan of Kofi Annan does not have the answers. But there is no doubt that we will then have to negotiate on the plan.

Mr Denktash makes noises now. They are repeated in the same way by the new Turkish Foreign Minister, Mr Yakis, who says yes, they are willing to negotiate, yes they can solve the problem of Cyprus but they give as a time limit either June 2003 or 2004. Contradictory kind of statements, but all exclude the possibility of getting a settlement before Copenhagen. We have been saying all along, and I will repeat it tonight, that our policy has always been that we are trying to solve the problem of Cyprus, and we are trying to unite our country even up to the last day before Copenhagen and, of course, most certainly after the decision in Copenhagen. It has always been our objective to try and resolve the problem of Cyprus before 12 December and if we can make it, fine. But this does not depend entirely on us.

As a final point, I must say to you that this settlement, which we are going to reach, has to be a solid settlement, based on solid foundations and something which will, once and for all, stop what has been called the existence of the Cyprus problem. It has to be such that tomorrow, as members of the EU, we will not have to face similar problems, as we have been facing for the last 28 years and even before.

In order for this to become successful, the settlement requires two things. The first thing is to be functioning, and I have two comments to make on this. Even if it was the best plan in the world, if there is no political will from both sides, this cannot work. But if there is political will from both sides we can make it work. That?s one observation. The second observation is that we have to look at it carefully so that everything works smoothly and it is workable.

The second and very important thing, is that for a settlement to be workable, it must be made so by the people. However, the people are not only governments and leaderships, but also the general public. And I have to stress this. Nobody should ignore the sensitivities of public opinion and everybody must show the necessary understanding in addressing those sensitivities. For example, people wish to see a sense of fairness in this settlement so as to be able to accept it and work for it and make it workable. This sense of fairness doesn?t necessarily mean that we, the Greek Cypriots, must get it all and, of course, it doesn?t mean that the Turkish Cypriots must get it all either. But fairness has to do with issues like the fundamental freedoms of the people. To give you one example, for certain people the right to property may be claimed only after the elapse of 20 years. If we add to this the 28 years that have passed by since 1974 and 20 years that will have to elapse, it means that a whole generation will be denied this right. This is not a right. Essentially this right is negated. This has to be discussed. This has to be remedied.

I am urging all of you, in particular the elected representatives of this country, who have to listen to the sensitivities not only of the people of Cyprus and of the public opinion in Cyprus, but also to the sensitivities of the public opinion of their Constituents here in the UK, that this is the most crucial time, when a country with so many ties with Cyprus, with so many links where we are in this together for many years, has to demonstrate this sensitivity to the public opinion in Cyprus and to their constituents in the UK.

Let me assure you, that we are going to be, as I have said before, constructive and positive during these negotiations. I know for sure that the desire of Turkey to join the EU and our desire to reunite our country will most certainly be met. Whether they will be met before or after Copenhagen is the big question. But I am sure and certain that they will be met. The decision of 12 December about the accession of Cyprus, with or without a settlement, is something which is expected by the people of Cyprus, and we know that it will not be denied to us because we have a vision. We have a vision of a reunited Cyprus, a peaceful Cyprus which will have good relations with Greece and Turkey and which will make all three countries work together in this area in the Eastern Mediterranean which is next to the most volatile part of the world, where we will play our role focussing on what is uniting us and not on what is dividing us now. Let us all work to make it a success.

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