November 24, 2004
Government Presents Conditions for Nicosia's Vote on Turkey's Accession Talks
Washington, D.C. - The Cyprus government identified five conditions that it said Turkey would have to meet if Nicosia is to agree to the start of its accession talks at the December 17 EU summit.
According to Foreign Minister George Iacovou, the Cyprus government expects Turkey to recognize the Republic of Cyprus; set a timetable for the withdrawal of some 35,000 Turkish troops from northern Cyprus; carry out the repatriation of the Turkish settlers in the north; implement measures to prevent the sale of Greek Cypriot-owned property in northern Cyprus; and lift its ban on Cyprus becoming a member of international organizations, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Iacovou said the message to Turkey was: "Help us if you want us to help you, or do not make things difficult for us so we do not make problems for you." He added, "It seems ridiculous for Turkey to recognize a positive vote from Cyprus and, on December 18, not to recognize the Republic of Cyprus." In addition, he asked how the European Commission could say that it "will protect Europe from Turkish migration when Turkey is already . . . changing the population ratios" in Cyprus through the settlement of tens of thousands of Turks from the mainland.
President Tassos Papadopoulos said the Cyprus government supported the granting of a date for Turkey to begin accession negotiations "if Turkey complies and respects its obligations vis-à-vis the European Union and each member state." He added that, "from there on, there are contacts taking place, in an effort to present a consensus proposal, so that Turkey will comply with these obligations." Papadopoulos asserted that Turkey's recognition of Cyprus was inevitable, though it was not clear when it would happen.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey does not intend to recognize Cyprus prior to the EU summit. Turkey has also said it would be unwilling to accept any conditions related to Cyprus attached to the EU's decision to open membership talks.
October 29, 2004
Diplomatic Protest Over U.S. Inspection of Northern Cyprus Airport
Washington, D.C. - President Tassos Papadopoulos said his government had been in contact with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) concerning the October 20-21 visit of officials from the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to northern Cyprus to inspect the safety and security features of the Ercan airport.
Papadopoulos asserted that he believed Cyprus had a strong case against any possible opening of airports in the north, which the government regards as illegal. Referring to the visit of the TSA officials, he pledged "to face this blow to the legality and the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus."
Government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said Cyprus’s position was "based on international conventions, on international law, and on the right of every country to define its legal airports and ports for entry to and exit from the Republic of Cyprus."
Foreign Minister George Iacovou said the government had lodged a protest with the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia concerning the inspection of the airport.
State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the United States, by deciding to "gather more details involving the security of airports and flights" to and from northern Cyprus, "looks forward to finding ways to support the recommendations of the United Nations secretary general to facilitate the settlement of the Cyprus issue with the termination of the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community." Ereli stated that the ICAO had not been involved in the visit of the TSA officials and that the U.S. "has not decided whether it will inaugurate an air link between the U.S. and northern Cyprus."
Under the guidelines set up by the United Nations, the ICAO recognizes the Cyprus government as the sovereign entity responsible for implementing the safety standards established by the ICAO at airports in the country.
October 22, 2004
Turkish Cypriot Government Resigns
Washington, D.C. - The Turkish Cypriot prime minister, Mehmet Ali Talat, announced the resignation of his coalition government on October 20 following months of negotiations between the government and other parties in search of an ally that would enable the coalition to regain a majority in the Turkish Cypriot parliament. Talat had been in office for nine months.
The coalition, made up of Talat's Republican Turkish Party and Serdar Denktash's Democrat Party, lost its slim majority in the 50-seat parliament two days after the April 24 referendum on the Annan reunification plan because of defections from the parliamentary groups of both parties.
Talat said he would remain in office as a caretaker prime minister until a new government was established. Rauf Denktash, the president of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, asked former Turkish Cypriot prime minister Dervis Eroglu, the leader of the National Unity Party, the largest group in parliament, to form a government. Eroglu opposed endorsement of the Annan plan in the referendum. Denktash has the authority to call early elections within 60 days if efforts to set up a coalition fail.
Talat, who, backed by Ankara, spearheaded a campaign to encourage Turkish Cypriots to vote "yes" on the Annan plan in the referendum, is popular in northern Cyprus for his pro-EU, pro-reunification stance. Sixty-five percent of Turkish Cypriots voted to adopt the plan.
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos stated that the resignation of Talat's government "does not affect us" but, "because our constant efforts have been the resumption of talks to find a viable and acceptable settlement, we want to have a reliable interlocutor of the Turkish Cypriot side, even though the other side's interlocutor is basically Turkey and not the Turkish Cypriot leadership."
October 22, 2004
No EU Decision on Direct Trade with Northern Cyprus This Year
Washington, D.C. - The European Union’s Dutch presidency stated that the EU and the Cyprus government would need more time to formulate terms for direct trade between the bloc and northern Cyprus that they could both agree on. The debate and decision on these trade arrangements by the EU member nations would, therefore, be postponed until next year, it said.
Cyprus has agreed to approve EU aid of about $320 million for northern Cyprus to help develop its infrastructure. Jean-Christophe Filori, a spokesman for European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, said it appeared that the financial aid “would go forward” but it would be “decoupled” from the proposal on direct trade, although the two had originally been planned as a package. The EU foreign ministers are expected to approve the aid package in November.
The Cyprus government has opposed the EU’s proposal to open direct trade links with northern Cyprus, believing that such a move would amount to recognition of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as a separate state.
October 22, 2004
U.S. Surveys Safety Issues at Northern Cyprus Airport
Washington, D.C. - The United States sent two working level officials from the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to northern Cyprus to conduct an informal survey of the security and safety features of the Ercan airport in the town of Tymbou.
The survey was part of the U.S.’s inquiry into obstacles that may stand in the way of establishing air connections between northern Cyprus and countries that include the United States. Washington has made no decision on whether direct air links with northern Cyprus will be opened.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, referring to the survey, said the United States was examining “steps that can help ease the isolation of Turkish Cypriots,” adding that “one of the steps we are looking at is the status of travel.”
Commenting on the visit of the TSA officials, President Tassos Papadopoulos said Cyprus would work against any move that might be harmful to the sovereignty and legal status of the Republic of Cyprus. “We have been informed about the visit, and know of Washington’s persistent efforts to open up the illegal airports in occupied Cyprus,” Papadopoulos stated.
Foreign Minister George Iacovou said the Cyprus government considered the TSA’s survey to be an unnecessary move, noting that “the role of the U.S. is not to check airports and especially airports that are illegal.”
October 15, 2004
Issue of Turkey's Recognition of Cyprus Under Debate
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou, addressing the EU's General Affairs Council concerning the European Commission's recommendation that Ankara's accession talks with the bloc should begin, called on Turkey to recognize the Republic of Cyprus before the December EU summit, where the question of granting Turkey a date for talks will be decided.
In response, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Namik Tan stated that "Greek Cypriots would always come up with various demands," as they try "to somehow shrug off the responsibility for the failure to resolve the Cyprus conflict," an apparent reference to the rejection of the Annan reunification plan by the Greek Cypriots in the April referendum.
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos asserted that, although Cyprus "is, in principle, positively predisposed" toward the entry of Turkey into the EU and "does not wish to prove an obstacle to this process," an EU candidate seeking a date for accession talks "cannot, in good faith, refuse to extend to a member state treatment equal to that accorded to the rest of the European partners."
The Turkish Cypriot prime minister, Mehmet Ali Talat, stated that no one expected Turkey to recognize the Republic of Cyprus before a solution to the Cyprus problem was found. At this time, he said, this recognition "cannot and must not be mentioned."
U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Michael Klosson said the U.S. government was ready to assist Cyprus settlement efforts, "but proposals on next steps [toward a solution] must come from Nicosia, not foreign capitals." Klosson also said that he saw no "formal linkage" between Turkey's European Union accession course and the question of Cyprus.
October 8, 2004
Annan Calls for One-Third Reduction of Peacekeeping Force
Washington, D.C. - U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan recommended in a report to the Security Council that the size of the U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) be reduced by one-third, from 1,230 troops to 860. The report, released on October 5, was based on the findings of a U.N. team that conducted a review of the mandate, force levels, and concept of operations of the force, at Annan's request, from August 29 to September 5.
Annan said the review team had found that the security situation in Cyprus had become "increasingly benign" over the past few years, "with a steady reduction in the number of incidents and violations of the ceasefire by the opposing forces." He said the team had concluded that "a recurrence of fighting in Cyprus is increasingly unlikely," though "the potential for minor local violence and challenges to the ceasefire regime still exists."
As a result, he said, the emphasis of UNFICYP, the world's longest-serving peacekeeping force, sent to Cyprus in 1964, "is moving towards liaison, observation, and mediation, rather than the deployment of forces to prevent the recurrence of fighting and to maintain the status quo." Since a permanent presence of the troops is no longer required in all areas, he said, "a further shift in emphasis from static to mobile surveillance would be appropriate at this stage, resulting in savings of personnel and resources." This more mobile concept of operations, he noted, would allow the recommended force reduction to take place. Annan also said up to 40 military observers and liaison officers should be incorporated into the force, while the civilian police deployment would be increased and the mission's political and civil affairs component would be strengthened. He called for a six-month renewal of the force's mandate, beginning on December 15.
In the absence of a Cyprus settlement, the secretary general asserted that he continued to believe "the presence of UNFICYP. . . remains necessary for the maintenance of the ceasefire and to foster conditions conducive to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem." He said the review team had found that "this view is shared by both sides on the island, as well as by the guarantor Powers and other interested parties."
Annan noted that, following the failed April referendum on his reunification plan, the role of UNFICYP had "become particularly important since the mission remains the only United Nations political interface on the island." He said that, although political developments might require the appointment of a full-time Special Advisor at some stage, he did not intend to make such an appointment at this time. Therefore, the Chief of Mission of UNFICYP would act as Annan's "Special Representative on the ground for continuous contact at the highest level with the two sides and other key players on the Cyprus question," a factor that would require the strengthening of the capacity of UNFICYP for political analysis and reporting. The secretary general said he might "consider designating, on an ad hoc basis, senior officials of the [U.N.] Secretariat to deal with any particular aspects of my good offices that might require special attention."
Annan stated that official contacts between the leaders of both sides in the Cyprus issue had ceased since the April referendum and "signs of mutual distrust have reappeared." Although Cyprus's accession to the EU had not provided the catalyst for a Cyprus settlement, as hoped, the EU framework has the potential to improve the climate between Cyprus and Turkey, help reduce the disparities between the two communities on the island and promote confidence between them, and build and sustain constituencies on each side in favor of reconciliation and reunification, he stated.
The secretary general said that the measures recommended for altering the force size and structure would "provide the basis for a further transformation of the mission, as warranted by developments on the ground, after a further review, which should take place before the end of the next mandate period, in mid-2005."
Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou stated that it was positive that UNFICYP's mandate was being maintained, with a more efficient use of resources, even though the military component was being reduced.
The Turkish Cypriot deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Serdar Denktash, said "the reason for UNFICYP's presence in Cyprus and the description of its duties should change," adding that "there should be a big difference between the initial and the current assignments [concerning the force] in light of the atmosphere that has developed."
(Click here for report and select English to view.)
October 1, 2004
U.S. Committed to Helping Find a Cyprus Settlement
Washington, D.C. - Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman met with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York to reaffirm Washington’s interest in a comprehensive settlement for the reunification of Cyprus and to hear the views of the Cyprus government on how to move forward toward this goal.
Following his talks with Papadopoulos, Grossman said the United States remained "interested and committed" to finding a fair solution to the Cyprus problem and, "if we can," to getting "actively involved" in this process.
The U.S., Grossman said, shared Papadopoulos’s belief that the division of Cyprus should not continue and that all Cypriots should someday live together. The undersecretary stated that he thought there would be another chance, at some indefinite date, for Cypriots to debate and consider a unified Cyprus.
Grossman said he did not believe that the "shuttle diplomacy" that preceded the April referendum on the Annan plan for the reunification of Cyprus would take place now, adding that, following the intense effort to unite the country, he believed, as did Papadopoulos, that "people need to reflect a little bit." The question, Grossman said, is what does it take to make the majority of both sides vote "yes" on a settlement plan?
The undersecretary said he disagreed with statements that the U.S. government had intended to penalize Greek Cypriots for voting "no" on the referendum. "Among the things that we have never done, never intended to do . . . was to punish anybody," he stated, noting that Washington was "trying to move forward" and was attempting to do so "in a fair and equitable way."
Concerning the possibility that Turkey will, at the EU summit in December, be granted a date for the start of EU accession talks and the effect such an eventuality will have on the Cyprus issue, Grossman said a Turkey that was slated to begin negotiations for entry into the EU would be "a Turkey with a European perspective," which should be good for Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, and the United States.
Following his meetings with Grossman and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York, Papadopoulos said he had reiterated the position that, by voting "no" on the April referendum, Greek Cypriots had not rejected the potential reunification of the country. He said Greek Cypriots "remain firm to the position that the solution to the Cyprus problem must be found in the framework of the Annan plan for a bizonal, bicommunal federation." The Cyprus president added that it would not be suitable to launch a new reunification initiative until after December.
September 24, 2004
Greek, Turkish Military Exercises in Cyprus Cancelled as Confidence-Building Measure
Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, following talks on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, said Greece and Turkey would cancel annual military exercises that each had scheduled in and around Cyprus in October as a reflection of improving relations between the two countries.
The military maneuvers planned in Cyprus were "Nikiforos," which Greece and the Greek Cypriots conduct jointly, and "Toros," which Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots carry out together. "Toxotis" and "Barbaros," naval exercises designed to support the military operations in Cyprus, were also planned by Greece and Turkey, respectively.
A joint statement by the ministers said Greece and Turkey had made the decision "in line with good neighborly relations and as part of their determination to contribute to the existing atmosphere of confidence." In addition, Gul said, he and Molyviatis had decided that the bilateral process of broadening confidence-building measures between the two countries should be accelerated. He reiterated an invitation he had previously extended to Molyviatis to visit Turkey.
Molyviatis said the cancellation of Greece's maneuvers, in consultation with the Cyprus government, with which Athens has a joint defense doctrine, was "an indication of the trust" that had developed between Athens and Ankara and "another indication of our strong commitment to peace, to cooperation, and to friendship."
This will be the third year that Greece and Turkey have mutually agreed to cancel all four exercises. In 2003, the two sides said the decision had been made as a sign of improved bilateral ties. In 2002, the cancellations were in support of the push by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to reach a settlement in Cyprus.
In 2001, the naval maneuvers were called off in the post-September 11 environment, amid preparations for U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan, which involved the use of facilities in both Greece and Turkey. However, the land exercises in Cyprus did go forward in October and November 2001, respectively.
September 17, 2004
Cyprus Eyes Eurozone Membership by 2007
Washington, D.C. - The Cyprus cabinet approved a budget with austerity measures for 2005 designed to prepare Cyprus for entry into the single European currency by 2007. The government’s goal is to lower the deficit to 1.6 percent of GDP and the debt to 67.3 percent of GDP by 2007.
Finance Minister Makis Keravnos said the budget measures, geared toward curbing public spending, would result in a 2005 deficit just under the 3 percent ceiling permitted by the EU, in contrast to a 7 percent shortfall in 2003 and a projected deficit of 5.2 percent in 2004. In 2003, the debt reached 70.9 percent of GDP, exceeding the EU’s limit of 60 percent, and is expected to increase to 75.2 percent in 2004.
There will be a freeze on new public sector jobs and salaries, which comprise 60 percent of the state’s expenditures, until 2007. The retirement age for civil servants will increase from 60 to 63, while the general retirement age will be raised from 63 to 65. Without these measures, the deficit would reach 8.9 percent, according to government estimates.
Keravnos said that the 2005 budget, which he characterized as “stabilizing,” would keep inflation under 3 percent, while providing funds to build roads, schools, and hospitals. The budget, providing for $7.5 billion in spending and a deficit of $1.7 billion, must be approved by parliament.
September 10, 2004
Cyprus Appeals Directly to EU for Return of Varosha
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos submitted a detailed outline to the European Commission regarding the government's proposal for the opening of the port of Famagusta in exchange for the return of the adjacent, former Greek Cypriot resort of Varosha, now a ghost town, to its legal residents. The submission of the details of the proposal was follow-up to Papadopoulos's earlier verbal presentation of the idea to European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen.
Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said the operation of the port, which could function with the participation of both the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots under the supervision of the European Union, could be useful to the process of reconstructing the city of Famagusta.
Turkish Cypriot prime minister Mehmet Ali Talat stated that the future of Varosha and the port of Famagusta should not be referred to the European Union and should only be addressed through a comprehensive agreement to resolve the Cyprus problem, such as that envisaged by the Annan reunification plan. The plan was endorsed by the Turkish Cypriots and rejected by the Greek Cypriots in the April 2004 referenda in both communities.
The EU reportedly has reservations concerning the Cyprus government's proposal, while certain member states, including the Netherlands, which currently holds the EU presidency, do not want the proposal to be under consideration going into the months preceding the bloc's December assessment of Turkey's readiness for EU accession talks.
September 3, 2004
U.N. to Review Utility of Peacekeeping Operation
Washington, D.C. - United Nations experts arrived in Cyprus on August 30 to reassess the continuing mandate, troop levels, and concept of operation of the 1,200-member U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) at the request of Secretary General Kofi Annan, following the rejection of his peace plan for reunification of the country by the Greek Cypriots in the April referendum.
In his May 26, 2004 report, Annan stated that the outcome of the referendum warranted an overall reappraisal of the peacekeeping activities in Cyprus, to be completed within three months. He is expected to submit any recommendations that result from the reassessment in September.
UNFICYP, the world's longest-serving peacekeeping force, was sent to Cyprus in 1964 to prevent further violence between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. In 1974, its responsibilities were expanded to include supervision of the 112-mile ceasefire line, or buffer zone.
The Cyprus government, which pays $16 million of the $45 million required to maintain the force annually, is opposed to any reduction in the size of UNFICYP or change in its mandate. The Greek government covers $9 million of the force’s annual costs. The main troop contributors are Britain, Argentina, and Slovakia.
Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides stated that the deployment of the force, as defined by the Security Council, "seems to remain necessary" since "the presence of the [Turkish] occupation army continues" in northern Cyprus.
September 3, 2004
Christian Liturgies in Northern Cyprus for First Time Since 1974
Washington, D.C. - For the first time since 1974, Christian Orthodox liturgies were held in the Aghios Mamas Church in a northern Cypriot town, as up to 2,000 Greek Cypriot worshipers participated in the services and Turkish Cypriot prime minister Mehmet Ali Talat paid a brief visit to the church while a service was in progress as a gesture of good will.
Amid heavy security at the church in Morphou (Guzelyurt in Turkish), 18 miles west of Nicosia, due to a bomb attack that had damaged it on August 26, Talat stated that he had come to "say hello" and expressed the wish that the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots "would succeed in their efforts for peace."
Earlier, Talat had condemned the bomb attack, which he characterized as a "terrorist" attack, stating that stringent measures had been taken to prevent any problems during the liturgies. If the perpetrators "hope to bring fear to our country, they are mistaken," Talat said, adding that "no one has the right to upset our internal peace." No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.
Some 650 Turkish Cypriot police, one-third of the entire police force in northern Cyprus, surrounded the church to ensure the safety of the pilgrims from the south as they marked Saint Mamas Day, the feast of the town's patron saint. As part of the security strategy, a military helicopter also flew over the area, fire trucks stood by, and snipers guarded the main road linking Nicosia and Morphou as the Greek Cypriot worshipers traveled north to the church. Those entering the church courtyard were searched using metal detectors.
While the liturgies were in progress, a group of about 100 Turkish Cypriots held a religious ceremony in a mosque 150 feet from the church in memory of Turkish Cypriots killed in intercommunal violence in Cyprus. Both gatherings were held peacefully.
Turkish Cypriot president Rauf Denktash opposed the opening of the church for the religious rites, stating that "the arrival of thousands of Greek Cypriots [in northern Cyprus] . . . constitutes a serious provocation toward Turkish Cypriots."
August 27, 2004
EU Framework for Intra-Island Trade Goes into Effect
Washington, D.C. - Legal trade between Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot community resumed on August 23 for the first time since 1974 as the European Union rules for this commerce went into effect. This trade process fulfills Brussels' goal that the Green Line not be regarded as an EU external border.
The rules, adopted by the European Commission in July, stipulate that Turkish Cypriot goods coming into the Greek Cypriot market must comply with EU standards, including those concerning food safety and plant health. In addition, the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce must certify that the products going south have originated in northern Cyprus. Live animals, animal products, animal feed, and fish will not be permitted as part of this trade across the Green Line. As soon as the legislation came into force, entrepreneurs wishing to trade goods such as fruit, vegetables, textiles, and furniture began registering their products with the Chamber of Commerce.
In addition, the Turkish Cypriot leadership has decided to lift the ban on the marketing of Greek Cypriot products in northern Cyprus. Initially, it said, this trade would be limited to semi-manufactured goods and raw materials originating in the south.
In mid-September, the EU Council of Ministers will resume discussions on the European Commission's proposal for direct trade between northern Cyprus and the European Union through ports in the north, as well as the Commission's $320 million EU financial assistance package for the Turkish Cypriots. The Council must approve the proposals for them to go into effect.
Although the Turkish Cypriots seek direct trade with the European Union for Turkish Cypriot products, the Cyprus government opposes it.
In a separate development, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos stated that Cyprus did not wish to veto Turkey's accession to the European Union as long as Turkey accepts the conditions and regulations of the acquis communautaire, or body of EU laws, and "as long as it does not use policies and tactics which perpetuate divisive tendencies in Cyprus, as has been going on recently."
Papadopoulos said he did not think anyone could expect Cyprus "to sit back passively . . . without having the right to ask for a connection between a Cyprus problem solution and Turkey's EU accession prospects."
"We wish to see Turkey's stance help itself, so that we help, rather than hinder its EU accession," Papadopoulos added.
Rauf Denktash, the president of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), announced that he would not stand for re-election when elections are held in April 2005. Denktash has held the position since 1983, when the TRNC, recognized only by Turkey, was unilaterally declared.
August 13, 2004
Turkish Cypriot Politician Travels Via Larnaca Airport for First Time
Washington, D.C. - Mustafa Akinci, the leader of the opposition Peace and Democracy Movement in the Turkish Cypriot parliament, departed from Cyprus for the opening ceremony of the Athens Olympics through the internationally recognized Larnaca Airport in the south. His action marked the first time a Turkish Cypriot politician had flown out of Cyprus from the south instead of departing from an airport in the north.
Akinci stated that, by traveling via Larnaca on August 12, he wanted "to send a message of peace that Greek and Turkish Cypriots should find a solution to the Cyprus problem on their own."
Traveling to Athens on a Turkish passport, Akinci attended the Olympic ceremony at the invitation of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), one of the major sponsors of the games.
On August 6, George Vasiliou, the former president of Cyprus and the current head of the Greek Cypriot United Democrats Party (EDI), met with Turkish Cypriot prime minister Mehmet Ali Talat and members of his Republican Turkish Party in northern Nicosia to discuss ways to increase contacts between both communities. They agreed that a solution to the Cyprus problem should be found as soon as possible.
The meeting occurred a week after meetings were held between Talat and Nicos Anastasiades, the leader of the opposition, right-wing, Greek Cypriot Democratic Rally party (DISY), and between Akinci and Anastasiades, which resulted in agreements to establish joint committees between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot parties to discuss the Cyprus problem.
August 6, 2004
Greek Cypriots Facilitate Trade, Travel Between North and South
Washington, D.C. - The Cyprus government, on July 30, announced a series of measures aimed at promoting economic and trade relations between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots by facilitating the sale of Turkish Cypriot products in the south and the passage of Turkish Cypriot trucks, buses, and taxis across the Green Line.
The proposals have been submitted to the European Commission for approval and are designed to further the implementation of the measure adopted by the EU Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers on April 29, the so-called Green Line Regulation, governing intra-island trade.
The proposals eliminate Greek Cypriot middlemen who currently handle the transport of Turkish Cypriot goods to the south, allowing Turkish Cypriots to carry their products into the south and trade directly with Greek Cypriots.
They include exempting a Turkish Cypriot from having to register in the Value Added Tax (VAT) system or pay VAT if he or she sells less than $20,000 worth of goods directly to Greek Cypriot consumers annually. If sales remain within this limit, the tax will be paid by the Greek Cypriot buyer of the goods or services. Turkish Cypriots will be required to pay VAT only if the value of the merchandise they plan to sell in the south exceeds $20,000 annually.
Turkish Cypriot consumers will not have to pay VAT on Greek Cypriot goods or EU imports making their way into the north from the south. Cyprus government authorities will also make it easier for Turkish Cypriots to export their goods to Europe through the southern ports of Larnaca and Limassol.
Another proposal exempts goods produced in the north from duties or surcharges when they cross the Green Line and treats the products as if they originated in the European Union, enabling their export to the rest of the EU.
To encourage the transport of goods and passengers by Turkish Cypriot-owned trucks, tourist buses, and taxis back and forth across the Green Line, the Cyprus government proposed the granting of temporary driver's licenses to Turkish Cypriots, circulation licenses for their vehicles, and roadworthiness certificates, which will be valid for one year at no charge.
The operators of Turkish Cypriot tourist buses will be required to bring passengers they transport to the south back to the north, following their participation in a tour, excursion, or conference in the south.
Mehmet Ali Talat, the Turkish Cypriot prime minister, stated that measures enhancing trade and travel across the Green Line had been sought by the Turkish Cypriots since the Line was opened to two-way crossings in April 2003. Although the Greek Cypriot measures fell "far short of what was expected," Talat stated, the Turkish Cypriots "are not in a position to reject them." Talat was critical of the fact that rental cars registered in the north would not be able to travel south, while Turkish Cypriot buses would not be able to pick up tourists arriving in the south and take them to hotels in the north. He also said the measures did not adequately facilitate the sale of products in the south by Turkish Cypriot entrepreneurs.
Adriaan van der Meer, the European Commission's representative in Nicosia, said the European Union welcomed any initiative that will bring the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities together. The Commission, on August 4, released $3 million for clearing thousands of land mines in the 110-mile buffer zone in Cyprus. The de-mining operations, which can begin in September, are expected to initially focus on the area in and around Nicosia, and will make possible the opening of new crossing points along the Green Line, now numbering four. The destruction of the mines will be coordinated by a Mine Action Cell to be established in the U.N. Protected Area in Nicosia.
On July 31, Nicos Anastasiades, the leader of the opposition, right-wing, Greek Cypriot Democratic Rally party (DISY), and Talat met in northern Nicosia at the office of Talat's Republican Turkish Party to discuss ways to promote a reunification settlement. The two parties will establish a joint committee to work on the Cyprus problem, having agreed that it was necessary to reach a settlement as soon as possible. Following another meeting in northern Nicosia, Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci, the Turkish Cypriot leader of the Peace and Democracy Movement, also agreed to form a joint committee to examine issues concerning the Cyprus problem.
July 30, 2004
EU Vote on Aid, Direct Trade for Turkish Cypriots in Autumn
Washington, D.C. - The European Union decided that the vote of the EU Council of Ministers on the European Commission's $320 million aid package for the Turkish Cypriots will take place in September, followed by an October debate and vote on the Commission's measures for direct trade with northern Cyprus.
Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou said the decision to wait until the fall to vote on the measures "opens a window of opportunity for the Republic of Cyprus to start consultations with European governments" concerning them.
Although the Cyprus government supports the proposal to award the aid package to the Turkish Cypriots, it regards the measures providing for direct trade between the EU and northern Cyprus to be "unsound on both political and legal grounds," according to Iacovou. Nicosia insists that Turkish Cypriot products should exit Cyprus through the internationally recognized ports and airports in the south, asserting that direct trade with the north implies de facto recognition of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
A representative of the European Commission's Legal Service said there were legal problems associated with the measures concerning direct trade with northern Cyprus since they were based on Article 133, dealing with EU trade with third countries, of the Treaty establishing the European Community. Northern Cyprus, the representative said, could not be considered a third country. Iacovou stated that the Cyprus government was satisfied with this interpretation, having previously asserted that the whole of Cyprus joined the EU on May 1, despite the fact that the acquis communautaire, or body of EU laws, was suspended in the north upon accession.
A statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry said, "Turkey attaches great importance to the swift entry into force of the [EU] draft regulations [on direct trade and financial aid] without any amendments."
Iacovou, on July 26, announced a series of Cyprus government initiatives aimed at easing trade and travel across the Green Line. The initiatives included allowing Turkish Cypriots to drive their trucks, tourist buses, and taxis across the Line and into the south loaded with products or passengers.
In response to statements by Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos that he was ready to re-negotiate the Annan plan in an attempt to achieve a reunification settlement, the Turkish Cypriot foreign ministry issued a statement asserting that the Annan plan "is not open for changes and, as such, the process has been completed." The statement added, "As a result, our side cannot accept any attempt aimed at changing the plan, be it by Mr. Papadopoulos or any other third party."
July 23, 2004
Cyprus Government Proposes Confidence-Building Measures
Washington, D.C. - The Cyprus government on July 16 proposed a series of confidence-building measures it said would provide the necessary basis for the establishment of conditions to promote security and trust among Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said the measures needed to be implemented until a settlement is reached to reunify the country. The president said the Cyprus government "urgently" wanted to achieve a settlement and was working toward reunification on the basis of a "bizonal, bicommunal, and functional federation, which the Annan plan can offer with the appropriate improvements to it."
One of the confidence-building proposals is the withdrawal of up to 2,000 Greek Cypriot National Guardsmen from the U.N.-guarded Green Line, or buffer zone, if Turkey matches the offer by pulling the same number of its troops back from the Line. Other proposals include establishing a military-free area 1.2 miles wide on both sides of the Line, where military exercises would be halted as a result of the pullback of forces; the de-mining of both sides of the buffer zone; the opening of eight new crossings through the zone to encourage expanded trade and travel; and the withdrawal of troops from the old walled city of Nicosia and from areas in eastern Cyprus such as Famagusta and Strovilia.
In addition, the government offered to open the port of Famagusta to international trade if the Turkish Cypriots agree to cede control of the adjacent town of Varosha to the Greek Cypriots. It also proposed that the port be turned over to the control of the European Union, while a joint Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot committee would be formed to run it. Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said Nicosia had submitted a request to the European Commission on June 30 for the return of Varosha to Greek Cypriot property owners. Varosha, a former Greek Cypriot resort town, has been uninhabited since 1974.
Chrysostomides stated that establishing security and trust among the two communities in Cyprus "contributes to the efforts for a political settlement of the Cyprus problem" and "strengthens the prospect for the viability of the solution" that will be achieved.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Namik Tan dismissed the confidence-building measures, referring to them as an attempt to block efforts by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots to end the economic isolation of northern Cyprus, rather than a move toward improving security. Tan said the proposals also constituted an effort to change the direction of the international community’s discussions on the future of Cyprus. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Turkey would not cede control of Varosha to the Greek Cypriots.
The Turkish Cypriot prime minister, Mehmet Ali Talat, stated that the results sought by the Greek Cypriots through the proposed measures would have been achieved if they had voted in favor of the adoption of the Annan plan in the April 24 referendum on the plan. He also announced on June 18 that the Turkish Cypriots would open an additional crossing point along the Green Line to facilitate trade in agricultural products. Talat said more crossing points could be opened if demand warranted them.
The United Nations welcomed the announcement of the measures and said it remained committed to facilitating all confidence-building measures proposed. Jean Christophe-Filore, a spokesman for European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, stated that the Commission welcomed any measures that could establish a climate of confidence among Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
According to U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, Washington would welcome any mutually agreed upon steps that could reduce military tensions in Cyprus and was always looking for ways to provide both communities in the country "with a greater sense of security."
Boucher noted that the U.S. has been urging all parties involved in the Cyprus issue to refrain from military exercises in the fall, as they have for several years, adding that military confidence-building measures were no substitute for a comprehensive political settlement in the form of the Annan plan. Such measures "don’t fully address the general security concerns the Greek Cypriots have expressed, nor do they address the economic aspirations that are so central for the Turkish Cypriots," Boucher stated.
In a separate development, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul called on Turkish businessmen to market their goods in the "Greek Cypriot sector" of Cyprus. "This will not mean, however, that we officially recognize the Greek Cypriot sector. We want to have free trade," Gul said.
July 23, 2004
Assistant Secretary of State Assumes Duties of Special Cyprus Coordinator
Washington, D.C. - Laura Kennedy, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, has assumed the responsibilities of the State Department's Special Coordinator for Cyprus, a position held since 1999 by Thomas Weston, who is stepping down in August to teach at Georgetown University. The Special Cyprus Coordinator position has not been abolished.
On her first trip to the region in this capacity the week of July 19, Kennedy held talks with both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot officials on efforts to solve the Cyprus problem and the details of the $30 million financial aid package Washington is planning to give to the Turkish Cypriots.
In Turkey, Kennedy met with Deputy Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Ali Tuygan and officials from the Turkish General Staff to discuss Cyprus, Iraq, and issues concerning the Caucasus, the fight against terrorism, and Turkey's bid to join the European Union.
The relevant officials in Greece were not available to meet with Kennedy during this trip but will be consulted by her in the future.
July 16, 2004
U.S. Grants Economic Aid to Turkish Cypriots
Washington, D.C. - The United States will give the Turkish Cypriots $30 million in aid in 2004 to ease their economic isolation and reward them for voting in favor of the Annan reunification plan in the April 24 referendum in Cyprus. The aid will include measures to promote the restructuring of the financial sector, the strengthening of small- and medium-sized enterprises, and the continuation of bicommunal activities to encourage reconciliation.
The announcement concerning the U.S. aid was made on July 9, two days after the European Commission stated that it was proposing a $320 million aid package for northern Cyprus over the next three years, along with measures that would open up direct trade between the Turkish Cypriots and the European Union.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the U.S. funding was aimed at "the economic development of northern Cyprus and the economic integration of the island in support of eventual reunification." The U.S. hopes that the economic progress envisioned will enable the Turkish Cypriots to assume their share of the costs associated with an eventual reunification settlement and help them bring their economy in line with European Union standards.
Boucher added that the U.S. had been reviewing its policies concerning northern Cyprus so that they would "be compatible with the moves of the European Union, always in cooperation and coordination with it." He said Washington looked forward to the implementation of the EU aid package and the measures promoting direct trade with northern Cyprus, following approval of them by the EU Council of Ministers, because they "can help support eventually the reunification of the island."
Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou, in Brussels to attend a meeting of the EU General Affairs Council, urged his fellow EU ministers to delay for six months their vote on the Commission's measures allowing direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots. He said this would allow time to ascertain whether the export of Turkish Cypriot goods through the internationally recognized ports and airports in the south of Cyprus could be achieved on the basis of intra-island trade rules proposed by the Commission, which the Cyprus government was ready to help implement.
Iacovou stated that the Cyprus government was in favor of granting the $320 million aid package to the Turkish Cypriots, on condition that some changes are made in the package. He suggested, however, that, if the vote on direct trade is not delayed, the government could cast a vote against the aid package.
A vote against the direct trade measures by Cyprus, which regards them as contributing to the de facto recognition of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, would not block their implementation since only a qualified majority is required to approve them. However, a "no" vote on the aid package by Cyprus would prevent its implementation since unanimous approval of it by the EU Council of Ministers is required.
Iacovou stated that there were "substantial problems" regarding allowing direct trade between northern Cyprus and the EU because this trade "is based on false political assumptions and on unsound law."
Foreign Minister Ben Bot of the Netherlands, which holds the rotating EU presidency through December, stated on July 12 that the vote by the EU Council of Ministers on the European Commission's proposals would probably be delayed until the next EU General Affairs Council meeting on September 13-14. Bot noted that the measures must first be approved by the permanent representatives of EU members (COREPER), who will convene until August.
July 10, 2004
EU Announces Measures for Economic Aid, Trade with Northern Cyprus
Washington, D.C. - The European Commission announced measures that will provide a three-year $320 million aid package for northern Cyprus, allow the Turkish Cypriots to trade directly with European Union countries, and define regulations for goods crossing the Green Line within Cyprus.
The EU Council of Ministers will have to approve the measures for them to go into effect. Adoption of the direct trade measure requires approval by a qualified majority of EU member states, while a unanimous vote of all 25 members will be needed to adopt the aid package.
European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen stated that the aim of the measures, announced on July 7, was to "bring the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community to an end." He asserted that, through the measures, which would "build new bridges between the two communities" in Cyprus, the Commission sought "to contribute to the solution of the Cyprus conflict and finally to bring about the reunification of the island." Verheugen added that eliminating the wide economic disparities between the two communities was a precondition for a political settlement.
He said there was no risk that the measures would lead, directly or indirectly, to the recognition of the breakaway entity in northern Cyprus, noting that the Commission "has not the slightest interest in seeing a mini-Turkish state" in the north.
In allocating the economic aid, previously earmarked for the Turkish Cypriots in the event of a reunification settlement, the Commission would target the development of the north, Verheugen said, although it would seek to fund projects that benefited both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. The projects include making Turkish Cypriot legislation compatible with EU law, establishing social programs, and improving infrastructure. The Commission proposes the release of $7.5 million this year, $141.3 million in 2005, and $172.2 million in 2006.
The measures envision the reopening of ports in northern Cyprus, closed to international commerce since 1974, to facilitate the direct import of Turkish Cypriot products by the EU. In addition, the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce will be authorized to issue documents for the products, particularly agricultural produce, to certify that they have originated in northern Cyprus. Turkish Cypriot goods will enter the EU under a quota system that will "encourage economic development, while avoiding the creation of artificial trade patterns or facilitating fraud," according to the Commission.
Verheugen stated that the European Commission was not entitled to make a decision concerning the issue of direct flights to northern Cyprus, adding that it would be up to the individual EU member countries to determine whether they would initiate direct travel to the region. Turkey, the sole country that recognizes the TRNC, is the only nation that currently provides direct air links into northern Cyprus.
The commissioner said that, because the acquis communautaire, or body of EU laws, had been suspended in northern Cyprus when Cyprus joined the EU on May 1, this part of the country had to be treated as a "third country," a move that the European Union considered normal trade policy.
Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said the Cyprus government did not agree with the Commission's decision to base its proposal for direct trade on Article 133 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, asserting that the article refers to "third countries" that are not members of the European Union. According to the treaty of accession admitting Cyprus to the EU, Chrysostomides said, all of the territory of Cyprus had acceded to the bloc, so the government did not consider Article 133 to be applicable to the EU's policy on trade with northern Cyprus.
The government spokesman also said the EU, with respect to northern Cyprus, could not "determine the ports or airports, or entry or exit points, without the consent of the lawful government of the Republic [of Cyprus]." During the discussions of the committee of permanent representatives of EU members (COREPER) and the EU Council of Ministers regarding the Commission's measures, Chrysostomides stated, the Cyprus government "will make every effort and use all diplomatic means to avert measures that reinforce secessionist tendencies and the consolidation of division" in Cyprus. He added that "a referral of these measures to the Commission's Legal Service, as well as a postponement [of their adoption], will be requested." Chrysostomides also stated that the government had "at its disposal the procedures of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg" and "all the details of the proposed measures, if they are finally adopted by the European Council, will be discussed before the Court."
Nicosia opposes the reopening of Turkish Cypriot ports, maintaining that such a move would confer de facto recognition on the north, while also fostering further division of the country, and has sought the export of Turkish Cypriot goods through internationally recognized ports in the south.
Chrysostomides stated that the government agreed with the measures for the economic support and upgrading of the Turkish Cypriot community, "but they should be measures that aim at the economic integration of the two communities and serve the final objective of reunification." The Commission's proposals, he said, "contain positive elements to that effect, but they also contain elements that imply and promote secessionist tendencies."
Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou said he believed that the regulation concerning direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots was "not necessary" and satisfied Turkish demands "for clearly political reasons." He added that Brussels should have "given a certain period of time" to allow the provision on intra-island trade across the Green Line to take effect, noting that regulations were already in place for Turkish Cypriot goods to be exported through Greek Cypriot ports.
Chrysostomides mentioned the fact that Verheugen had described as "interesting" a proposal by Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos for the reopening of the port of Famagusta to international trade, which would involve joint operation of the port by both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The proposal was presented to the commissioner by Papadopoulos the week of June 28.
Chrysostomides also said the government would announce a series of administrative measures aimed at facilitating the implementation of economic measures for the Turkish Cypriots, including some demilitarization within the walls of old Nicosia, as well as a reduction of arms and de-mining along the buffer zone.
Mehmet Ali Talat, the prime minister of the TRNC, referred to the European Commission's measures as "a step forward," noting that they implemented "a kind of customs union between the TRNC and the EU." He called for the initiation of direct air links with northern Cyprus. Returning from talks in London with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Secretary for European Affairs Dennis McShane, Talat urged Britain, as one of the guarantor powers for Cyprus, to begin these direct flights.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry, in a statement, said the Commission's package of measures "was an important step in the process of putting into practice the political will that was put forward during the meeting of the EU foreign ministers on April 26, 2004, to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots." The statement called on the EU to take further steps and "create the necessary conditions, especially in the transport sector, as soon as possible to implement provisions of the package." Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul stated that there was "still much work to do" toward easing Turkish Cypriot isolation.
Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Yiorgos Koumoutsakos said Greece welcomed the proposed $320 million in economic aid to northern Cyprus but believed that the Commission's measures had "negative aspects," particularly the "procedures to establish direct contacts" between the EU and the Turkish Cypriots.
July 10, 2004
Olympic Flame Relay Cancelled in Northern Cyprus
Washington, D.C. - Plans to have the Olympic flame pass through northern Cyprus have been cancelled following a lack of agreement between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots over the details of the ceremonies accompanying the flame relay.
Mehmet Ali Talat, the Turkish Cypriot prime minister, said the passage of the flame into the north had fallen through because of a dispute concerning whether the Turkish Cypriots would be allowed to hold a welcoming ceremony for the runners that matched the one planned by the Greek Cypriots. Talat said lengthy discussions had been conducted concerning "whether or not this violates the principle of equality between the two communities." The Turkish Cypriot sports minister, Ozkan Yorgancioglu, said the conditions set by the Greek Cypriots included no ceremony in the north and no speech by the mayor of the Turkish Cypriot section of Nicosia.
Kikis Lazarides, the head of the Cyprus Olympic Committee (COC) said, "There have been some differences [of opinion] and there has not been an understanding with the Turkish Cypriots" concerning the relay.
The COC, in conjunction with the Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee, had given the go-ahead for the flame to pass through northern Cyprus during its stop on the island July 8, the last leg of its 27-nation journey before it returned the next day to Greece, in preparation for the opening of the Olympics on August 13.
The two organizations had initially announced that the flame would be carried by Turkish Cypriot runners in northern Cyprus in keeping with the spirit of the flame relay's motto, "Our flame unites the world." The Cyprus government had said its only stipulations were that Turkish Cypriot authorities waive passport requirements for runners and their entourage at checkpoints along the Green Line.
The flame was carried through Istanbul, Turkey, and Sofia, Bulgaria, before arriving in Cyprus.
July 2, 2004
Cyprus Rejects Reported EU Plans for Direct Trade and Travel Links with Turkish Cypriots
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos termed a draft package of European Union measures that will reportedly open direct trade and travel links with northern Cyprus as "unacceptable," maintaining that such measures would contradict EU rules and regulations. On July 7, the EU is due to vote on the package, which is still under discussion and is designed to ease the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.
Papadopoulos said the Cyprus government, which views the measures as contributing to the consolidation of the division of the island, would work with the EU in an attempt to find ways to boost the Turkish Cypriot economy without violating international laws and EU regulations. Without the consent of the Cyprus government, Papadopoulos stated, "it would be very difficult to see ports and airports in occupied Cyprus operate legally." As a last resort, he said, his government could file a complaint with the European Court of Justice with regard to the EU measures.
Mehmet Ali Talat, the prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, rejected proposals by the Cyprus government to partially demilitarize the buffer zone and open 11 new crossing points along the Green Line. The Greek Cypriots proposed a ban on military maneuvers within two miles of the buffer zone and the removal of land mines in the area. Talat said the proposals constituted "a pointless attempt to raise issues that are not currently under discussion," asserting that there were other matters that needed to be resolved first, such as easing the international isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.
Papadopoulos called on the European Union to become involved in efforts to achieve a Cyprus settlement, in cooperation with the United Nations. Both the EU and the U.N. have said that they have no immediate plans to undertake initiatives to reunify Cyprus.
June 18, 2004
U.S. Loosens Travel Restrictions for Government, Military Personnel to North
Washington, D.C. - Washington has authorized the travel of U.S. government and military personnel directly into northern Cyprus, a radical departure from past policy that forbade direct travel into the region north of the Green Line by such personnel under any circumstances and limited their entry into the area to crossing over the line from the south.
Whether the reason for the travel is official business or tourism, these individuals are to use only their tourist passports, not their diplomatic passports, upon direct entry into the north, a reflection of the fact that the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is not recognized by the United States. U.S. government and military personnel who cross the Green Line from the south to the north present their diplomatic passports at the line as a form of identification.
If U.S. officials or officers are going directly to northern Cyprus for official business, they must receive approval from the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia before they fly or take a boat to northern Cyprus. If the purpose of their direct travel is tourism, they do not need to notify the embassy to receive clearance.
U.S. government and military employees have been made aware that attempting to travel south across the Green Line after entering the north directly could lead to problems with the Greek Cypriot authorities.
The new travel provision concerning northern Cyprus is expected to be especially attractive to the 1,100 U.S. military personnel stationed at Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey for vacation purposes, since Turkey, the sole nation that recognizes the TRNC, is the only country providing direct flights into the north.
Private U.S. citizens have never been restricted from traveling directly into northern Cyprus and may continue to do so.
On June 9, State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston visited the representative of the TRNC in New York, Resat Caglar, in his office at Turkey's permanent mission to the United Nations. In the past, Weston has sought a neutral venue for his meetings with Caglar. On June 17, he visited the TRNC representative in Washington, Osman Ertug, in the latter's office, a departure from his previous practice of meeting with Ertug at a neutral venue or in Weston's own office at the State Department.
Following his meeting with Ertug, Weston stated that his visit to Ertug's office was part of the approach the United States is taking to end the international isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. He said the U.S. would do its best to contribute to the economy of northern Cyprus in order to bring it to a level similar to that of the Greek Cypriots.
June 18, 2004
U.N. Approves Extension of UNFICYP Mandate, Awaits Annan Review of Force
Washington, D.C. - The U.N. Security Council, on June 11, renewed the mandate of the 1,200-member United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another six months, from June 15 to December 15, 2004, on the recommendation of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who said the absence of a settlement made the presence of the force "necessary for the maintenance of the ceasefire." The move was in keeping with the Council's longstanding pattern of renewing the force's mandate twice a year, following reports on its operation and recommendations for renewal by the secretary general.
However, in a departure from past practice, Annan, in a report to the Security Council released June 3, stated that he would conduct a review, to be completed within three months, of "UNFICYP's mandate, force levels, and concept of operations" in view of the failed April 24 referendum on the Annan settlement plan and as part of an overall reappraisal of the U.N.'s peacekeeping activities in Cyprus.
On June 11, the Security Council said it welcomed Annan's intention to conduct such a review. It also stated that it would consider the recommendations he was planning to submit to the Council and would act upon his proposals "within one month of receiving them." This action by the Council would, therefore, be expected in October.
June 18, 2004
Party Loyalties Remain Generally Static in European Parliament Elections
Washington, D.C. - The results of Cyprus's first European Parliament elections, following the country's entry into the European Union on May 1, basically reaffirmed the party loyalties of the Greek Cypriot electorate exhibited in the parliamentary elections of May 2001.
In the June 10-13 Euroelections, the main opposition, right-wing Democratic Rally Party (DISY), the party of former Cyprus president Glafcos Clerides, now led by Nicos Anastasiades, received 28.2 percent of the vote. AKEL, the Eurocommunist party and the largest party in Cyprus, headed by Dimitris Christofias, came in second with 27.9 percent. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos's center-right Democratic Party (DIKO) came in third with 17.1 percent.
AKEL and DISY won two seats each, while DIKO and the "For Europe" party each won a seat. For Europe is comprised of lawmakers who broke away from DISY in protest over its support for the Annan plan in the failed April 24 referendum.
In the May 2001 elections for the Cyprus House of Representatives, AKEL garnered 34.7 percent of the vote, taking 20 seats, while DISY won 34.0 percent, taking 19 seats. DIKO received 14.8 percent, giving it 9 seats in the 56-seat body. In the February 2003 presidential election, Papadopoulos was supported by a broad coalition of parties ranging from his own Democratic Party to AKEL.
Only 97 of the 503 Turkish Cypriots registered to vote in the European Parliament elections, taking place only in the south, crossed the Green Line to take part. There was only one Turkish Cypriot candidate, Istanbul University professor Mehmet Hasan, an independent. The Turkish Cypriots were able to vote for either this candidate or any of the Greek Cypriot candidates, just as the Greek Cypriots were.
Mehmet Ali Talat, the prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, said that two of Cyprus's six seats in the European Parliament should remain empty if two Turkish Cypriots are not elected to these seats. He also said that, in the absence of reserving two seats for Turkish Cypriots, he wanted two Turkish Cypriots to be included in the European Parliament as observers.
June 4, 2004
Papadopoulos Rebuts Annan Report
Washington, D.C. - Responding to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's report on the reunification negotiations leading up to the failed April 24 referendum, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos strongly opposed the secretary general's urging that the Security Council "give a strong lead to all states to cooperate both bilaterally and in international bodies to eliminate unnecessary restrictions and barriers that have the effect of isolating the Turkish Cypriots."
The submission of the June 7 letter, which will circulate as an official U.N. document, occurred as the discussion opened in the Security Council on the Annan report, released on June 3. The Council has until June 15 to adopt a decision on the report.
Papadopoulos asserted that Annan's suggestion regarding international cooperation with the Turkish Cypriots lay outside the secretary general's good offices mission concerning the Cyprus negotiations, was "in direct contravention" of the Security Council's resolutions and international law, and would lead to "the upgrading of and creeping or overt recognition of this secessionist entity," a reference to the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The president said the welfare and prosperity of the people of Cyprus lay in the economic integration of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities and the unification of their economies. He noted that the Cyprus government had implemented two packages of measures in April that had promoted intra-island trade and the export of Turkish Cypriot goods through its legal seaports and airports. The Turkish Cypriots, he stated, were not making use of these measures.
Papadopoulos welcomed Annan's recognition of the fact that serious concerns of the Greek Cypriot community, particularly those regarding security were, as Papadopoulos stated, "to a great extent, ignored."
The concerns involved primarily the Greek Cypriots' opposition to the provision interpreted as allowing all Turkish settlers to remain in Cyprus, with the possibility that there would be a permanent flow of these settlers into the country; the permanent stationing of downsized Turkish military forces in Cyprus, even after Turkey's eventual accession to the European Union; and the expansion of the rights of the guarantor powers provided by the Treaty of Guarantee, giving Turkey the right to intervene militarily in the Greek Cypriot component state.
Papadopoulos emphasized that Annan had erred in assuming that the Greek Cypriots' rejection of the specific version of the Annan plan voted on during the referendum constituted a vote against the reunification of Cyprus and against an eventual solution based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
The president maintained that provisions in the Annan plan "clearly serving Turkish interests and aims in Cyprus" explain to a large extent why the plan was overwhelmingly rejected by the Greek Cypriots, approved by the Turkish Cypriot side, and "so emphatically endorsed by the Turkish government." These provisions, he said, included divisive bizonality provisions, strategic economic benefits, and "sufficient troops, even if reduced in numbers, to allow [Turkey] again to intervene militarily through a bridgehead in Cyprus, a right Turkey still insists she enjoys."
The main objection of the Greek Cypriot community to the plan, Papadopoulos stated, "was the fact that foreign interests, primarily Turkish ones, were satisfied, instead of those of the Cypriot population, Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike." He asserted that the two benefits in the plan for Greek Cypriots, territorial adjustments and reductions in the size of the Turkish army contingent in Cyprus, would have taken a number of years to be phased in, making the implementation of the plan contingent on Turkey's good will, rather than on "concrete and ironclad guarantees."
Papadopoulos stated that Greek Cypriots also had serious doubts concerning whether the final Annan plan, the fifth version, was compatible with the acquis communautaire, the EU's body of laws, asserting that the European Commission had only examined and approved the first version of the plan. Papadopoulos stated that the ability of Cyprus to function effectively within the EU as a member state would not have been achieved by the version of the Annan plan put to a referendum.
June 11, 2004
U.N. Calls on Greek Cypriots to Outline Future Course for Cyprus Reunification
Washington, D.C. - During a briefing accompanying the Security Council's discussion of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's report on the settlement negotiations, the secretary general's special advisor for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, stated that it was necessary for the U.N. to better understand "how the Greek Cypriot side sees the way forward" toward the eventual goal of reunification and why 76 percent of Greek Cypriots voted "no" on the Annan plan in the April 24 referendum.
De Soto stated that the U.N. needed to know "if questions of security and implementation were, indeed, the main concern, and, if so, what can be done by the Security Council to address them." He noted that the secretary general had encouraged the Council to "stand ready to do so if those concerns can be articulated with clarity and finality."
Throughout the U.N. negotiation effort, which began in late 1999, the goal was to bring about a settlement "through a decision of the people on each side," de Soto stated. Now that a decision has been made, he said, it "must be respected."
Annan's envoy pointed out that a great deal had been achieved through the negotiation process. He called for building on these achievements, in addition to "a number of elements put in place, to keep alive the prospects for reconciliation and reunification." He acknowledged the "extensive and consistent" efforts of many Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to reunify Cyprus, noting that they "have to continue."
De Soto welcomed the Turkish Cypriots' approval of the Annan plan in the referendum as "more than a mere expression of goodwill for a solution to the Cyprus problem." The Turkish Cypriot people "have clearly backed away from their search for separate sovereign statehood," de Soto asserted, adding that this was "a fundamental turnabout in the direction taken by the Turkish Cypriot side for over two decades."
June 4, 2004
Annan Urges Easing of Turkish Cypriot Isolation, Criticizes Greek Cypriot Campaign to Defeat Settlement Plan
Washington, D.C. - U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, in a report to the U.N. Security Council on the Cyprus settlement negotiations over the year leading up to the failed April 24 referendum, urged the global community to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, who, he said, had "clearly and convincingly come out in favor of the reunification of Cyprus in a bicommunal, bizonal federation" through their decision to vote "yes" on the Annan plan.
The decision of the Turkish Cypriots to support the plan "has undone whatever rationale might have existed for pressuring and isolating" them, Annan stated in the report, released on June 2. "I would hope the members of the Council can give a strong lead to all states to cooperate both bilaterally and in international bodies to eliminate unnecessary restrictions and barriers that have the effect of isolating the Turkish Cypriots and impeding their development, not for the purposes of affording recognition or assisting secession, but as a positive contribution to the goal of reunification," he stated.
The secretary general said he wanted to express his "appreciation of the efforts of Mr. [Mehmet Ali] Talat," the prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus who campaigned for a "yes" vote on the referendum, "both in the [negotiating] process and in the run-up to the referendum." Annan also said he "appreciated the strong support of the Turkish government" for his efforts to reach a settlement, noting that Ankara's change of policy under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had "enabled this new [settlement] effort to take off."
Referring to Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos's April 7 speech, in which the Cyprus head of state called on Greek Cypriots to reject the Annan plan in the referendum, the secretary general said he did "not believe the speech accurately reflected the contents of the plan on a range of issues." Annan also maintained that he did not accept the president's argument in the speech that "Turkey's concerns were satisfied and Greek Cypriot concerns largely ignored" in the plan.
Annan said it "might have been possible to accommodate other Greek Cypriot concerns had the Greek Cypriot side been more willing to engage in give and take" at the negotiations in Burgenstock, Switzerland, and in earlier talks. He also criticized the Greek Cypriot side for failing to "prioritize its objectives."
The secretary general said he "was surprised" that Papadopoulos's speech had warned Greek Cypriots against "doing away with our internationally recognized state exactly at the very moment it strengthens its political weight, with its accession to the European Union," in light of "what Mr. Papadopoulos had said to me in Brussels in January 2004."
Annan said it was "regrettable" that "little was done by some participants in the negotiations to prepare the people for a compromise," adding that "the opportunity for frank and constructive negotiations was not fully utilized." He said he had "concerns regarding the way in which the plan was presented to the public, particularly on one side."
If the Greek Cypriots remain willing to resolve the Cyprus problem through a bicommunal, bizonal federation, "this needs to be demonstrated, not just by word, but by action," the secretary general stated. "Lingering Greek Cypriot concerns about security and implementation of the plan need to be articulated with clarity and finality," he asserted, noting that the Security Council "would be well advised to stand ready to address such concerns."
The secretary general said Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis "had declared his view that the benefits of the plan outweighed the difficulties in it, and that the difficulties could be ironed out as Cyprus acceded to the European Union." Annan added that he had "always been able to count on Greece's support" for his efforts toward the reunification of Cyprus.
Annan said he did not "see any basis" for resuming the U.N.'s efforts to reach a settlement in Cyprus "as long as this stand-off remains." He maintained, however, that, "while the plan is legally null and void in the aftermath of the referendum, its acceptance by the Turkish Cypriot electorate means that the shape of any final settlement to reunify Cyprus would appear to be set." The secretary general said the plan remained the "only foreseeable basis which the Cypriots have to achieve a settlement."
A spokesman for European Union Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen stated that the Commission viewed Annan's report positively. Christophe Filori said the report "is in accord with the results we have reached."
In a separate report on the United Nations operation in Cyprus, released along with the report on the settlement negotiations, Annan recommended that the Security Council extend the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for a further period of six months until December 15, 2004.
In this report, Annan stated that, in view of the "watershed vote" of April 24 and as part of a reappraisal of the U.N. peacekeeping activities in Cyprus, he would conduct a review, to be completed within three months, of UNFICYP's "mandate, force levels, and concept of operations." He said he would submit to the Security Council "recommendations on the adjustments or restructuring that may be required."
June 4, 2004
Papadopoulos Critical of Annan's Report on Settlement Negotiations
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, reacting to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's report to the Security Council on the settlement negotiations, stated that the Greek Cypriots were "particularly offended and consider unfounded" Annan's view that their rejection of his settlement plan "was tantamount to a rejection of a settlement."
The president said the report contained "a number of inaccuracies as regards to the facts, and we disagree with the secretary general's evaluation of the stance of both sides."
Papadopoulos emphasized that, by voting "no" on the April 24 referendum on the Annan plan, the Greek Cypriots had expressed their displeasure with the plan as it stood, but their vote did not signify a rejection of the goal of reaching a Cyprus settlement. The Greek Cypriots, he said, decided that this specific plan did not fulfill the basic requirements for a solution.
The Greek Cypriots, the president said, still believe that the Annan plan is "a good basis for an eventual solution" and still support the creation of a bizonal, bicommunal federation. He added that the shape of the final settlement was "too important to expect us to rush into such a fundamental and irreversible change with what can only be described as an unseemly haste which would not be acceptable to any other state."
The president said it was important to find "an agreed solution between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots for our own interest, rather than serve the interests of the outsiders, mainly of Turkey, or the Europeans, or the U.S., or other countries."
Following a meeting between Annan and Papadopoulos in New York on June 3, the day after the report was released, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the secretary general had urged the Cyprus president to find a way to break the impasse in the search for a reunification settlement. "The secretary general said that, after the decisive rejection of the plan by the Greek Cypriots, it would be for that side to explain clearly to the Turkish Cypriots, the United Nations, and the rest of the world how they see the way forward," Eckhard stated.
Eckhard also said Annan had called on Papadopoulos to respond positively to the secretary general's appeal, in his report, for states to eliminate unnecessary barriers to the development of the Turkish Cypriots. "This will signal that the Greek Cypriots wish to reach out to their Turkish Cypriot compatriots in the north, and assist them and help facilitate the eventual goal of reunification," the spokesman said.
Papadopoulos said he wished to help the Turkish Cypriots reap the benefits of European Union accession and see that they received as many benefits as possible on condition that these were permissible and possible in the context of EU and international law, as well as the decisions of the Security Council.
June 4, 2004
U.S. Eases Visa Regulations for Turkish Cypriots
Washington, D.C. - The U.S. government has amended visa regulations for Turkish Cypriots to grant them longer stays in the United States, the latest of a number of measures that are being considered by Washington to ease the international isolation of Turkish Cypriots.
While previous regulations allowed Turkish Cypriots to remain in the U.S. for three months, with a total of two entries permitted during that time, they will now be issued two-year visas with multiple entries. The U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, which issues the visas, stated that the new regulations would be particularly beneficial for Turkish Cypriot students.
To apply for a visa, Turkish Cypriots can present either a Republic of Cyprus passport or a passport issued by the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is not recognized by the United States. If they present a TRNC passport, not recognized as a valid passport since it has not been issued by a recognized entity, this document will be accepted as a "travel document" for identity purposes. The visa will then be stamped on a U.S. government form, which will be stapled inside the TRNC passport. Turkish Cypriots presenting a Republic of Cyprus passport will be granted the same visa issued to Greek Cypriots.
The United States is continuing to review additional measures it will take concerning northern Cyprus and will implement them individually over the coming weeks as final decisions are made, according to the State Department.
May 28, 2004
U.S. Expands Contacts with Turkish Cypriots as Debate Over Protocol for Green Line Crossings Continues
Washington, D.C. - The United States, which is expected to announce a series of measures soon to ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, invited, for the first time, an ambassador representing the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to a U.S. diplomatic activity.
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman extended an invitation to the TRNC's ambassador to Turkey, Ahmet Zeki Bulunc, to attend a late May reception at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara commemorating the American independence day, the Fourth of July. The reception usually takes place the last week of June, but it was held earlier this year because of the June 28-29 NATO summit in Istanbul and the visit of President Bush to Turkey for the event.
On May 21, U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Michael Klosson visited the prime minister of the TRNC, Mehmet Ali Talat, at the TRNC prime ministry, marking the first visit to that office by a U.S. ambassador. During Talat's early May visit to Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell, in an unprecedented move, addressed him as "prime minister." State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher stated that the U.S. now considers Talat to be the leader of the Turkish Cypriots, a title long accorded to Rauf Denktash, the TRNC president who served as the Turkish Cypriot representative at settlement negotiations until the March settlement talks in Burgenstock, Switzerland, when Talat took over the task.
World Bank Country Director for Turkey Andrew Vorkink stated that the Bank would extend its help to the Turkish Cypriots to alleviate their isolation, noting that the Turkish Cypriot banking, state administration, and social security systems needed to be reformed.
Although the income level of the Turkish Cypriots is only one-third of that of the Greek Cypriots, Vorkink said, the potential for tourism in the north is far greater than it is in the south and there will be foreign investment in this sector. He stated that the economic growth rate in northern Cyprus stands at 6 percent, while it is 2 percent in the south.
In the meantime, the Turkish Cypriot administration, on May 25, ended its practice of requiring Greek Cypriots residing in Cyprus to present their passports at the Green Line when traveling north and allowed them to begin showing their identity cards instead. The presentation of identity cards had been considered sufficient for all other EU citizens traveling north, including Greek Cypriots living outside Cyprus, under a May 21 decree issued by the Turkish Cypriot cabinet.
After Turkish Cypriot authorities opened the Green Line to two-way traffic in April 2003, they required Greek Cypriots to show their passports upon crossing the line, a stipulation that the Cyprus government opposed since the practice, in its view, inferred tacit recognition of the Turkish Cypriot administration.
While the passport requirement remained in effect, Cyprus Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said, "The issue proves an attempt [by the Turkish Cypriots] to take advantage of what Cyprus's accession to the EU offers" for the purpose of tourism. He also criticized Talat for requiring EU Budget Commissioner Marcos Kyprianou, the former Cyprus finance minister, to show his passport upon crossing into the north, stating that the action was proof that "the Turkish Cypriots are in contempt of EU representatives." Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou said the demand that Greek Cypriots show their passports at the Green Line had always been illegal.
Following the Turkish Cypriot decision to allow Greek Cypriots to present only their identity cards at the line, the foreign minister of the TRNC, Serdar Denktash, stated that "the Greek Cypriot leadership should immediately stop discriminating between TRNC citizens on the basis of their place of birth." His comment was a reference to the fact that the Cyprus government does not allow settlers from Turkey living in the north to enter the south across the Green Line. Denktash said he would refer the matter to Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos.
May 21, 2004
Cyprus Hosts EU Exercise to Curb Illegal Migration
Washington, D.C. - Shortly after its May 1 entry into the European Union, Cyprus served as the command center for a groundbreaking EU exercise to combat illegal migration in the eastern Mediterranean, with the participation of seven other countries and the European Police Office (Europol) in The Hague.
The 13-day exercise, called "Operation Neptune," ended on May 15 and was coordinated from the Marine and Port Police Headquarters in the Cypriot port of Limassol. Cyprus provided a helicopter and an airplane, manned by a total of 20 military personnel, while both aircraft and ships were provided by Britain, France, Greece, and Italy. Germany, Malta, Spain, and Europol sent representatives to observe the exercise.
The head of the Italian parliament's Schengen, Europol, and Immigration Committee, Alberto di Luca, stated that Cyprus played a major role in the EU from a geographical point of view since, located at the bloc's easternmost border, it was Europe's gateway to the Middle East. Italy, which launched the initiative for Operation Neptune, estimated that up to 50,000 illegal migrants on their way to Europe pass through open waters off the coast of Cyprus each year via the Middle East.
Cyprus Police Chief Tassos Panayiotou said that more than 200 ships were intercepted during the exercise and checked for illegal immigrants, but none was found. Panayiotou asserted that there were over 30,000 illegal immigrants in Cyprus, while 1,550 have been arrested so far this year.
May 14, 2004
Legal Status of Green Line Raised Under EU's Freedom of Movement Policy
Washington, D.C. - The European Union's intention to allow the free movement of EU citizens across the U.N.-administered Green Line has been met with hints by the Cyprus government that it may impose fines on tourists who enter the country through the unrecognized ports or airports in the north and travel into the south. The EU asserts that free movement across this line must be maintained since it does not regard the line to be an external border of the bloc.
Cyprus Commerce, Industry, and Tourism Minister George Lillikas said the Cyprus government had the exclusive right to decide on the possible penalties it may impose on persons entering the country via the north instead of through the internationally recognized ports and airports in the south. Cyprus Justice Minister Doros Theodorou said that, "for those who come in from an illegal port or airport, the law of the republic [of Cyprus] is still valid."
The European Commission's representative in Cyprus, Adriaan van der Meer, said the EU would "not welcome" fines being imposed on EU citizens.
Although Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos stated that the government did not want to impose penalties related to the location of a person's entry into Cyprus, he said that such an issue, if it arose, would be political and should be decided by the relevant authorities.
Papadopoulos further stated that, according to a law adopted by the Cyprus House of Representatives, European Union citizens have the right to free movement regardless of where they enter the country. However, he said, this law gives the Cyprus government the right to impose administrative measures. "If and when the government decides to impose these measures will depend on the developments, but we do not wish and it is not our intention to impose measures," the president said.
Before Cyprus became an EU member on May 1, tourists were denied entry into the south across the Green Line if they had entered the country through the north. In some cases, these individuals were arrested and deported. Though tourists who entered Cyprus through the south were allowed to travel north over the Green Line, they were not allowed to stay there overnight, a stipulation that the EU will no longer allow.
Consultations between the Cyprus government and the European Union continue concerning the Green Line regulation adopted by the EU, which outlines special rules for the movement of goods, persons, and services across the line.
The government is setting up a monitoring group and two technical committees to handle implementation of the regulation. The monitoring group will be comprised of officials from the ministries of agriculture, justice, and foreign affairs, as well as government legal authorities. It will advise the technical committees, while also conducting consultations with the European Commission and the authorities of the British sovereign bases to ensure the proper implementation of the regulation.
May 10, 2004
Cyprus Joins EU, Papadopoulos Laments Turkish Cypriot Exclusion
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, in a speech marking the May 1 accession of Cyprus to the EU, stated that the Greek Cypriots' joy in acceding to the bloc was overshadowed by their "grief" over the fact that the moment could not be celebrated along with the Turkish Cypriots and by "disappointment" over the absence of a settlement.
"We do not want to enjoy the benefits of accession on our own. We want to share them with the Turkish Cypriots," Papadopoulos stated, adding that the Turkish Cypriots were entitled to these benefits as legitimate citizens of the Republic of Cyprus.
Papadopoulos, who had successfully urged Greek Cypriots to vote "no" on the Annan plan in the referendum, said the government would work toward the reunification of the country and "a functional and viable solution" to the Cyprus problem. "The rejection of one particular plan does not amount to the end of our efforts and our mission," he said.
European Parliament President Pat Cox stated that the EU should recognize "a special European duty of care to the community and leaders of Turkish Cyprus who were prepared to show leadership and an appetite for reconciliation" by voting "yes" on the Annan plan. He said the European Parliament would insist that the $311 million earmarked for northern Cyprus by the EU was allocated to the Turkish Cypriot community and that the European Commission would supervise the expenditure of the funds.
The head of the European Commission delegation in Nicosia, Adriaan van der Meer, assured the Turkish Cypriots that the Commission "will use every means in our power" to bring them closer to the EU and will search for ways to promote their economic development.
The EU enlargement ceremony, admitting Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia to the bloc, was held in Ireland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis emphasized that it was important for the international community to remain focused on the Cyprus problem since the basic objective was the reunification of the country to enable all Cypriots to benefit from EU accession.
May 10, 2004
Talat Urges U.S. to End Turkish Cypriot Isolation
Washington, D.C. - Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a May 4 meeting with Mehmet Ali Talat, the prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, said the Bush administration would soon announce a U.S. aid package aimed at easing the international isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. He reiterated his earlier statement that the U.S. would coordinate its policy toward northern Cyprus with that of the European Union, which announced that it would provide the Turkish Cypriots with $311 million in aid.
The secretary of state praised the support of the Turkish Cypriots for the Annan plan in the referendum, expressing regret that the Greek Cypriots had rejected it.
Powell, who met with Talat at the United Nations headquarters in New York 10 days after the referendum, was the highest-ranking U.S. official to meet with a Turkish Cypriot leader since Secretary of State James Baker III met with Rauf Denktash, the TRNC president and long-time Turkish Cypriot settlement negotiator, in the early 1990s. State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston has met regularly with Turkish Cypriot officials.
Talat also met with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York.
The Turkish Cypriot official, who stated that he was not seeking formal diplomatic recognition for the TRNC, said he had told Powell and Annan that the Turkish Cypriots' first priority was persuading the international community to lift the ban on direct passenger flights into northern Cyprus in order to end the statelet's economic isolation and boost its tourist industry. The current requirement that any flight bound for northern Cyprus must first touch down in Turkey increases the cost of a trip and is time-consuming, he said. Talat noted that the primary source of income for the Turkish Cypriots in the future is likely to be tourism.
Talat also said the opening of seaports in northern Cyprus to international commercial ships and to passenger vessels would facilitate both trade and tourism. He is also seeking the lifting of international restrictions on sporting activities and investment in the north.
In Washington, Talat held meetings with U.S. Representative Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), the chairman of the House Committee on International Relations; Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Elizabeth Jones; and IMF European I Department Director Michael Deppler. Talat said the IMF would provide technical support for the development of a banking system and monetary policies in northern Cyprus.
Before arriving in the United States, Talat said he was not satisfied with the measures announced by the European Union that would facilitate the export of Turkish Cypriot goods to the EU across the Green Line and through the internationally recognized seaports and airports of the Republic of Cyprus. He noted that the fact that the EU gave Greek Cypriots authority over Turkish Cypriot trade was not acceptable. "The Greek Cypriot administration has no such authority," Talat said. Both Talat and the Turkish government have urged the European Union to establish direct transportation and trade links between the bloc's member states and northern Cyprus.
Talat campaigned actively for a "yes" vote on the Annan plan, despite the opposition of Rauf Denktash to the plan. Talat has said that, although he remains committed to resolving the division of Cyprus, it would not be possible for the Turkish Cypriots to accept a re-negotiation of the Annan plan. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has said the plan was still on the table and there were efforts underway to make it more acceptable to the Greek Cypriots.
President Bush telephoned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to say that he welcomed Erdogan's "strong leadership" in helping to secure Turkish Cypriot approval of the Annan plan. A White House spokesman said both leaders noted their support for efforts by the EU and others to "lessen the economic isolation of Turkish Cypriots by strengthening economic ties with Greek Cypriots and the outside world." They also expressed their hope for the reunification of Cyprus as provided for in the Annan plan.
U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky) submitted a bill to the House of Representatives calling on Washington and the EU to take steps to "abolish the economic and political isolation" of the Turkish Cypriots. The bill also said the Turkish Cypriots should not abandon hope for a united Cyprus and EU membership, while also congratulating them for their "yes" vote on the Annan plan in the referendum.
May 10, 2004
Turkey Hints at Possible Recognition of Cyprus Government
Washington, D.C. - Although Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said it was too early to make a decision on the matter, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled that Ankara could be considering recognition of the Republic of Cyprus.
Turkey has long refused to grant diplomatic recognition to the internationally recognized Cyprus government and has, instead, recognized the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is recognized only by Ankara.
"Saying ‘I don't recognize [the Cyprus government]'. . . won't bring you anything or benefit you. In fact, these could harm positive developments for the future," Erdogan stated. He said Turkey did not "want to clash or conflict with the realities of the world," adding that "we have to take our place within these realities."
Gul noted that Turkey, as an EU candidate, would have to be in contact with the Greek Cypriots within the European Union framework since they are now part of the EU. "We will have to talk to them, shake hands with them whether we favor this or not," Gul said. For this reason, he stated, Turkey had wanted a united Cyprus to enter the EU. Gul asserted that recognition of the Cyprus government was a process that would depend on how the Greek Cypriots "are acting" and "whether they are behaving with good will or not," adding that, following consideration of these factors, Turkey would "evaluate the situation."
A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said that "Turkey's recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" will remain unchanged. It added that the Greek Cypriots "have no authority to represent the whole of Cyprus or the Turkish Cypriots."
The TRNC prime minister, Mehmet Ali Talat, said Turkey had to recognize the Republic of Cyprus because, if it does not recognize one of the EU member states, it can neither receive a date for the start of accession talks, nor can it become an EU member. However, he said, such recognition would not mean that the Greek Cypriots could speak on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots.
Erdogan and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos shook hands during a reception in Dublin marking the May 1 expansion of the EU and expressed a desire to see the Cyprus problem resolved. Papadopoulos maintains that Turkey has no option other than recognizing the Republic of Cyprus, while Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou asserts that the Turkish government will have to "face the issue soon" in order to maintain its relations with the European Union.
Iacovou said Ankara had taken a step toward recognition of the Republic of Cyprus by agreeing that it would allow Turkish truck drivers transporting products from Turkey to European Union countries to carry international insurance documents that list the Republic of Cyprus as an EU member. In the days following Cyprus's accession to the EU, Turkish truck drivers were denied entry into EU territory because they were carrying insurance documents indicating that Cyprus was not a recognized country.
Cyprus, as a new European Union member, will be one of 25 EU countries that will decide at the EU summit in December whether Turkey will be assigned a date to begin EU accession talks.
May 10, 2004
Attack Against Home of Main Opposition Supporter of Annan Plan
Washington, D.C. - In the Cypriot port city of Limassol, a grenade damaged the home of Nikos Anastasiades, the leader of the main opposition, center-right Greek Cypriot Democratic Rally Party (DISY), but no one was hurt in the attack. Anastasiades had campaigned in favor of the Annan plan, as had DISY honorary chairman Glafcos Clerides, who served as Cyprus president before Papadopoulos took office and was the chief Greek Cypriot settlement negotiator for many years.
A group calling itself the Organization of Cypriot Nationalists claimed responsibility for the attack, stating in a proclamation that Anastasiades was an "arch-traitor" for backing the Annan plan.
Prior to the grenade attack, Anastasiades lodged a complaint with the European Parliament concerning the manner in which the Greek Cypriot referendum campaign had been handled by the government, alleging that voices in favor of the Annan plan had been suppressed.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher condemned the grenade attack and stated that the United States was concerned because a Greek Cypriot group had claimed responsibility for the incident, citing political motivations. Boucher said Washington looked forward to a thorough investigation of the matter by the Cyprus government and the apprehension of those responsible for the violence.
April 30, 2004
Greek Cypriots Reject Annan Plan, Turkish Cypriots Vote "Yes"
Washington, D.C. - In the April 24 referenda on the Annan settlement plan in the north and south, 76 percent of the Greek Cypriots rejected the plan, while 65 percent of the Turkish Cypriots endorsed it, dashing the hopes of the international community that a reunified Cyprus would join the European Union on May 1.
The Greek Cypriots followed the lead of Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, who had strongly urged a "no" vote, while Turkish Cypriots rejected a plea by long-time Turkish Cypriot settlement negotiator and president of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Rauf Denktash, to reject the plan.
Most Turkish Cypriots believed that reunification under the Annan plan would end their political and economic isolation and offer them a better future within the European Union. Despite their "yes" vote, the acquis communautaire, the EU's body of laws, will be suspended in the north as Cyprus accedes to the bloc.
The plan would have established largely autonomous Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot component states under a loose federal government led by a presidential council comprised of two-thirds Greek Cypriots and one-third Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriot area would have been reduced from 37 percent of the island to about 29 percent. (Detailed information on the Annan plan).
Seventy-five percent of Greek Cypriots polled stated that security concerns and the lack of assurances that the Annan plan would be fully implemented had prompted them to vote "no."
The Greek Cypriots did not approve of the permanent presence of Turkish and Greek troops in Cyprus and the provision that would have allowed Turkey to intervene militarily in the Greek Cypriot component state. In addition, they rejected the stipulation that only 120,000 of the 180,000 Greek Cypriots displaced in 1974 would be able to return to their homes in the north.
The Greek Cypriots also disapproved of the provision of the plan that gave 45,000 Turkish settlers Cypriot citizenship, while a further 20,000 to 25,000, in addition to the settlers who were married to Turkish Cypriots or were born in Cyprus, were to be given permanent residence with citizenship in four years. The plan also stipulated that there could be a permanent flow of settlers from Turkey into Cyprus due to the right to permanently keep the population of Turkish-language speakers at 66.6 percent of the permanent residents in the Turkish Cypriot component state.
Papadopoulos stated that the Greek Cypriots had not rejected "the resolution of the Cyprus problem," but had "rejected this particular solution," adding that he remained focused on working toward a settlement based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation, which was envisioned in the Annan plan. The results of the referendum "should act as a catalyst for unification and not as a pretext for further division," he said.
Papadopoulos said "there will be a new initiative" for a Cyprus settlement, noting that "it is a constant policy of ours that all talks should be under the auspices of the U.N." He said he wanted to open negotiations on a limited number of issues that did not take away the rights of Turkish Cypriots. Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou said he could not "rule out the possibility that there would soon be a new initiative" for a settlement.
The Greek government, in a statement following the referenda, said "within the EU framework, it will be in everyone's interest to continue rapprochement efforts between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots." The statement said Greece, in cooperation with the Cyprus government, would aim "to keep open the process of finding a final resolution to Cyprus's political problem." Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said the Cyprus issue should not be allowed to affect Turkey's bid to join the EU or relations between Greece and Turkey.
Following a meeting between Papadopoulos and Karamanlis in Athens four days after the vote, the Greek prime minister said the common aim of Greece and Cyprus was to achieve a "viable and functional solution" to the Cyprus problem based on the U.N. secretary general's plan as soon as possible, one that would meet Greek Cypriots' security concerns. Papadopoulos said efforts were underway to make the Annan plan acceptable to the Greek Cypriots.
The Cyprus president called on Greek Cypriot political parties to include Turkish Cypriots on their lists of candidates for Cyprus's six seats in the European Parliament in the June elections. He said there would be "strong urging on our part" that at least two Turkish Cypriots should be elected.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan stated that he hoped the Greek Cypriots would "reflect and take the necessary steps to get back to the [negotiating] table," asserting that "for now, we are done." Annan's special envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, who had served as mediator for the settlement negotiations, announced that he was closing his office in Nicosia, noting that "a unique and historic chance" to resolve the Cyprus problem had been missed.
European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said he did not believe that any new U.N. initiative was in the offing, stating that hopes of a renegotiated plan were "a dangerous illusion."
April 30, 2004
EU Announces Measures to Boost Turkish Cypriot Economy
Washington, D.C. - Just two days before Cyprus was to join the European Union on May 1, EU justice and interior ministers adopted a plan allowing Turkish Cypriots to export a variety of goods duty-free through the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus to the rest of the European Union.
Through a special arrangement agreed to in 2003 by the European Commission, Turkish Cypriots have been allowed to export a restricted list of goods, including citrus fruits, to the EU through the south. The new list of Turkish Cypriot exports will include commodities, fish, and agricultural goods.
The European Commission will have the lead role in certifying that the Turkish Cypriot goods originated in the north, with the certification documents being issued by the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce. The aim is to ensure that products from Turkey do not enter the EU market through northern Cyprus. Greek Cypriot authorities will check the authenticity of the documents provided.
Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou said his government was satisfied with EU plans to ease the passage of Turkish Cypriot goods across the U.N.-administered Green Line since it also wanted to encourage Turkish Cypriot trade and improve the economy in the north.
Iacovou also said the Cyprus government was pleased with the decision of the EU permanent representatives in Brussels (COREPER) stipulating that the Green Line does not constitute an external border of the EU, while the role of the Cyprus government in its management is fully recognized in matters such as passport and travel document control. On the other hand, European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen stated that the Green Line "is de facto an external border of the EU," although the Cyprus government will represent the entire island inside the EU.
Because the TRNC is not recognized by any country other than Turkey, Turkish Cypriot ports and airports are currently off limits to international traffic, and telephone and mail services are provided through Turkey. In 1994, the European Court of Justice ruled that export documents issued by the Turkish Cypriot authorities were invalid in the EU since the TRNC was not recognized by the bloc. Turkish Cypriot trade with other countries has been conducted primarily through Turkey, which issues its own export documents for the products.
The European Union also approved $311 million in aid to the Turkish Cypriots, as a result of their approval of the Annan plan, in order to boost the economy of northern Cyprus. The funds had been earmarked by the EU for rebuilding the Turkish Cypriot economy if the plan had been approved by both communities.
EU foreign ministers said they were "determined to put an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and facilitate the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community." They asked the European Commission to formulate proposals that would achieve this goal, "with particular emphasis on the economic integration of the island and improving contact between the two communities and with the EU."
Verheugen said the EU would work with the Turkish Cypriots to jumpstart their economy, but the north would not be recognized as an independent state. "I strongly reject the idea that cooperation . . . is recognition in the sense of international law," Verheugen said.
The commissioner also said the planned EU aid should be administered through direct contact between the EU and the Turkish Cypriot authorities, rather than through the United Nations. In addition, he said, the European Commission could open an office in northern Cyprus to monitor the flow of community funds into the area. Mehmet Ali Talat, the prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), stated that the Turkish Cypriots could not accept EU aid via the Greek Cypriots.
Verheugen, stating that "there is now a shadow" over Cyprus's EU membership, said the "no" vote by the Greek Cypriots had caused "great political damage" and had unnecessarily complicated the EU's relations with Turkey, as it seeks to join the bloc.
The commissioner stated that Turkey had displayed a very constructive attitude in trying to resolve the Cyprus issue. He said that, as far as the international community was concerned, Turkey had fulfilled all of its responsibilities in this regard. He noted that Turkey's positive attitude would be reflected in the October report being prepared by the Commission on Ankara's progress toward meeting the criteria to begin EU accession talks.
EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said the outcome of the Greek Cypriot referendum had created "a huge amount of political ill will" in Brussels "because there is a deep sense that some Greek Cypriot leaders have behaved in bad faith." In addition, he said, he did not believe "the leadership of the Greek Cypriot community have behaved well . . . gagging [European] commissioners' attempts to speak in the community." The Greek Cypriots "are not going to be a very popular addition to the family," Patten stated.
April 30, 2004
U.S. to Follow EU Lead on Turkish Cypriot Policy
Washington, D.C. - Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the United States, disappointed by the Greek Cypriots' rejection of the Annan plan in the referendum on April 24, would review its position toward the Turkish Cypriots and the position of the European Union to ensure that U.S. policy is carried out "in a way that is consistent with our European colleagues." Powell stated that "a historic opportunity" had been lost with the "no" vote by the Greek Cypriots.
Press reports quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying that the United States is considering offering the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus de facto diplomatic recognition, under which the Turkish Cypriots would enjoy a status similar to that accorded to Taiwan by Washington.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that there had been "a lot of manipulation by the Greek Cypriot leaders in the run-up" to the referendum, noting that "the outcome was regrettable but not surprising, given those actions."
A statistical analysis, Boucher said, indicated that the state-owned Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and other media outlets had given referendum opponents among the Greek Cypriots nearly twice as much airtime as backers of the Annan plan. A decision by the CBC's Board of Directors, he stated, had limited full coverage of the statements of international diplomats, including European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, on the Annan plan and on the referenda.
In addition, according to Boucher, the Cyprus Ministry of Education dismissed children from the public schools early on April 21 and 22 to enable them to attend events where the campaign against the Annan plan was taking place. "Teachers were instructed to encourage their students to vote 'no.' And students were provided with 'no' banners and t-shirts by their teachers. Some were even bussed to specific locations," Boucher said.
Boucher said the U.S. regretted that "not one Greek Cypriot official spoke at the time against the numerous shameful incidents that took place before the referenda," asserting that there had been "numerous reports of physical intimidation and threats" by Greek Cypriots campaigning against the plan, including a death threat against an 18-year-old schoolboy who favored the plan.
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, responding to Boucher's statements, said that "I condemn with all my power the provocative statements" the spokesman made. Denying that the "yes" campaign had been shunned by the Greek Cypriot media, Papadopoulos said that, prior to the referendum, there had been "a lively public debate conducted in a calm and civilized manner, with full respect for freedom of opinion and of expression, and the right to freedom of information in the media and elsewhere."
Both those who opposed the Annan plan and those who supported it, Papadopoulos said, "shared the television time available on a 50-50 basis." He added that "any interventions aimed at influencing the outcome of the referendum did not originate from within Cyprus, but from abroad through statements calculated at instigating sentiments of fear, insecurity, and uncertainty among the voters."
Boucher stated that the Annan plan had been "fair," adding that there was "no better deal" and "no new negotiations planned." He said the U.S. hoped that "the Greek Cypriots will come to comprehend this in due time." The spokesman said Washington had "nothing but praise for the courageous Turkish Cypriots" who voted in favor of the plan.
April 30, 2004
Turkish Side Moves Quickly to Press for End to Northern Cyprus Isolation
Washington, D.C. - Following the referenda, the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey launched a diplomatic offensive aimed at ending decades of political and economic isolation in northern Cyprus.
The prime minister of the TRNC, Mehmet Ali Talat, who campaigned for a "yes" vote on the referenda, wrote to Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of Ireland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, asking for a suspension of the application of EU laws in the south of Cyprus, as is the case in the north, until the country is reunified, essentially "freezing" the country's membership in the bloc. Stating that he remained committed to finding a solution to the Cyprus problem, Talat also called on the EU to establish direct contact with the Turkish Cypriots and amend regulations concerning crossings at the Green Line.
Talat emphasized to the EU that the Greek Cypriots should not be allowed to make decisions on behalf of the Turkish Cypriot people. "Turkish Cypriots will represent Turkish Cypriots," he said. In discussions with European Commission officials in Brussels three days after the referenda, he stated that the Greek Cypriots could not "legally and morally" represent the Turkish Cypriot people.
Talat will meet with Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan at the United Nations in New York on May 4. On May 5, he is expected to meet with members of Congress and officials at the World Bank and IMF in Washington.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who stated that the "yes" vote in northern Cyprus was "the most successful event in the last 50 years of Turkish diplomacy," said that the EU should reward Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots for their support of the Annan plan. "We have faith that we shall get the response we deserve in the EU platform," Erdogan stated, an apparent reference to Ankara's hope that the European Union will decide at its December summit to grant Turkey, an EU candidate since December 1999, a date to begin accession negotiations.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, stating that the partition of the island was now permanent, said the Greek Cypriots could no longer claim to represent all of Cyprus, and Turkey would do everything it could to end the economic and political isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. He said Turkey would not pull its troops out of northern Cyprus, a measure that would have been implemented if the Greek Cypriots had endorsed the Annan plan.
In a series of telephone conversations to European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and Secretary Powell, Gul urged these officials to ease the international isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.
Turkey's National Security Council issued a statement urging international organizations and countries to consider the fact that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots had endorsed the Annan plan and lift economic restrictions on northern Cyprus, while assisting with social, political, and economic improvements in the region.
Foreign Ministry Assistant Undersecretary Baki Ilkin briefed members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), of which Turkey is a member, on the Cyprus issue and requested that the member states help to revive the economy of northern Cyprus. He urged them to establish commercial relations with northern Cyprus, use its harbors and airports, organize sports activities with Turkish Cypriots, and send tourists to the north. The Anadolu News Agency quoted diplomatic sources as saying that countries in the OIC said they could start exporting products to Turkish Cypriots or send their ships into Turkish Cypriot ports.
Following the April 24 referenda, Talat initially called for the resignation of Rauf Denktash, the TRNC president, who had urged Turkish Cypriots to vote "no" on the referendum, stating that "there was no place for the Denktash mentality" in Cyprus settlement efforts. Talat later said he would drop his demand for Denktash's resignation as long as the Turkish Cypriot leader remained within the constitutional limits of the presidency. As is the case in Turkey, Talat stated, "we have a symbolic presidency and all the executive power rests with the government."
Serdar Denktash, Talat's junior coalition partner, stated that he would rule out continuation of the coalition if Talat called for his father's resignation. Rauf Denktash, who had said, before the referenda, that he would resign if the Turkish Cypriots voted "yes," said there was no reason for him to step down because the U.N. plan was now dead.
As U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's special envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, prepared to close his office in Nicosia, he paid a farewell visit to Talat at the TRNC prime ministry office, marking the first time a senior U.N. envoy had visited the office rather than meeting with Talat at his party headquarters or in another unofficial setting.
April 23, 2004
Russian Veto in U.N. a Blow to Supporters of Annan Plan
Washington, D.C. - Russia on April 21 vetoed a Security Council resolution intended to reassure Greek Cypriots that the U.N. would fulfill its obligation to guarantee the implementation of the Annan plan, particularly the provisions concerning security issues, if the plan is approved in the April 24 referenda in Cyprus.
The U.S. and Britain, the sponsors of the resolution, had pushed for its passage prior to the referenda to encourage a "yes" vote among the Greek Cypriots, whom polls indicate are overwhelmingly opposed to the plan. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, who has urged the Greek Cypriots to vote "no," cited uncertainty concerning the implementation of the plan, especially the provisions on security, as a key reason for rejecting it. Polls indicate that the Turkish Cypriots are likely to approve the plan.
The resolution, which would have gone into effect immediately after the approval of the Annan plan by both sides, called for banning arms sales to Cyprus and the establishment of an expanded U.N. peacekeeping force, two key elements of the plan. It would have authorized the replacement of the 1,400-strong U.N. force patrolling the buffer zone for the last 40 years with a new U.N. mission comprised of 2,500 troops, 510 international police officers, and a substantial civilian staff.
Russia stated that it opposed the timing of the resolution, viewing it as an attempt to influence the outcome of the referenda, and the lack of time for further discussion of its provisions, particularly the establishment of the new peacekeeping operation. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said Moscow would be willing to reconsider the resolution if the Annan plan is approved by both sides on April 24.
Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou visited Moscow five days before the referenda at the invitation of his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. Iacovou briefed Russian officials on the developments in Cyprus leading up to the votes.
In the absence of official U.N. security guarantees prior to the referenda, the Euro-communist AKEL, the largest Greek Cypriot party in Cyprus, stated that it would promote a "no" vote on April 24. Dimitris Christofias, the party's leader and the speaker of the Cyprus House of Representatives, had said prior to the Security Council vote that he would endorse "an unreserved yes" on the referenda if legally binding guarantees for the implementation of the Annan plan under international law were announced by the Council, including provisions of the U.N. Charter dealing with the peaceful resolution of disputes and the imposition of sanctions on parties found to be at fault. Christofias stated that, despite urging a "no" vote, AKEL supported the Annan plan.
AKEL's possible support was seen as the last chance for boosting the campaign for a "yes" vote in the south, led by the second-largest Greek Cypriot party, the center-right Democratic Rally Party (DISY), whose honorary chairman is former Cyprus president Glafcos Clerides. Clerides stated that a "no" vote in the south would mean that the Greek Cypriots "will be isolated" from European allies when Cyprus becomes an EU member on May 1. He warned that the EU would begin dealing directly with the Turkish Cypriots.
Papadopoulos had criticized the Security Council resolution as an attempt to "influence the outcome of the vote" on the referenda. Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides stated that the necessary guarantees were not present in the resolution. "We believe it was right that the resolution was not voted on," the spokesman said.
In a televised interview two days before the referenda, the Cyprus president repeated his opposition to the Annan plan, but stated that he would continue to seek a bizonal, bicommunal federation within the philosophy of the plan, if the referenda fail. He expressed the conviction that, under such circumstances, there would be a new effort to find a settlement. Papadopoulos stated that "the repercussions of a ‘yes' vote will be irreversible; if a ‘no' vote is wrong, it can be rectified."
Campaigning for or against the Annan plan among both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots ended on April 22 at midnight. Despite the April 23 ban on campaigning, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus passed out leaflets urging a "no" vote during liturgies held in churches to commemorate the day Saint George is honored.
April 23, 2004
U.N., U.S., EU Seek to Assure Implementation of Annan Plan
Washington, D.C. - U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan sought to assure Cypriots that implementation of the settlement plan would be guaranteed by the international community, as he appealed to them to approve his plan in a message broadcast in both the north and the south of Cyprus on April 21. (Full text of Annan speech)
"Let me reassure you: the world stands ready to help you make this plan work," Annan said, noting that "there is no other plan out there." He said the plan was designed to "provide certainty and security, with guarantees that it will be implemented."
Secretary of State Colin Powell, stating that the opportunity provided by the Annan plan "will not be coming along for decades," said the United Nations and the international community "will be there to ensure that the elements of the plan are executed as planned" and will insist on helping the parties meet their obligations.
The U.S., U.N., and EU, Powell said, have made it clear that they "expect both parties to abide by all elements of the plan" and will not "allow any side to backtrack without fulfilling its obligations, especially on issues of security." The secretary said he had been encouraged by statements of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish officials indicating that they "fully intend to meet their obligations under the plan."
European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen stated that the European Union will monitor implementation of the Annan plan and will take appropriate measures if it is violated. In addition, the European Parliament passed a resolution assuring Cypriots that "the EU institutions will rigorously guarantee with other international institutions the implementation of the settlement."
April 23, 2004
EU Commissioner Critical of Cyprus President's Opposition to Annan Plan
Washington, D.C. - European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, referring to the call by Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos for a "no" vote in the April 24 referenda, said he felt he had been "cheated by the government of the Republic of Cyprus" because of the president's rejection of the Annan plan.
Asserting that "there is no better possible plan" for the reunification of Cyprus, Verheugen stated that he had, for months, done everything he could "in good faith to make it possible for the Greek Cypriot side to accept this plan on the understanding that this is what they intended to do." The Cyprus government, he said, "had taken him for a ride," and he called its stance "surprising and troubling."
The commissioner called on the Cyprus president to "respect his part of the deal," namely, that the Cyprus government "had to do everything possible to find a solution to the conflict," although a solution should not constitute a prerequisite for Cyprus's accession to the EU. He noted that the Cyprus president had called into question the federal solution "as set out by the U.N., the EU, and himself on the basis of equal treatment of the two communities."
Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides, responding to Verheugen's statements, said he did not believe that any government official had promised either a "yes" or "no" vote in the referendum, adding that "there should be no intervention from third parties."
The European Commission also expressed regret that two Greek Cypriot television stations had not scheduled interviews with Verheugen the week before the referenda to enable him to explain the provisions of the Annan plan. Jean-Christophe Filori, Verheugen's spokesman, asserted that a state-owned and a private Greek Cypriot station had refused the interviews and had said that such interviews constituted interference in the "internal affairs" of Cyprus. EU officials also stated that Alvaro de Soto, Annan's special envoy for Cyprus and mediator in the settlement negotiations, had been prevented from giving interviews on Cypriot television. The Cyprus government denied that any form of censorship had taken place.
"The very least we can expect is a fair and balanced information campaign about the objectives and contents" of the Annan plan, Verheugen stated. "Never before in the history of the European Commission has a member of the European Commission been accused of interfering in the internal affairs of a member state," he said.
EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said all of the members of the European Commission felt let down by developments in Cyprus.
Following a meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said "life will not be the same" in Cyprus if the Annan plan is rejected due to a "no" vote by the Greek Cypriots. "Everybody has to know it," Solana said, adding that, under such circumstances, "probably the train may not return" to reunify the country.
Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President Peter Schieder, asserting that the Annan plan is the only opportunity the Cypriots have for reunification within the EU, said "those seeking to obstruct the settlement will bear grave political responsibility for this failure and should not be allowed to take advantage of it." Schieder added that the international community, and the EU in particular, "should not betray the hopes of those Cypriots who are in favor of the settlement, nor make them pay the price of failure."
April 23, 2004
Turkish Opponents of Annan Plan Join Campaign in Northern Cyprus
Washington, D.C. - As Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, and Mehmet Ali Talat, the prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, continued to push for approval of the Annan plan in the referenda, prominent opponents of the plan in Turkey traveled to northern Cyprus to support the campaign being waged by Rauf Denktash, the president of the TRNC, against the plan.
These included former Turkish prime minister Bulent Ecevit; Dogu Perincek, the leader of Turkey's far-left Labor Party; and Devlet Bahceli, the head of the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), one of the three coalition partners in Ecevit's government, which preceded the present government. Ecevit warned Turkish Cypriots that they would lose their homeland if they voted "yes" on the referendum.
Five Turkish Cypriots were injured during attacks by members of an extreme nationalist group in Turkey known as the "Gray Wolves," who had come to northern Cyprus to campaign against the Annan plan. The Gray Wolves also tore down posters supporting the plan and attacked cars that carried stickers in favor of the plan. In addition, the group attacked several Turkish Cypriot party headquarters.
Gul urged mainland supporters of Denktash's position not to try to influence the outcome of the vote in the north, while Talat asserted that the Turkish Cypriot leader's opposition to the Annan plan would push Turkey into a kind of isolation similar to that of the TRNC. Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) instructed its deputies to remain in Turkey and avoid intervening in the campaign leading up to the referenda.
Serdar Denktash, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of the TRNC, stated that his Democrat Party would not take a position on the Annan plan, but he made it clear that he did not personally support the plan. The Democrat Party is one of two parties in the TRNC governing coalition, led by Talat's Republican Turkish Party. Serdar Denktash said U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman had telephoned him to urge the party to cast a "yes" vote.
The Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris reported that 35,000 Turkish Cypriots who left Cyprus between 1963 and 2003 have applied to Turkish Cypriot offices in London, Sydney, and Toronto for permission to return.
April 9, 2004
Greek Cypriot Rejection of Annan Plan Grows Inevitable
Washington, D.C. - Greek Cypriots appeared ready to reject the Annan plan in the April 24 referendum, as indicated by calls for a "no" vote by Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos; the opposition of Dimitris Christofias, the speaker of the Cyprus House of Representatives and leader of the largest Greek Cypriot political party, the Euro-communist AKEL; and the results of opinion polls among Greek Cypriots that signal defeat of the plan in the south.
In addition, the Holy Synod of the influential Orthodox Church of Cyprus issued an Easter Day proclamation urging Greek Cypriots to vote "no," asserting that the plan "does not safeguard human rights and the basic freedoms of all the legal citizens of Cyprus in all its territory."
It was not clear how Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis's cautious signal of support for the Annan plan would impact the Greek Cypriot vote. In an April 15 announcement, Karamanlis said there were positive and negative points in the document. "We cannot allow the injustices to affect us in the long run. I believe that we can exploit the positive [elements of the plan] within the framework of the EU dynamics, which will take the edge off the plan's difficult points," the prime minister said.
AKEL called for rejection of the Annan plan if the referenda were not postponed for a few months to allow for further negotiations on issues such as security and guarantees for the plan's implementation, as well as more time to explain the terms of the document to the Cypriot people. The postponement proposal was rejected categorically by the Turkish government and Mehmet Ali Talat, the prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), both supporters of the plan. The Greek government stated that it would not unilaterally push for a postponement but had no objection to delaying the referenda if the other three parties agreed.
April 16, 2004
Turkish Push for Approval of Annan Plan
Washington, D.C. - An estimated 40,000 Turkish Cypriots, one-fifth of the population of northern Cyprus, participated in a rally supporting the Annan plan and calling on Greek Cypriots to approve it on April 24. The demonstrators demanded the resignation of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who serves as TRNC president and strongly opposes the plan. Opinion polls have indicated that Turkish Cypriots are likely to vote "yes" on the April 24 referendum.
Mehmet Ali Talat crossed the Green Line to meet with AKEL leader Dimitris Christofias and Nicos Anastasiades, the president of the Democratic Rally Party (DISY), the second-largest Greek Cypriot party, to urge them to support the Annan plan. DISY subsequently announced its support for the plan. Talat's meetings constituted the first visit to the Republic of Cyprus by a Turkish Cypriot prime minister since 1974.
Speaking in Brussels, Talat said that continued isolation of the Turkish Cypriots would be unfair if the Greek Cypriots rejected the plan, asserting that the Greek side "has no right to keep the Turkish Cypriots as hostages."
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who backs the Annan plan and has urged Turkish Cypriots to approve it in their referendum, publicly called on Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash not to campaign in Turkey against the blueprint and to restrict his comments about it to Cypriot soil. Erdogan's statement was made following speeches by Denktash at events in Turkey organized by nationalist opposition groups.
Denktash, who asserted that the Turkish government had not been provided with complete information about the plan, has urged the U.N. to postpone the referenda and permit further negotiations on the document. He stated that the plan had been prepared "in a diabolical way."
Erdogan pointedly did not attend an April 15 address by Denktash to the Turkish parliament, in which the Turkish Cypriot leader characterized the Annan plan as "an extermination plan for Turkish Cypriots." "Our end will be near if we enter the EU with the Annan plan," Denktash stated.
If the plan is approved in the Turkish Cypriot referendum, Denktash said he would step down from his position as TRNC president "particularly now that I have such disagreements with the Turkish government."
Devlet Bahceli, the leader of Turkey's ultra-nationalist Nationalist Action Party (MHP), one of the three coalition partners in the previous Turkish government, pledged to go to northern Cyprus after April 15 to lend the party's support to the campaign against the Annan plan led by Denktash and former TRNC prime minister Dervis Eroglu. Former Turkish prime minister Bulent Ecevit is reportedly coordinating opposition to the plan in Turkey.
The Turkish Chief of the General Staff, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, stated that Turkey's security and regional stability were at stake in Cyprus and that it was "up to the Turkish parliament to make the final evaluation and decision on the Cyprus solution on behalf of the Turkish people." He added that "we wholeheartedly believe that they will make the right decision" concerning the plan, which, he said, had positive aspects, but its implementation could result in "serious problems."
April 16, 2004
Strong International Support for Annan Plan
Washington, D.C. - As Cyprus entered the final week before the April 24 referenda, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, whose plan will be up for approval, said he hoped the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots would "seize the opportunity to reunify their country and, in turn, make a new beginning together."
European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen urged Cypriots to vote "yes" on the referenda so that a reunited country would join the European Union on May 1, "which has always been our strong preference." Stating that the absence of a settlement "would damage everyone," the commissioner said "the status quo would deepen the island’s division and the dividing line would become de facto an external EU border." He said there would be "no solution at all for a very long time" if the Annan plan were rejected.
Verheugen also asserted that, if the Greek Cypriots are the only side to vote "no," he "would find it rather unfair that Greeks would enjoy benefits of [EU] membership, Turkey would enjoy benefits of pre-accession [to the EU], and only Turkish Cypriots would get nothing." Verheugen stated that "it would be our responsibility to guarantee that the Turkish Cypriots will not be punished."
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said there was no "plan B" or alternative diplomatic course for Cyprus in the offing, adding that acceptance of the Annan plan was "the only way to assure the long-term security that Cypriots deserve." He said there would be "serious, historical, and irreversible consequences" if the current opportunity presented by the blueprint is lost since "it is the final plan."
The Cyprus issue was among the topics discussed during April 16 talks at the White House between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has stated that the referenda on unifying Cyprus are the divided island’s best hope for political progress in a generation.
IMF mission chief for Cyprus, Johannes Mueller, asserted that a united Cyprus would grow at a faster rate than a divided country as a result of heavy public and private investment, particularly in the north. He noted that the Greek Cypriot part of the country would also benefit from increased business activity and tourism traffic in the north. Mueller said the economy of a united Cyprus could reach a growth rate of more than five percent over the next few years, exceeding Cyprus government predictions by one percent.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated that his country would grant official recognition to the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), now recognized only by Turkey, if the Turkish Cypriots approved the Annan plan and the Greek Cypriots rejected it in the April 24 referenda. In response, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul reiterated his previous statement that Turkey, under such referenda results, would launch a worldwide campaign for recognition of the TRNC.
A number of countries in which the majority of the population is Muslim are expected to recognize the TRNC if it approves the Annan plan and the Greek Cypriot side does not. Following the Turkish Cypriot unilateral declaration of independence in November 1983, Bangladesh became the second country after Turkey to recognize the TRNC, but it withdrew its recognition under pressure from Washington.
April 16, 2004
Funds Pledged for Implementation of Annan Plan
Washington, D.C. - As an incentive for the Greek and Turkish Cypriots to approve the Annan plan in the April 24 referenda, the United States and Britain pledged generous financial aid to cover the expenses of reunifying Cyprus, if passage of the plan takes place both in the north and the south.
At an April 15 preparatory donor conference hosted by the European Union in Brussels, a prelude to one that will be held in the fall if both votes are affirmative on April 24, Washington promised $400 million, while Britain committed $37.2 million over four years in addition to an offer to give up half of the territory in Cyprus on which its military bases are located. The EU has already budgeted $360 million in aid over three years.
Estimates vary concerning the cost of reunification, which includes financing the construction of new housing for families that will be moving from the north to the south and vice versa, rebuilding the resort of Famagusta, which will be returned to the Greek Cypriots, severance payments for Turkish settlers that return to Turkey, and payment of compensation to Greek Cypriots who are unable to return to the north to reclaim the property they left in 1974.
The United Nations places the overall cost at $1 billion, while the European Commission suggests a price tag of up to $2.4 billion. The Greek Cypriots say about $13.3 billion will be needed, and the Turkish Cypriots maintain that $3.8 billion will be required over a period of five years.
Representatives of some 30 countries and financial institutions, including the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), attended the conference.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated that Secretary of State Colin Powell had planned a round of phone calls calling for large contributions at the conference.
Read more about the UN Plan here.
April 9, 2004
Referenda to Proceed Despite Cypriot Leaders' Opposition
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos called on Greek Cypriots to vote "no" on the Annan plan in the April 24 referendum, suggesting that there would be "a new and more hopeful course for the reunification" of the country through its membership in the European Union. European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen previously stated that the Annan plan was "the last opportunity" for a settlement.
Papadopoulos asserted that the Annan plan, which envisages a federation of two states with a loose central government, on the Swiss model, "would legalize and deepen the division of Cyprus," rather than leading to the reunification of the two communities. He said the document did not meet the minimum demands of the Greek Cypriot side for the functionality of the state and the safeguarding of the rights of all of its citizens.
Referring to the plan as "dangerously vague," the president said the pitfalls of approval were "far greater and non-reversible than the consequences of a ‘no' vote." He said the document gave Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots everything they wanted, while, following the dissolution of the Republic of Cyprus, the Greek Cypriots would be waiting, without guarantees, for gradual benefits from the plan.
Papadopoulos's statement of opposition to the Annan plan was preceded by consultations with the Greek government and an examination of the document by Cyprus's National Council, the top advisory body to the president on the handling of the Cyprus problem.
Dimitris Christofias, the leader of Cyprus's Euro-communist AKEL party, which is the coalition partner of Papadopoulos's center-right Democratic Party (DIKO) and commands the support of about 35 percent of the Greek Cypriot electorate, stated that AKEL would decide at a party congress on April 14 whether to support the plan. Media reports said the party's political bureau had already voted in favor of the plan by a slight margin. A spokesman for AKEL said the party did not share the majority of the Cyprus president's views concerning the plan. The Democratic Party represents about 15 percent of Greek Cypriot voters.
The conservative Democratic Rally Party (DISY), the second-largest Greek Cypriot party, backed by about 30 percent of voters, said it would announce its decision regarding the plan on April 15, though media reports have said it is likely to back the document. Former Cyprus president and chief settlement negotiator Glafcos Clerides, who is honorary chairman of DISY, and former president George Vassiliou, who has been in charge of Cyprus's negotiations for EU membership, both favor the plan.
Both Mehmet Ali Talat, the prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the chief negotiator in Burgenstock, Switzerland, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have called for a "yes" vote on the plan.
As part of his Republican Turkish Party's effort to conduct a widespread campaign to gain support for the plan, Talat said he would meet with the Greek Cypriot party leaders of AKEL and DISY in Nicosia on April 10.
Talat also said the Turkish Cypriot side would submit to the U.N. a list of 45,000 settlers from Turkey who had become citizens of the TRNC, the number permitted to stay in northern Cyprus under the Annan plan.
Serdar Denktash, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of the TRNC, who was part of the Turkish Cypriot negotiating team, has not yet stated publicly how he will vote on the referendum. His Democrat Party and Talat's party form the TRNC governing coalition.
Rauf Denktash, the TRNC president, who would become the co-president of the "United Cyprus Republic" if both sides approved the plan in the referenda, stated that the Annan plan, in its current form, "is unacceptable" as it would "wrench Cyprus away from Turkey."
The Turkish government firmly supported the plan in a debate in parliament, as Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul maintained that it addressed many key demands of the Turkish side. He called the plan "one in which the issues that are important for Turkey were rectified." The minister stated that he would travel widely to "seek recognition for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" if the Greek Cypriots vote "no" and the Turkish Cypriots vote "yes" in the referenda.
A report in the Turkish newspaper Sabah asserted that the Turkish Foreign Ministry, in order to facilitate recognition of the TRNC in the absence of a settlement, planned to move the Turkish Cypriot offices that are operating within Turkish embassies in various countries to separate buildings and intended to appeal to the EU to remove trade restrictions it has imposed on northern Cyprus.
Prime Minister Erdogan said he backed the Annan plan although, "on the issue of the deal becoming a part of EU primary law, we cannot say we got 100 percent of what we wanted." Gul stated that Erdogan wanted to visit Athens for talks with Greece's leadership as soon as possible, prior to the April 24 referenda. Turkey's opposition Republican People's Party described the plan as "worse than a surrender document" and argued that a Cyprus settlement would not guarantee Turkey a date for the start of EU accession talks.
The Annan plan was also examined by Turkey's Council of Ministers and National Security Council (MGK). The MGK stated that it was up to the government to evaluate the document and "decide on launching the necessary process in order to make the Annan plan official." The body also stated that, "together with its positive points, there are demands of ours that have not been met," adding that there was a danger that problems might arise in applying the plan and stressing the importance of the settlement becoming EU primary law, which the EU has ruled out. "We should be careful . . . in order not to have any problems concerning the Turkish presence on the island, Turkey's status as a guarantor state, and the principle of bizonality," the MGK said.
Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos urged Cypriot voters "not to include sentiment among the criteria they will use" when voting in the referenda. If either side rejects the plan, "there will be no new initiative for a solution for a long time." Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who has not taken a public position on the Annan plan, asked Stephanopoulos to convene a meeting of Greek political party leaders in an effort to reach a national consensus on the plan, possibly on April 14. The declaration of a position by the ruling New Democracy Party is not expected until its presidential council meets the same day. Among the Greek parties, only the Communist Party (KKE) has expressed clear opposition to the plan.
Criticizing Karamanlis for stalling on taking a position on the plan, former Greek foreign minister George Papandreou, the head of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), urged voters in Cyprus to look toward the future, not into the past, and publicly stated that his party supported the plan. Former prime minister Costas Simitis, the former chairman of PASOK, and former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis, the former head of the New Democracy Party, also expressed support for the plan.
The European Commission, which supports passage of the document in the referenda, would not comment on Papadopoulos's opposition to the Annan plan. Commissioner Verheugen reiterated that he hoped voters in both communities would support the plan, but he said that the EU would be restrained in its comments during the campaign leading up to the referenda. He announced that a preliminary EU donor conference to raise funds for the implementation of a Cyprus settlement would take place in Brussels on April 15 and would be attended by both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leadership. The conference is expected to raise about $2 billion of the anticipated $16 billion cost of rebuilding northern Cyprus and integrating the economies and infrastructures of the two communities.
A White House statement said the United States would "support full implementation" of the Annan plan, describing it as "a fair and balanced compromise that addresses the primary concerns of the parties."
Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned the foreign ministers of Turkey and Greece, urging them to build support among Cypriots for the plan. He stated that he would be working hard to encourage Cypriots to understand the terms of the plan before they vote in the referenda. The Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots should realize that "this is an opportunity that won't come again," Powell said. He added that there was no "plan B" and it was "unlikely that a better arrangement is going to be forthcoming." The secretary noted that rejection of the plan would "shut things down for a long time."
Read more about the UN Plan here.
April 2, 2004
Greek, Turkish Sides Fail to Agree on Annan Plan as Referenda Are Planned
Washington, D.C. - The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot negotiators in Burgenstock, Switzerland, failed to reach agreement on the fourth version of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's settlement plan by March 31, despite the participation of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in a last-ditch effort to formulate a text that both sides could accept.
As the delegations prepared to return home, Annan presented them with a fifth version of the plan, incorporating his adjustments in the text to bridge the differences encountered in the negotiations. There will be no negotiations on this text, which will be presented to the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities for approval in simultaneous referenda on April 24. Annan said the time had come for the voters of both communities in Cyprus to assess the final version of the plan in the run-up to the referenda, noting that the people of Cyprus "will be looking to you, their leaders, for guidance."
In Switzerland, Erdogan and the Turkish Cypriot delegation, headed by the prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Mehmet Ali Talat, said they were willing to sign the fourth version, but Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Karamanlis, who will meet with President Bush in Washington on May 20, declined to endorse it.
Papadopoulos stated that he "was not satisfied" with the changes Annan intended to incorporate in his final text. Karamanlis said "it proved impossible to reach an agreed solution" and "it is now up to the people of Cyprus and its political leadership" to determine whether to endorse the final version of the plan. Following the negotiations, Erdogan, asserting that the plan offered "a fair solution" to the Cyprus problem, appealed to both Cypriot communities to vote "yes" on the referenda.
Although Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who declined to negotiate in Burgenstock, said he saw nothing in the plan "to vote ‘yes' to," it is believed that Turkish Cypriot voters are likely to approve the plan, described as a "victory" by Turkey and by the Turkish Cypriot press as a success.
Opinion polls conducted prior to finalization of the text by Annan suggested that as many as 90 percent of Greek Cypriots opposed the document, while the Greek Cypriot press portrayed the outcome in Burgenstock as a defeat for Greek Cypriots. Unless Papadopoulos backs the plan and lobbies for its approval in the referendum, passage by Greek Cypriots appears remote.
The day after Annan presented the final text, President Bush telephoned Erdogan and Karamanlis to urge them to endorse it, and he pledged U.S. support if the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot voters approve the plan in the referenda. The president underscored Washington's readiness to do everything it can to "support the Cypriot people as they move to take advantage of this historic opportunity."
The primary sticking points in the plan centered on future security considerations and the size and structure of the Turkish and Greek armed forces in Cyprus, the degree to which Greek Cypriots would be able to reside, conduct business, and acquire property in the Turkish Cypriot component state, the length of the transitional period that would be granted to exempt this component state from EU laws concerning these freedoms, the number of settlers from Turkey that would be allowed to remain in Cyprus, and the number of displaced Greek Cypriots that would be permitted to return to their pre-1974 homes in the north.
European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, who met with negotiators in Burgenstock, called on the two sides to endorse the plan and stated that the EU would exempt the Turkish Cypriot component state from some EU laws, such as those concerning freedom of movement, for 15 years. He said these temporary exemptions, or derogations, would apply to issues such as determining the number of Greek Cypriots allowed to resettle in the north, without the threat of legal challenges in European courts.
The Turkish Cypriots and Turkey had sought to place a permanent limit, as part of EU law, on the free movement of the more prosperous Greek Cypriots into the north to live and establish businesses, considering these freedoms, which consitute a basic tenet of EU law, to be a threat to the bizonal character of the proposed Cypriot federation and to the economic well-being of the Turkish Cypriots.
Verheugen said a provision in the Annan plan allowed Greek Cypriots to buy land freely in the north after 15 years. The 15-year exemption period would be shortened, he said, if the per-capita income of the Turkish Cypriots reached 85 percent of that of the Greek Cypriots. He said derogations lasting for a specific time period had been allowed in many other countries.
The commissioner also noted that some permanent derogations had been permitted in the past, such as restrictions on purchasing property in Malta. He stated that the European Commission had rejected the idea of permanent derogations for the Turkish Cypriot component state, which would entail a complex, lengthy EU ratification process.
Upon presenting the final text of the plan to the negotiators, Annan stated that "the choice is between this settlement and no settlement," making it clear that the U.N. could walk away from future attempts to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus if the plan is rejected by one or both of the Cypriot communities in the referenda, resulting in the possible permanent division of the country.
There is speculation that a "yes" vote by the Turkish Cypriots on the referendum and a "no" vote by the Greek Cypriots could lead to a certain degree of diplomatic isolation of the Cyprus government by individual EU countries and the possible easing of the EU's trade restrictions on northern Cyprus. It is also possible that the United States could retreat from its longstanding position of dissuading Muslim countries from recognizing the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, currently recognized only by Turkey.
View the revised version of Annan Plan here.
March 26, 2004
Greece, Turkey Join Negotiations for Final Settlement Text
Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, and the Greek and Turkish Cypriot negotiating teams arrived in Burgenstock, Switzerland, on March 24 for bilateral meetings in preparation for four-way talks expected to begin on the evening of March 26. This phase of the negotiations is aimed at breaking the deadlock over points in the Annan plan that remain unresolved despite nearly five weeks of talks between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in Nicosia.
When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis join the negotiations on March 28, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan will take over the chairmanship of the talks from his special advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, and will work with the four delegations until March 31 in an attempt to flesh out a final text of the plan.
If the four-party talks end without an approved text, Annan will fill in the disputed sections to prepare the plan for simultaneous referenda in the north and the south on April 20, according to an agreement reached by the negotiating parties in New York on February 13. De Soto stated that the secretary general would be "surrounded by all the participants and he hopes to be in close consultation with them" if he has to take these final steps.
While Papadopoulos continued as chief negotiator on the Greek Cypriot side in Burgenstock, Rauf Denktash, who has long served as chief Turkish Cypriot negotiator, did not attend the talks. Denktash said he was boycotting this phase of the negotiations, despite the urging of Erdogan and Gul that he take part, because he believed no progress would be possible due to what he described as intransigence by the Greek Cypriots.
Despite his decision not to participate in the negotiations, Denktash stated that he had not given up his position as chief Turkish Cypriot negotiator. He said he had authorized Mehmet Ali Talat, the pro-settlement prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), and Serdar Denktash, the TRNC's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, to negotiate on behalf of the Turkish Cypriot side.
As this new phase of the talks began, Papadopoulos stated that there had not been any significant progress on "issues of substance" in the negotiations up to that point. De Soto said that, although differences had "narrowed" on some points, there had not yet been "the kind of give and take on the core issues for which we had all hoped."
The U.N. envoy noted that the technical committees working on the federal laws, international treaties, and economic and financial legislation that will go into effect in the new state that emerges had made significant progress and would present their recommendations at Burgenstock for the consideration of the two sides. In addition, he said, the committee working on the design of the new flag and anthem had already made its recommendations, which had been accepted by the two sides.
March 26, 2004
Turkish Side Reiterates Call for Cyprus Settlement to Become EU Law
Washington, D.C. - Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul reiterated Rauf Denktash's insistence that the terms of the Cyprus settlement, including any derogations, or exemptions, from the EU's acquis communautaire for the Turkish Cypriots, must become primary EU law in order to prevent the Greek Cypriots from challenging the terms through court actions. He noted that this was a “non-negotiable” issue for Ankara.
Such a process would involve revision of the accession treaty bringing Cyprus into the EU to incorporate the agreement, as well as ratification of the revised treaty by the 15 current members of the bloc and the 10 new members, as of May 1, a process that could take up to two years. European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen said that the Cyprus settlement could not be ratified by every member state's parliament. Referring to the permanent derogations for Turkish Cypriots, which are being sought by the Turkish side, Verheugen said that “such vast provisions to be applied for an indefinite time frame were in violation of EU practices.”
The Turkish side wants to limit the number of Greek Cypriots allowed to return to the north. It is worried that the EU's principles of the free movement of people and capital, and the right to own property throughout the bloc, could eventually blur the separation of the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities within a loose federation.
The Greek side insists that the Turkish Cypriots should not be accorded permanent exemptions from the basic principles of EU law.
Irish Ambassador to Cyprus John Swift, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, noted, that a few permanent derogations “of very minor nature” had been agreed to for certain EU states. For example, protocols attached to the Maastricht Treaty grant Denmark an exemption from having to adopt the single European currency and limit the acquisition of second homes in the country by non-Danish nationals.
March 12, 2004
Settlement Negotiations Show Little Progress
Washington, D.C. - Little progress was reported in settlement talks between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot delegations as the negotiations entered a new stage in which Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash began bargaining directly with each other over the range of points in the Annan plan they would like to see amended. Prior to this intensified "give and take" stage, each negotiator had presented his positions to the other side for review.
The goal is to work out compromises to address the sticking points in the plan by March 21 to avoid having Greece and Turkey join the talks from March 22 to March 28 to assist in finalizing an agreement. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's special advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, stated that it was the strong desire of the U.N. that the two sides in Cyprus come to an agreement by March 21, making the entry of Greece and Turkey into the negotiations unnecessary.
Ankara has proposed that the participation of Greece and Turkey in the talks, if necessary, should be at the level of prime minister or foreign minister. On March 29, the responsibility for ironing out the differences remaining in the U.N. plan will be turned over to Annan.
Denktash asserted that the EU had not provided the Turkish Cypriot leadership with a satisfactory response to its request that exemptions for Turkish Cypriots from the EU's body of laws (acquis communautaire) after the reunification of the island be incorporated into the EU's primary law. He said these so-called derogations constituted one of the basic elements that the Turkish side wanted to see in the final agreement.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Namik Tan stated that legal experts from the European Union and Turkey would meet soon to take up the issue of derogations. He said Turkey's demand for the inclusion of the derogations in the EU's primary law had been conveyed to the "EU Troika" during their visit to Ankara the week of March 8. (See Country Updates, Turkey, "EU Delegation Optimistic About Accession Talks Date," March 12, 2004.)
Papadopoulos reaffirmed his conviction that there would be full cooperation between his government and that of the new prime minister of Greece, Costas Karamanlis, and that the change of government would not delay efforts to solve the Cyprus problem. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that he looked forward to working with Karamanlis to promote a Cyprus settlement.
In three polls published on March 7 by Greek Cypriot newspapers, from 53 to 62 percent of the Greek Cypriot respondents said they would vote "no" on a referendum on the Annan plan as it stands now, with their primary concerns being security, viability of the plan, and respect for human rights. In two of the polls, 28 percent and 35 percent stated that they were still undecided concerning how they would vote. In one poll, 57 percent felt that they were not very well informed about the plan.
The U.N. announced that the date for simultaneous referenda on the amended Annan plan in the north and the south had been changed from April 21 to April 20, in order not to coincide with the 37th anniversary of the imposition of the military dictatorship in Athens in 1967. The junta, in power for seven years, engineered a coup against Archbishop Makarios, the democratically-elected president of Cyprus, in 1974, triggering the Turkish invasion and subsequent division of the country.
March 5, 2004
Negotiations Become Contentious in Third Week
Washington, D.C. - As settlement negotiations entered their third week, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash publicly traded verbal barbs accusing each other of blocking progress in the talks.
While emphasizing that May 1, when Cyprus joins the EU, remained the target date for a settlement, Papadopoulos stated that Denktash's positions were outside the framework of the Annan plan and were "undermining and eroding the [negotiating] process." He claimed that Denktash was deliberately taking hardline stances the Greek Cypriots would reject, including demands for "two states and two sovereignties" and for a reduction in the number of Greek Cypriots who would be allowed to return to their homes in the north. The plan provides for the return of 100,000 of some 200,000 Greek Cypriots displaced in 1974 to their properties, while the Greek Cypriots would like all of the displaced to be able to return.
Denktash said the concept that a settlement could be reached by May 1 was a "fantasy." He asserted that he would resign from his post as chief negotiator in the talks and would urge the Turkish Cypriots not to accept the final agreement if it did not include his essential positions. He noted that he still did not believe the Annan plan was a good basis for a settlement, adding that he had agreed to negotiate the plan only at the urging of the Turkish government.
Denktash said the Greek Cypriot side was presenting complicated proposals that deviated from the plan, particularly with regard to property and territorial issues, and was dismissing all Turkish Cypriot amendments to the blueprint as "unacceptable." He reiterated that bizonality remained a fundamental demand of both the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey, as well as derogations, or exemptions, from EU laws, in the north aimed at protecting the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey, with a military presence on about 37 percent of Cypriot territory, would offer a land-for-peace deal in an attempt to break any deadlock that emerges in the negotiations. The Annan plan already envisions the Turkish side giving up about one-fifth of the territory it controls. Erdogan stated that the Turkish side would make a "gesture" by offering land to the Greek Cypriots, adding that "there are other gestures that we plan to make," without being specific about the details of the gestures or their timeframe. The prime minister's aides said the Turkish side would relinquish more territory than the percentage proposed in the Annan plan, in return for an agreement by the Greek side to scale back its demands concerning the right of displaced Greek Cypriots to return to the north.
Both Papadopoulos and Denktash were critical of a statement by U.S. State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston asserting that a "no" vote by either side on the April 21 referenda in the north and the south would be "a heavy burden to bear."
Papadopoulos said that neither Kofi Annan's special envoy for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, who is mediating the talks, nor Weston was "going to dictate to me how to conduct negotiations." Denktash characterized Weston's statement as "an unacceptable threat and pressure on the Greek and Turkish people of Cyprus."
Weston, who met with officials in Nicosia, Athens, and Ankara, said the United States would donate "generously" toward the cost of implementing a Cyprus settlement. The European Union is expected to convene a donor's conference in mid-April, about a week before the referenda are to be held.
Greek Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis stated that an agreement would be reached in the "foreseeable future" if the negotiations continued beyond the U.N. deadline of May 1.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reiterated de Soto's earlier statement that there is no "Plan B" in place if negotiations fail to reunify Cyprus by May 1. He asserted that it would not be in either side's interest if a divided Cyprus joined the EU, a situation that would make the reunification problem more difficult to solve.
Some 3,500 Greek Cypriots who were displaced from their homes in the north in 1974 demonstrated in Nicosia against the failure of the Annan plan to allow all displaced Greek Cypriots to return to their properties. The limit placed on these returns was cited as a major concern by respondents in two opinion polls indicating that the majority of Greek Cypriots would reject the Annan plan in the referenda.
In addition, a group of deputies in the Cyprus House of Representatives called for the approval threshold in the referenda to be raised from 50 percent plus one, to 70 or 75 percent, noting that the vote would involve constitutional changes and therefore demanded a greater majority.
A poll conducted by Turkey's Yeni Safak newspaper indicted that at least 58 percent of the population in northern Cyprus supported the Annan plan.
February 27, 2004
Settlement Negotiations Enter Second Week
Washington, D.C. - As the Cyprus negotiations continued in the U.N.-controlled buffer zone, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash stated that he would not honor the U.N. request for a news blackout concerning the talks, noting that he believed the Cypriot people should be well informed on the issues in the Annan plan when they cast their votes on the agreement during the April 21 referendums.
Denktash has called for certain derogations, or interim exemptions, from EU laws in the north when a settlement is reached, adding that these derogations are crucial “for the protection of the Turkish Cypriot identity and the bizonal order on the island.” The derogations he proposed included measures to protect the Turkish Cypriot component state, to be created under the Annan plan, from being overtaken economically by the more prosperous Greek Cypriots and to prevent all of the 200,000 Greek Cypriots displaced in 1974 from resettling in the north. The plan states that the number of Greek Cypriots returning to their former homes should not exceed 28 percent of the total population of the Turkish Cypriot area, while the Greek Cypriots maintain that all Greek Cypriot refugees have the right to return to the north, regardless of the demographic impact.
In the EU treaty of accession that provides for Cyprus’s entry into the bloc on May 1, the application of EU laws (the acquis communautaire) has been suspended in the north. Once a settlement is agreed upon, the EU will have to pass secondary legislation to enforce the acquis communautaire in the Turkish Cypriot area. Since the north will not have met the criteria for accession, transitional provisions will be necessary to give the Turkish Cypriots time to bring their laws into conformity with EU legislation.
The Turkish Cypriots want any derogations that are agreed upon to be incorporated into EU laws so they cannot be challenged by the Greek Cypriots in the European Court. The Turkish Cypriots also maintain that the derogations should remain in force at least until Turkey accedes to the European Union, while some should be permanent. The Greek Cypriots have expressed opposition to the idea of permanent derogations for the Turkish Cypriots, noting that any temporary derogations could be challenged in the European Court.
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Denktash agreed that a committee would be formed to work on implementing transitional measures to strengthen the Turkish Cypriot economy as it takes on the task of conforming to EU laws.
Papadopoulos, commenting on the progress of the negotiations, stated that the road ahead was long and difficult, and the Greek Cypriots “must be persuaded whether it is possible to achieve the changes we consider as essential in the Annan plan and be able to talk about a united Cyprus and not a Cyprus divided according to criteria of ethnic origin.”
A poll conducted in the south on February 19 and 20 indicated that 29 percent of the Greek Cypriot population was still undecided concerning how they would vote on the referendum. Forty percent stated that they would not approve a version of the Annan plan very similar to the one currently on the table. Thirty-one percent said they would. The poll also discovered that most of the voters aged 18 to 25 would vote in favor of the plan, while a majority of those in the 25 to 44 age bracket opposed it. A poll conducted from February 16 to 18 indicated that 61 percent of Greek Cypriots would reject the Annan plan in its current pre-negotiated form.
In the north, no opinion polls have been taken, but prominent pro-settlement Turkish Cypriot politicians believe the plan will be approved in the Turkish Cypriot referendum by at least 70 percent of the voters. Tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots publicly demonstrated in favor of a settlement and EU accession on many occasions throughout 2003.
February 20, 2004
Settlement Negotiations Resume Within Tight Timeframe
Washington, D.C. - U.N.-sponsored settlement negotiations between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash resumed on February 19 in Nicosia under the chairmanship of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's special envoy for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, following a break of nearly one year.
On the Turkish Cypriot side, Mehmet Ali Talat, the prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), and Serdar Denktash, the TRNC deputy prime minister and foreign minister, are also participating in the talks.
An agreement based on the Annan plan will be put to referendums in both the north and the south on April 21, regardless of whether all of the disputed sections of the plan have been ironed out by the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot negotiators. Greece and Turkey will join the negotiations on March 22 if revisions in the plan have not been finalized by then. If no final text has emerged by March 29, despite the assistance of Greece and Turkey, the two sides have authorized Annan to decide how to resolve the remaining differences in preparation for holding referendums on the agreement 10 days before Cyprus becomes an EU member.
Annan said he believed that, "after 40 years, a political settlement is at last in reach, provided both sides summon the necessary political will." De Soto stated that the United Nations had no back-up plan for promoting the reunification of the country if, during the referendums, either the Turkish Cypriot or Greek Cypriot people reject the settlement that has been hammered out.
Rauf Denktash stated that, although the timetable for the talks was tight, "we can get a result." The Turkish Cypriots "need not be worried. Their rights will be secured," he said. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was "expecting this process to be concluded in a positive manner, and our struggle is aimed toward this."
Papadopoulos pledged to work hard during the weeks of intensive negotiations to achieve improvements in the Annan plan so that the settlement would be in the best interests of the people of Cyprus, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The former foreign minister of Greece, George Papandreou, who is now the leader of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), said a Cyprus settlement would result in the creation of a wider zone of security and stability in the region.
A poll conducted from February 16 to 18 indicated that 61 percent of Greek Cypriots would reject the Annan plan if a referendum on the plan were held today. Sixty-seven percent said the plan was not viable in its current form.
European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen, accompanied by a team of EU legal experts, arrived in Nicosia the day before the talks resumed, and he met with Papadopoulos and Denktash after the first negotiating session.
The EU experts will examine the provisions of the settlement as they unfold to ensure that they are compatible with EU laws, such as those governing the bloc's banking and tax systems. Annan has made it clear that the role of the EU in the negotiating process will be limited strictly to providing technical assistance, despite a request by the Greek Cypriots that the EU take part in the discussions on the political aspects of the settlement.
The Turkish Cypriots and Ankara are against EU participation in negotiations on political issues. They maintain that the European Union is not a neutral party since Greece is already an EU member and the Greek Cypriots will become part of the bloc in May even if no settlement is concluded, while Turkey remains outside the EU.
Verheugen stated that the European Union wanted to demonstrate "its strong will and preparedness to support and facilitate the efforts of the U.N." to achieve a settlement. The EU, he said, would help the Turkish Cypriots "start a catch-up process" in preparation for the country's EU membership. He noted that the EU would make $380 million in aid available to the Turkish Cypriots following the country's entry into the bloc and would organize a donor's conference to raise additional funds.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated that the U.S. had already provided and would continue to provide "all necessary diplomatic support to the talks to try to help them reach a successful conclusion."
Three committees, comprised of representatives of both the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides, also reconvened on February 19 to examine the economic and finance issues, federal laws, and international agreements that will pertain to a reunified Cyprus. At the end of February, a fourth committee will meet to continue the process of designing a new flag and composing a new national anthem.
The negotiations are being held in buildings of the former Nicosia International Airport, which now serves as the headquarters for the U.N. peacekeeping force in the U.N.-patrolled buffer zone.
February 20, 2004
Bomb Damages Talat’s Home
Washington, D.C. - A small bomb damaged the home of Mehmet Ali Talat, the prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, hours before he was to take part in the first round of resumed negotiations on the reunification of Cyprus. The incident caused no disruption in the negotiation schedule.
Although Talat was inside his home in the town of Kyrenia on the north coast of Cyprus at 1:30 a.m. when the blast occurred, he was not injured. The explosive device damaged the front door and windows of his home, while also shattering the windows of neighboring houses.
Talat said the bomb had been "a futile effort to scare us." Referring to the resumption of negotiations, he stated that "there may be some people who are disturbed by the two communities coming closer, but such acts will not make us return from this path."
February 13, 2004
Greek, Turkish Cypriots Agree to Resume Negotiations
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, following three days of talks with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York, agreed to restart negotiations on the basis of the U.N. plan, in order to achieve a settlement through simultaneous referendums in the north and south before May 1 when Cyprus joins the European Union.
The negotiations, suspended since March 2003, will resume on February 19 in Cyprus. If the two sides cannot agree on changes in the plan by March 22, Greece and Turkey will join the negotiating process in an attempt to resolve differences and produce a final text by March 29. If a deadlock persists, the two sides have authorized Annan to use his discretion to finalize the plan, which will be submitted to referendums on April 21 for approval.
The secretary general stated that he welcomed the offer of technical assistance by the European Commission during the course of the negotiations and looked forward to drawing on that assistance. He said the two sides had also decided to form a technical committee on the economic and financial aspects of the implementation of a settlement, to be chaired by the United Nations.
February 6, 2004
Turkish Cypriots to Vote in Elections for European Parliament
Washington, D.C. - The Cyprus parliament passed legislation giving Turkish Cypriots the right to vote in the June 13 elections for the European Parliament.
Turkish Cypriots may register for the vote by presenting their Republic of Cyprus identification cards at designated offices in the south and by stating that they have been residents of Cyprus for at least six months. According to the Cyprus government, about 100,000 Turkish Cypriots have these identification cards.
On June 13, they will also have to cross the Green Line to vote at polling stations with Greek Cypriots.
February 6, 2004
U.N. Sets Date for Resumption of Negotiations
Washington, D.C. - U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on February 4 invited Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to New York on February 10 to resume U.N.-sponsored settlement negotiations on the basis of the secretary general's reunification plan. The talks have been suspended since March 2003.
In addition, Annan asked Greece, Turkey, and Britain, as guarantor powers for Cyprus under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee that accompanied the country's independence from Britain, to send representatives to the meeting.
A statement by Annan's spokesperson said the objective of the negotiations would be to put a completed agreement to referendums in April in time for a reunited Cyprus to accede to the European Union on May 1. It noted that the secretary general, in his invitations to the parties to resume talks, had "appealed to the leaders to summon the political will needed to bring about this result in the short time available." The statement added that the secretary general had made the decision to schedule renewed talks on the basis of recent "encouraging contacts on the Cyprus question."
Commenting on Annan's invitation to resume talks, Denktash stated: "If the invitation is to come to New York to talk, it is technically possible to do this on February 10. But, if the invitation says ‘come to start negotiations on February 10,' then it requires some preparation."
Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou stated that decisions concerning the invitation would be made on February 7 at a meeting of the National Council, the top advisory body to the Cyprus president on the handling of the Cyprus question.
Greek government spokesman Christos Protopapas stated that Greece was ready for the talks and continued to support a settlement in Cyprus on the basis of the Annan plan.
Following Annan's talks in Washington on February 2 with President George W. Bush, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of State Colin Powell, White House spokesman Scott McClellan stated that the United States was "extremely encouraged" by the fact that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul had made it clear during their meetings in Washington from January 27-30 that there was "a genuine willingness on the part of Turkey" to accept Annan's terms for Cyprus talks to be resumed immediately.
McClellan said Washington "encourages all the sides to meet the demands of the secretary general for the resumption of talks to . . . have a reunited Cyprus join the European Union."
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Powell had reiterated full U.S. backing for Annan concerning the attempts he is making to achieve a Cyprus settlement. Boucher added that Powell had been discussing the Cyprus problem with all of the parties involved and would continue "to work actively on this in support of the secretary general's effort."
January 30, 2004
Turkey, Cyprus Government Call for Resumption of Negotiations
Washington, D.C. - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, in separate meetings with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, asked the secretary general to restart the U.N.-sponsored Cyprus settlement negotiations.
Erdogan told the secretary general that Turkey wanted to use the Annan plan as a "reference point" for the talks, which should be based on the "realities in Cyprus," a term that has been used in the past by the Turkish side to refer to its longstanding demand for recognition of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and a two-state solution to reunification.
Erdogan also told Annan that the limited time available to reach a settlement before May 1, when Cyprus becomes an EU member, called for restricting the talks to an abbreviated version of the Annan plan, which would encompass only its basic issues. The prime minister said the Turkish side would be prepared to have the secretary general "fill in the blanks" in the plan where the two sides failed to reach an agreement, if the Greek side consented to this as well.
Papadopoulos said he had appealed to Annan to "immediately call" new talks. "Time is really short. So we must aim at talks that are result-oriented," he stated. The Cyprus president said that the Greek Cypriots were ready "to respond positively to any invitation of the secretary general to a new round of talks on the basis of his plan, in order to achieve a more functional and just solution" to the Cyprus problem.
He said the Cyprus government had been "waiting for nine months for some response from the Turkish side and for a change of their fixed attitude, which was that the Annan plan was dead and buried," a reference to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's rejection in March 2003 of the secretary general's earlier efforts to achieve a settlement on the basis of the plan.
The Cyprus president said the Greek Cypriots would reject any negotiations outside the framework of the Annan plan and reiterated that they would never agree to a two-state solution to the Cyprus issue. The Greek Cypriots, he said, would continue to support the creation of a decentralized, single-state, two-community federation envisaged by the plan, which would be in conformity with the EU's body of laws, the acquis communautaire. This solution would enable Cyprus to play its full role in the European Union, he noted.
Erdogan stated that Turkey is in favor of putting the basic principles of the Annan plan to referendums in both Cypriot communities by May 1, even if the disputed issues have not yet been worked out through negotiations. This is one of the conditions that Annan has said must be met by both sides before he will authorize resumption of the negotiations. The other two are acceptance of the Annan plan as the basis for the talks and agreement that the secretary general will design a final accord if the Greek and Turkish sides fail to agree on changes to the plan.
Both Greece and the Greek Cypriots have rejected Annan's proposal that dates for the referendums be set before negotiations are completed, stating that they want the talks to conclude before referendums are scheduled. "If the Annan plan is fully completed and agreed on during negotiations, I am ready to sign it," Papadopoulos stated, noting that the plan, as it stands now, is not ready for his signature.
During Erdogan's meeting with Annan, the prime minister asked the secretary general to appoint a new mediator for the settlement talks to replace Annan's longtime special assistant for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, in order to "speed up the solution" of the Cyprus issue. Erdogan said the mediator should be from "an independent, impartial country," one that has "political weight" in the negotiations. He expressed support for the appointment of Secretary of State Colin Powell for the position.
Both Annan and Powell rejected the suggestion. The secretary general stated that de Soto had been a good negotiator and said he preferred to have someone in charge of the talks who knew the issues well. Annan said, however, that the U.N. would accept assistance in the negotiating process from "governments of good will."
Annan noted that, in order to meet the May 1 deadline for the conclusion of the settlement process, an agreement must be reached by the end of March to allow time for referendums in April.
Rauf Denktash, who will continue to be the negotiator for the Turkish Cypriots, said he was ready to return to the negotiating table, noting that Turkey and the TRNC had reached a consensus on the steps they desired to take in pursuing a Cyprus solution.
January 16, 2004
New Coalition Government in North to Work Toward Settlement
Washington, D.C. - Serdar Denktash's Democrat Party, the junior member of the two-party government defeated in the December 14 elections in the north, agreed to enter into a coalition with Mehmet Ali Talat's Republican People's Party, giving prime minister-designate Talat the 26 seats needed in the 50-seat Turkish Cypriot assembly to form a narrow working majority.
Denktash will serve as deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs in a cabinet in which his party, with seven assembly seats, will have four portfolios and Talat's party, with 19 seats, will have six posts.
Talat, whose party is the largest in the assembly, campaigned on a pro-settlement, pro-EU platform that supported the Annan plan as a basis for settlement negotiations. Denktash has long opposed the Annan plan, along with his father, Rauf Denktash, who still serves as president of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). However, the younger Denktash joined Talat in pledging that the new government would attempt to reach a settlement by the time Cyprus becomes an EU member on May 1 through talks focusing on a paper being prepared in Ankara concerning changes to the Annan plan. Talat said the Turkish Cypriot government would also make contributions to the paper, which will be finalized during a National Security Council meeting in Ankara on January 23.
Rauf Denktash will continue to be the Turkish Cypriot negotiator under the new government, despite Talat's statement during the campaign that he would replace him. Talat feared that Denktash's stance against the Annan plan would derail any chance of resuming negotiations, which collapsed in March 2003 after Denktash rejected the plan. After the December 14 elections, the Turkish government stated that it wanted Denktash to remain as negotiator.
Following talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as coalition arrangements in northern Cyprus were being finalized, Rauf Denktash reversed his earlier stance that the Annan plan was "ead and buried" by stating that the plan "is still on the table" and "we will sit and discuss" it. He noted that "efforts are continuing on trying to bring the Annan plan into an acceptable state . . . Ankara is working on the plan to remove the traps." Erdogan and Denktash said the search for a settlement should be carried out through close cooperation between Turkey and northern Cyprus.
Mustafa Akinci's Peace and Democracy Movement, which holds six seats in the Turkish Cypriot assembly, is expected to support the governing coalition during parliamentary votes. This pro-settlement, pro-EU party, which favors the Annan plan, was allied with Talat's party in the election campaign, but it is not included in the coalition government.
The main opposition party, with 18 seats, is the National Unity Party of former TRNC prime minister Dervis Eroglu, which opposes the Annan plan and was the partner of Serdar Denktash's party in the recently defeated governing coalition.
Turkey's proposals concerning the Annan plan will be conveyed to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on January 25, when Erdogan meets with him on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum conference in Davos, Switzerland, and to President George W. Bush, when the prime minister holds talks with him in Washington on January 28. Bush is expected to strongly urge Erdogan to act decisively in persuading the Turkish Cypriots to negotiate a Cyprus settlement by May 1.
In a mid-January letter to Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, who accepts the Annan plan as a basis for negotiations, Annan stated that the U.N. did not intend to re-engage in the negotiation process until the parties involved showed genuine political will to work for a solution and agreed to put the plan to a referendum.
The secretary general's letter was in response to a December 17 letter from Papadopoulos, in which the Cyprus president, who would like to see changes in the plan, said he was ready to return to the negotiating table and asked the secretary general to call for a resumption of the talks. In his letter, Annan also referred to an April 2003 U.N. report in which he asked the two sides to show commitment to finalizing the Annan plan “without negotiating its basic principles or essential trade-offs.”
January 9, 2004
Possible Coalition Underway in North
Washington, D.C. - Serdar Denktash, the leader of the junior party of the governing coalition defeated in the December 14 parliamentary elections in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, expressed a willingness on January 8 to bring his party into a new coalition alongside the pro-EU, pro-settlement parties of Mehmet Ali Talat and Mustafa Akinci. He made clear that his final decision would depend on the outcome of further talks with these party leaders, following the presentation of his party's proposals for changes in the Annan plan to Talat, who has been tasked by TRNC President Rauf Denktash to form a government.
Talat, whose Republican People's Party received the most votes in the elections, opened negotiations with Serdar Denktash's Democrat Party following former Turkish Cypriot prime minister Dervis Eroglu's rejection of Talat's offer to work with him to form a working parliamentary majority. Eroglu's National Unity Party, the larger of the two parties in the recent coalition, received the second-largest number of votes on December 14.
Akinci's Peace and Democracy Movement is allied with Talat's party in its goal of reaching a Cyprus settlement on the basis of the Annan plan by May 1, when Cyprus becomes an EU member. The parties headed by Eroglu and Serdar Denktash, Rauf Denktash’s son, have, up until now, both supported Rauf Denktash's continued rejection of the plan as a basis for an agreement, which led to the collapse of settlement talks in March 2003.
If Talat is unable to cobble together a coalition by January 12, Rauf Denktash will appoint another party leader to attempt to form one.
January 9, 2004
Turkey Prepares Amendments to Annan Plan to Promote Settlement
Washington, D.C. - The Turkish government, having expressed its support for the resumption of settlement talks in Cyprus based on the Annan plan, convened a meeting of top-level government and military officials in Ankara on January 8 to discuss the changes Ankara would like to see made in the plan to promote a settlement by May 1.
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has said that he would like to restart negotiations on the basis of the plan, though he would also like to see amendments made.
The January 8 meeting was chaired by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and attended by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Chief of the General Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, National Intelligence Agency Undersecretary Senkal Atasagun, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, and other senior officials of the foreign ministry, which has been drafting a paper, in consultation with the military, that recommends amendments to the plan.
Erdogan invited the leaders of the four parties in the Turkish Cypriot parliament to come to Ankara the same day as the meeting for separate consultations with him and Gul on the amendments. Rauf Denktash, negotiator for the Turkish Cypriot side in the settlement talks, was scheduled to arrive in Ankara on January 11 for discussions on the revisions.
A statement released following the January 8 meeting said that Turkey continued to support the good offices of the U.N. secretary general and affirmed "its political determination for the speedy achievement of a settlement based on the realities of the island through negotiations." It noted that Turkey would "make effective contributions to the United Nations negotiating process in solidarity and cooperation" with Denktash and the new Turkish Cypriot government, once it is formed.
Erdogan said that an announcement concerning Turkey's final version of its proposed settlement plan would not be made until after the January 23 meeting of the National Security Council, where it would be reviewed.
Turkish government spokesman and Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said Turkey does not accept the plan "entirely as it is," but believes there are issues in it "worth negotiating."
Gul stated that Ankara wanted Denktash to continue to be the negotiator for the Turkish Cypriot side since he is the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. Mehmet Ali Talat, appointed by Denktash to form a government in northern Cyprus, has openly declared that he would like to replace the Turkish Cypriot leader, who has continued to reject the Annan plan, as negotiator and had hoped that Turkey would convince Denktash to step aside.
President George W. Bush sent letters to Papadopoulos, Erdogan, and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis urging them to promote the resumption of negotiations, with the aim of adopting the Annan plan by May. The White House did not send a letter to Denktash, who is recognized by the United States only as the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community and not as the head of state of a sovereign country.
Erdogan is expected to discuss the Cyprus issue with Bush when he meets with him in Washington on January 28.
December 30, 2003
Pro-EU, Reunification Party Leader Tasked with Forming Government in North
Washington, D.C. - The president of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Rauf Denktash, has asked Mehmet Ali Talat, the leader of the main opposition Republican Turkish Party, to form a government in northern Cyprus. Talat’s party, which favors a reunification settlement based on the plan put forward by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, received the greatest number of votes in the December 14 Turkish Cypriot parliamentary elections.
The elections resulted in an even division of the seats in the TRNC’s legislative body between the pro-Denktash parties of the former Turkish Cypriot administration, which support Denktash’s rejection of the Annan plan, and the opposition parties, which embrace it as a basis for a settlement that would bring both the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots into the European Union when the country joins the bloc on May 1. (See Country Updates, Cyprus, December 19, 2003, “Denktash Opens Talks on Naming New Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister.”)
Talat has 15 days to form a new government. If he fails, the task will be given to another party leader. If repeated attempts to establish a working parliamentary majority are unsuccessful by February, new elections will be held.
December 19, 2003
Denktash Opens Talks on Naming New Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister
Washington, D.C. - Rauf Denktash, president of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), opened talks with the leaders of the four parties that won seats in the December 14 Turkish Cypriot parliamentary elections in order to designate a new prime minister to form a government. A close race between the opposition pro-settlement, pro-EU parties and the coalition government parties loyal to Denktash left each side with 25 seats in the TRNC parliament.
The three parties of the opposition, which ran as the "United Forces" coalition, received the majority of the votes, 50.29 percent, but the failure of one of the parties to garner the 5 percent required for representation in the parliament left the two remaining parties with a plurality of 48.32 percent. The two parties comprising the TRNC coalition government received a total of 45.86 percent. Under a complex vote distribution system, the seats were divided evenly between the two blocs.
The main opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP) of Mehmet Ali Talat, which received the greatest number of votes, 35.18 percent, took 19 parliamentary seats, while its partner, the Peace and Democracy Movement (BDH) of Mustafa Akinci, won 13.14 percent and took 6 seats. The Solution and EU Party (SEUP) of Ali Erel, the third party of the United Forces coalition, received only 1.97 percent of the votes.
Their opponents, the National Unity Party (UBP) of Dervis Eroglu, the Turkish Cypriot prime minister, and the Democrat Party (DP) of Serdar Denktash, Rauf Denktash's son, received 32.93 percent and 18 seats, and 12.93 percent and 7 seats, respectively. In the 1998 parliamentary elections that brought them to power, these parties received a combined 67.5 percent of the votes.
Eroglu resigned from his post to open the way for the selection of a new prime minister, who will have to forge a coalition of at least three parties from the two sides. Before the elections, both sides ruled out the possibility of entering a coalition with parties of the other side.
The elections were seen as a referendum on whether to base efforts to reunify the country on the plan originally put forward by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan late last year. The opposition favors the resumption of negotiations on the basis of the plan, while the parties of the outgoing governing coalition back rejection of the plan by Denktash, who serves as negotiator for the Turkish Cypriot side in the reunification talks.
There has been speculation that Serdar Denktash's DP, the more moderate, junior partner in the previous governing coalition, might lend its support to the opposition parties, opening the way for negotiations toward a possible coalition government. During the campaign, the DP appeared more willing than the UBP to negotiate changes to the Annan plan, though the changes the DP advocates are more radical than those sought by the opposition parties.
Before the elections, the opposition stated that it would remove Denktash from his position as negotiator in the reunification talks if it garnered a parliamentary majority, a factor that could influence any move by Serdar Denktash, who wants his father to continue as negotiator.
According to the Turkish Cypriot constitution, Denktash, as president, must call for new elections in mid-February if a government is not formed by then. Such a prospect would greatly diminish the chances of reaching a reunification settlement by the time Cyprus formally becomes an EU member on May 1. Talat said, "If we get a mandate to form a government, our priority will be to solve the Cyprus issue by May."
Because of the significant policy differences between the two party blocs, whether a coalition is formed between them could depend on Ankara, which has been put on notice by the European Union in its mid-December summit conclusions that "resolution of the Cyprus issue would greatly enhance Turkey's EU membership process." Many Turkish officials believe that the absence of a Cyprus settlement will result in the denial of a date for opening EU accession talks in 2005.
Denktash's position as TRNC president is not affected by the parliamentary elections. He was elected in a direct election in 2000.
December 19, 2003
U.S., EU Urge Resumption of Settlement Negotiations
Washington, D.C. - State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher hailed the fact that a pro-settlement party had received the most votes in the December 14 Turkish Cypriot elections, calling it a factor that "advances the cause of peace" in Cyprus. He said the United States would continue to promote a solution to the long-standing division of the country, on the basis of the Annan plan. It hoped, he said, that the Turkish Cypriots' desire for a settlement would be honored by a swift resumption of U.N.-brokered talks, stalled since March 2003.
State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston began a tour of Athens, Nicosia, and Ankara, in that order, two days after the elections to urge all parties to facilitate renewed negotiations. Weston stated that a clear majority of those who had cast ballots in the north had voted in favor of a settlement based on the Annan plan and in favor of EU membership. He said that "all parties must move forward now to demonstrate the necessary political will to the [U.N.] secretary general so that he can resume his good offices mission."
European Commission Spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori also appealed to the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots to resume the stalled peace talks on the basis of the Annan plan, noting that a majority of the citizens in northern Cyprus had "expressed a clear will to put an end to the status quo." He said the European Union believed that it was still possible for a reunified Cyprus to join the bloc in May 2004.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul stated that the close election results indicated that Turkish Cypriots were in favor of a settlement in Cyprus, noting that they desire a solution, on one hand, and "give importance to Denktash's opinions," on the other.
Denktash and the Turkish government have been drafting a new settlement plan, which they say corrects all the "faults" of the Annan plan. Gul stated that measures outlined in the new plan would be released the week of December 22, adding that this blueprint would involve steps on both sides to promote a compromise, with a view toward reaching a settlement before May 1. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said negotiations would resume following the formation of a Turkish Cypriot government.
Gul said none of the parties in northern Cyprus could act independently of Ankara, since Turkey was a guarantor power of Cyprus. He asserted that Ankara would remain a key player in efforts toward the reunification of the country, noting that the "final word" on Cyprus rested with the Turkish parliament.
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos expressed the hope that negotiations would resume as soon as possible using the Annan plan. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis urged Turkey to help solve the Cyprus problem before the country joins the EU, emphasizing that the election results indicated that Turkish Cypriots want a settlement based on the Annan plan.
Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said the Annan plan remains on the table, but the secretary general "does not propose to take a new initiative without solid reason to believe that the political will necessary for a successful outcome exists."
In early December, Annan submitted a formal request to the U.N. General Assembly for $1.3 million to finance the work that his special advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, and a team of experts are expected to carry out to facilitate a reunification settlement in 2004, if possible, before Cyprus joins the EU in May.
December 5, 2003
Turkey Compensates Greek Cypriot for Lack of Access to Northern Cyprus Property
Washington, D.C. - In compliance with a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Turkey paid $1.34 million to Titina Loizidou, a Greek Cypriot, on December 2 to compensate her for being denied the use of her property in northern Cyprus since 1974. The move marked the first time Turkey had compensated a Greek Cypriot for being denied access to land in the north.
In response to a 1989 lawsuit filed with the ECHR by Loizidou protesting her inability to use the property, a 1998 ruling by the Court determined that Turkey, not the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), was responsible for this lack of access through the presence of its troops, and the Court ordered Ankara to pay the compensation.
The Turkish government has long claimed that the Turkish Cypriot administration is responsible for property claims in northern Cyprus since Turkey views the TRNC as an independent state. In addition, the Turkish government has been concerned that payment to Loizidou could block a general settlement sought by Ankara concerning thousands of claims to property in Cyprus by both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry stated that Turkey regarded the ECHR's decision as "unjust and erroneous," but Ankara had agreed to pay the compensation, which includes court fees and accrued interest, as "an indication of the government's willingness to fulfill the common responsibility for preserving the credibility of the European Court of Human Rights." The ministry also said that paying the sum "eliminates an obstacle in the development of our relations with the Council of Europe and the European Union." The Council of Europe had designated November 26, 2003, as the deadline by which it expected Turkey to pay Loizidou's compensation or face unspecified measures.
The Council said it would resume debate in 2005 on a 1996 ECHR ruling concerning the restoration of Loizidou's right of ownership to the property and access to it.
December 5, 2003
Settlers a Determining Factor in Northern Cyprus Elections
Washington, D.C. - With contradictory polling figures making it difficult to predict the results of the December 14 parliamentary elections in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), the vote of the Turkish settlers in northern Cyprus is considered a key determinant in the outcome.
The settlers, estimated at 115,000, outnumbering an estimated 87,000 Turkish Cypriots, have traditionally backed Rauf Denktash, who serves as president of the TRNC and opposes a reunification settlement based on the plan put forward by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. The settlers would, therefore, be expected to support the pro-Denktash parties of the current governing coalition: the National Unity Party of the TRNC prime minister, Dervis Eroglu, and the Democrat Party of Serdar Denktash, the son of Rauf Denktash.
However, many of the settlers could be attracted by the benefits of EU membership, which will be accorded to both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots on May 1, 2004, when Cyprus officially becomes an EU member, if a reunification settlement is reached by then. These settlers could opt to back the main opposition parties, which are running on a platform that supports achievement of a settlement based on the Annan plan as soon as possible in order to promote the entry of Cyprus into the EU as a reunified country. These parties are the Republican Turkish Party of Mehmet Ali Talat, the Peace and Democracy Movement of Mustafa Akinci, and the Solution and EU Party of Ari Erel.
For the first time, these parties, running as a coalition known as the "United Forces," pose a serious challenge to the parties in power, since the Annan plan has drawn wide support among Turkish Cypriots. When the U.N.-backed settlement negotiations collapsed in March 2003, tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots staged a rally in favor of the plan, marking the largest demonstration ever held in northern Cyprus. Many analysts believe that the opposition parties would be victorious in the elections if voting were restricted to Turkish Cypriots and excluded the settlers. However, these parties have received little encouragement from Ankara.
November 29 was the last day election polls could be published, since they are prohibited during the two weeks leading up to the elections.
November 24, 2003
Turkey Calls for Cyprus Settlement Based on Two States
Washington, D.C. - On a visit to northern Cyprus to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that any Cyprus reunification settlement must be based on two equal separate states, aligning himself with the position of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, rather than the bi-communal, bi-zonal formula espoused by the United Nations and supported by the Greek Cypriots. The TRNC is recognized only by Turkey.
Erdogan said Turkey accepted the good offices mission of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in seeking a settlement, but that mission cannot aim at "ending the values and existence of the TRNC." The TRNC, he said, must be one of two "equal" founders of the new Cyprus.
Erdogan's visit took place one month before the December 14 elections to choose candidates for the 50-seat Turkish Cypriot assembly. If victorious in the elections, a pro-EU, pro-reunification coalition of three main opposition parties has vowed to reopen negotiations based on the settlement plan put forth by Annan, with the aim of reuniting the country by May 1, 2004, when Cyprus officially becomes an EU member. Denktash rejected the plan, which provides for a loose federation with broad autonomy for the two ethnic communities, as a basis for negotiations, which have been suspended since March.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that, following the elections, Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot administration would launch a new settlement initiative, noting that preparations were currently underway. Gul said he hoped that, once a new Turkish Cypriot assembly was in place, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots would reach a settlement by May 1. He noted that "there will be a serious push for a resolution of the Cyprus problem" on the part of the Turkish side.
The Turkish newspaper Milliyet quoted Mumtaz Soysal, Denktash's legal advisor, as saying that Turkey was preparing a settlement plan based on the Belgian model. The Turkish Daily News stated that, according to "well-established sources," the new initiative would be discussed during a visit of Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal to Washington the first week of December.
In response to the Turkish government's assertion that settlement of the Cyprus issue is not a criterion for Turkey's accession to the European Union, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen stated that, although this is officially the case, "one cannot seriously believe that accession talks can begin with a country that has part of another EU member under occupation."
Turkish Chief of the General Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok said the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus did not constitute an "occupation" since the troops were there "in line with an international agreement," a reference to the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee that established Britain, Greece, and Turkey as guarantors of Cyprus's independence, territorial integrity, and security, as well as respect for its constitution. In an apparent reference to Greece, the general noted that a "hostile force" deployed in Cyprus, if it used its air force, would gain access to places in the eastern parts of Turkey that are currently not accessible by plane. Therefore, he said, "an air force deployed in Cyprus would pose a big threat to Turkey."
In addition, Gen. Ozkok stated that "if, in Cyprus, the kind of political formation we would not want and cannot affect took shape," the issues concerning territorial waters, the continental shelf, economic zones, and fishing zones would arise. "We already have trouble in the west," he said, referring to Turkey's differences with Greece in the Aegean Sea. "If trouble arose in the south as well, Turkey would become imprisoned," he added.
In his semi-annual report to the United Nations Security Council on the activities of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Cyprus, Annan reiterated his position that "no purpose would be served by renewing my mission of good offices [for a Cyprus settlement] unless there were a readiness on the part of both Cypriot parties, as well as Greece and Turkey, to finalize negotiations, with United Nations assistance, on the basis of the revised proposal that I presented. . ."
October 31, 2003
Denktash Refuses Meeting with U.S. Envoy as Elections Draw Near
Washington, D.C. - Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash refused to meet with State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston during the envoy's visit to Nicosia on October 23 and 24, asserting that Weston had claimed his administration was an "impediment" to a Cyprus solution and had tried to turn Turkish Cypriots against him. Denktash added that the United States had "started to intervene . . . with all its representatives and ambassadors" in the December 14 parliamentary elections in northern Cyprus.
Both the United States and the United Nations attributed the March collapse of the U.N.-led reunification talks to Denktash's rejection of the settlement plan put forth by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. The plan envisions broad autonomy for the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities within a loose federal framework.
State Department spokesman Adam Ereli stated that the United States considered the elections to be "a referendum" on the Annan plan, noting that they constituted "a crucial opportunity for Turkish Cypriots to express their will" on the issues of EU membership and a settlement based on the plan.
In the elections, Denktash is facing strong opposition from a pro-EU, pro-settlement coalition led by Mehmet Ali Talat's Republican Turkish Party (CTP), which rejects the Turkish Cypriot leader's hardline views on reunification. Talat has stated that the Annan plan is in line with the demands of the Turkish Cypriots, with the exception of a few points. He has also said that, if the coalition his party is spearheading comes to power, a settlement will be found on the basis of the plan. The other parties in the coalition are the Peace and Democracy Movement (BDH), led by Mustafa Akinci, and the Solution and European Union Party (SEUP), headed by Ali Erel.
Weston's visit to Cyprus was part of a trip that also included Greece and Turkey to convey U.S. views on the process of moving toward reunification. Both Weston and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos have stated that they do not expect settlement talks to resume until after the December 14 elections. Both agree on the need for the two sides in Cyprus to return to the negotiating table as quickly as possible in order to achieve a settlement before Cyprus formally becomes an EU member on May 1, 2004.
Weston said Washington "remains very committed and willing to devote the attention and the resources necessary to achieve a settlement" in Cyprus. He reiterated the U.S. view that "the only chance for a solution lies in the U.N. process" based on the Annan plan.
Both the Cyprus government and the Turkish government stated that they are ready to use the plan as a basis for negotiations, as long as it is amended to address their objections to some of its provisions. Denktash said that, if the plan is implemented, "every Turkish presence will be uprooted from Cyprus," turning Cyprus into "a Greek Cypriot island" in 10 years.
October 31, 2003
U.S. Seeks Monitoring of Turkish Cypriot Elections
Washington, D.C. - State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston stated that Washington has expressed an interest in having independent observers monitor the entire electoral process associated with the December 14 parliamentary elections in northern Cyprus, not just the voting procedures carried out on election day, to ensure that the elections are “fair and free.” He suggested that the observers be drawn from non-governmental organizations since no country except Turkey recognizes northern Cyprus as an independent state.
The Cyprus government is opposed to having election observers in the north, viewing the presence of such personnel as indirect recognition of the Turkish Cypriot administration. While Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has rejected the idea of having observers, Turkey has said it would welcome foreign monitors at the elections.
The Turkish Cypriot opposition coalition led by Mehmet Ali Talat’s Republican Turkish Party (CTP) has accused the Denktash administration of granting Turkish Cypriot citizenship and voting rights to large numbers of Turkish nationals living in northern Cyprus in preparation for the elections. According to the Council of Europe, there are about 115,000 Turkish settlers in the north, outnumbering the 87,000 Turkish Cypriots, down from 118,000 in 1974. The settlers generally back Denktash’s rejection of the Annan plan for the reunification of Cyprus.
Mehmet Alpayrak, who is responsible for the interior affairs of northern Cyprus, stated that a total of 54,000 Turkish nationals have been naturalized as Turkish Cypriots and granted voting rights since 1974. He said 600 had been given Turkish Cypriot citizenship during the month of October.
Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said the government believed that the outcome of the December 14 elections might not reflect the will of the Turkish Cypriots “due to the great number of [Turkish] settlers that has been added to the electoral rolls.” He said he wondered how it would be possible for election observers to “ascertain the existence of settlers in the ‘electoral’ lists.” State Department spokesman Adam Ereli noted that press reports concerning possible irregularities in Turkish Cypriot voter lists “do cause [the United States] concern.”
October 31, 2003
U.N. Baghdad Staff Temporarily Moved to Cyprus
Washington, D.C. - The United Nations has called its 18 remaining international staff members in Baghdad to Cyprus for consultations on re-evaluating the organization’s operations in Iraq and the security measures it will require if it is to continue working there. The U.N. maintains an Iraq support base in Cyprus.
The decision was made in view of the October 27 bomb attacks against the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross and four police stations in Baghdad that killed at least 34 people, 12 of them from the Red Cross, and injured 200.
On August 19, a truck bomb that hit the U.N. headquarters in the Iraqi capital killed 22 people, resulting in a decision to sharply reduce the number of the organization’s foreign staff in the city.
Forty U.N. international staff will remain at their posts in the region of Erbil in northern Iraq. About 4,000 Iraqis remain on the U.N. payroll throughout the country.
U.N. spokesperson Marie Okabe said the consultations in Cyprus constituted a “temporary relocation” in order to reconsider the security situation in Iraq and did not represent “a policy decision to disengage” from the country.
October 17, 2003
Turkish Cypriot Citizenship for Settlers Becomes Contentious Campaign Issue
Washington, D.C. - Several thousand Turkish Cypriots staged a demonstration against what they alleged were attempts by the Turkish Cypriot administration to illegally grant hasty citizenship in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to large numbers of Turkish nationals in the north to expand support for parties allied with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in the December 14 elections.
Turks from the mainland generally support these parties, which back Denktash’s opposition to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s plan for the reunification of Cyprus.
Under Turkish Cypriot law, a person must live for at least five years in the north before being eligible for TRNC citizenship.
The demonstration was accompanied by a general strike called by 15 trade unions and major opposition parties who have pledged to resume reunification negotiations with Greek Cypriots on the basis of the Annan plan if they win the elections.
Denktash denied claims that TRNC citizenship was being granted to Turkish nationals in northern Cyprus in an attempt to influence the elections. He said he would have the election board investigate the allegations so there would be “no doubt cast over the elections.”
A senior Turkish Cypriot official, Serdar Denktash, stated that about 2,500 people had been granted Turkish Cypriot citizenship since July, and all of them had been eligible to receive it.
Mustafa Akinci, who heads the opposition Peace and Democracy Movement, has called on the Turkish Cypriot supreme court to rule against the alleged illegal naturalizations of mainland Turks.
In August, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) agreed to accept a lawsuit filed against Turkey by the opposition Patriotic Unity Movement, claiming that Turkish nationals who had settled in northern Cyprus should not be allowed to vote in the Turkish Cypriot elections since Ankara had violated the Geneva Conventions by moving these individuals into the region in order to change its demographics.
The number of settlers from Turkey in northern Cyprus, estimated in 2001 to be about 115,000, outnumber the 87,000 Turkish Cypriots. At the time of the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a Greek-inspired coup against the democratically elected government, there were 118,000 Turkish Cypriots in the country, comprising 18 percent of the total population.
October 10, 2003
Turkish Cypriots to Vote, Run in European Parliament Elections
Washington, D.C. - The National Council, the top advisory body to the president of Cyprus, has drawn up the general principles of proposed legislation that will give Turkish Cypriots the right to vote in the European Parliament elections next year and to run as candidates for the legislative body. The final form of the law will be determined by the House of Representatives.
The elections are scheduled for June 10-13, 2004, less than six weeks after Cyprus is slated to officially become a member of the European Union on May 1.
The Cyprus government has told the European Union that it seeks to facilitate the participation of Turkish Cypriots in the elections, regardless of whether a settlement to re-unify the country is reached by then. The easing of travel restrictions in both directions across the buffer zone in April has opened the way for Turkish Cypriots to travel to the south to cast their ballots, possibly at polling booths just south of the Green Line.
In the elections, Cyprus is considered to be one electoral district and has been allocated six seats in the European Parliament. A single electoral list of both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot registered voters will be drawn up, and a single ballot will have the names of all of the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot candidates on it. All voters and candidates must hold Cyprus citizenship.
Both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will be able to vote for anyone on the ballot, and no quota will be set on the number of Greek Cypriots or Turkish Cypriots that can be elected.
The new election law will apply only to European Parliament elections and will not be related to provisions of the country’s 1960 constitution that established separate electoral rolls for the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in local elections.
October 10, 2003
Athens, Ankara Cancel Cyprus-Related Military Exercises
Washington, D.C. - Greece and Turkey have agreed to cancel separate military exercises planned in Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean later this year.
The announcement was made by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on the sidelines of the Mediterranean Forum (FOROMED) meeting of 11 foreign ministers in Antalya, Turkey. Papandreou stated that the decision had been made in the spirit of the Olympic games, which will be held in Athens in August 2004. He also noted that the move was "a significant gesture for peace and security in the region."
Gul, who is scheduled to visit Athens on October 21, stated that "we see this as a sign of improvement in ties between our countries." He added that "both sides have the will to solve problems. Talks are going on. We are optimistic."
The maneuvers planned in and around Cyprus were "Nikoforos," which Greece and the Greek Cypriots conduct jointly, and "Toros," which Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots carry out together. "Toxotis" and "Barbaros," naval exercises designed to support military operations in Cyprus, were also planned by Greece and Turkey, respectively.
Both series of the annual exercises were also cancelled in 2002 in support of the push by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to reach a settlement in Cyprus, an effort that collapsed in March 2003.
In 2001, the Toxotis and Barbaros maneuvers were cancelled in the post-September 11 environment, amid preparations for U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan, which involved the use of facilities in both Greece and Turkey. However, the Nikoforos and Toros exercises did go forward in October and November 2001, respectively.
Analysis by Stephen R. Norton, Senior Policy Advisor, Western Policy Center:
Canceling two series of Cyprus-oriented exercises for the second year in a row is a significant policy decision since it is certain to have an adverse effect on military readiness pertaining to Cyprus.
This is especially true with respect to the Greek military and the Greek Cypriot National Guard, which have to coordinate myriad war-fighting and logistical issues covering the 567-mile distance between Athens and Nicosia. In this regard, Ankara enjoys a huge geostrategic advantage because the north coast of Cyprus is less than 50 miles away from Turkey’s south coast.
There could be several reasons for Greece and Turkey to allow the military readiness of forces responsible for the defense of Cyprus to erode. One, they believe the military threat in Cyprus has decreased to the point where there is no short-term potential for conflict and, therefore, large-scale exercises are not required at this time. Two, they believe the right political climate exists to solve the Cyprus problem, and they want to do everything possible to maintain a positive atmosphere. Or three, both reasons exist.
If all concerned really believe the potential for conflict in Cyprus is low, it might be time for the military establishments in Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus to reconfigure and reduce their force structure in Cyprus to reflect this.
September 12, 2003
Anti-Denktash Coalition Pulls Ahead in Election Campaign
Washington, D.C. - A well-respected poll has indicated that a pro-EU, pro-settlement grouping of three Turkish Cypriot opposition parties could defeat the main parties backing Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in the December parliamentary elections in northern Cyprus, enhancing the chances that the Cyprus problem might be solved before the country becomes a member of the European Union on May 1, 2004.
The parties in the "United Forces" are the Peace and Democracy Movement (BDH) of Mustafa Akinci, the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) of Mehmet Ali Talat, and the Solution and EU Party (SEUP) of Ali Erel. In a statement, the parties said that, if the grouping wins the elections and is able to form a coalition government, its primary objective will be to establish a unified Cyprus within the framework of a solution based on the settlement plan proposed by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and on the "political equality of the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot constituent states" outlined in the plan.
The statement said that the three parties would remove Denktash, who has rejected the Annan plan, from the position of negotiator in the settlement talks with the Greek Cypriots and would appoint a new team of negotiators backed by the majority of the Turkish Cypriot parliamentarians. It also stated that they would then work to achieve an agreement by May 2004 and would have the Turkish Cypriot people approve it in a referendum.
The parties also said that they were "conscious of the fact that the resolution of the Cyprus problem and the accession of a united Cyprus into the EU are in the common interests of the Turkish Cypriot people and Turkey."
An August 26-31 opinion poll carried out by KADEM (Cyprus Social Research and Educational Counseling Center) for the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, which is independent from the Turkish Cypriot administration, indicated that 52.1 percent of the voters in northern Cyprus supported the United Forces. The leading party within the United Forces was the CTP, with 30.6 percent.
The parties forming Denktash's primary support base, the National Unity Party (UBP) led by Dervis Eroglu and the Democratic Party (DP) led by Serdar Denktash, were backed by 22.9 percent and 9.1 percent, respectively.
State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston said that "an outcome [in the Turkish Cypriot elections] which led to a political leadership more favorable to the Annan plan would make a very big difference in the possibilities of reaching a settlement."
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, during a visit to Nicosia, met with the leaders of the parties in the United Forces and three other Turkish Cypriot opposition party leaders, who all reiterated their support for a Cyprus settlement based on the Annan plan and emphasized the need to maintain the timetable for Turkey’s road to EU membership. They thanked Papandreou for his contribution to the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations and for his efforts toward resolution of the Cyprus problem.
August 22, 2003
ECHR to Hear Turkish Cypriot Case Against Turkey Over Settlers
Washington, D.C. - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) agreed to accept a lawsuit filed against Turkey by a Turkish Cypriot political party claiming that Turkish nationals who had settled in northern Cyprus should not be allowed to vote in the Turkish Cypriot elections since Ankara had violated the Geneva Conventions by moving these nationals into the region in order to change its demographics.
The lawsuit, filed by the Patriotic Unity Movement (YBH), maintains that permitting the settlers to vote in the December Turkish Cypriot parliamentary elections will prevent the will of the indigenous population of northern Cyprus from being reflected in the election results.
Alpay Durduran, the leader of the YBH, which is not currently represented in the Turkish Cypriot parliament, also called for conducting a census in the north to differentiate the Turkish Cypriots from the settlers in order to provide a framework that would allow only the Turkish Cypriots to vote.
In a June letter sent by the YBH to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the party demanded that the December elections be open only to Turkish Cypriots.
The number of settlers from Turkey, estimated in 2001 to be about 115,000, outnumber the 87,000 Turkish Cypriots. At the time of the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a Greek-inspired coup against the democratically elected government, there were 118,000 Turkish Cypriots in the country, comprising 18 percent of the total population.
Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou welcomed the ECHR's decision to hear the case. The Cyprus government maintains that the settlers have entered Cyprus illegally. The Turkish Cypriot administration regards it as discriminatory to distinguish between ethnic Turks born in Cyprus and Turkish nationals who have gone to northern Cyprus to live.
August 15, 2003
N. Withdraws Envoy from Cyprus
Washington, D.C. - In a move viewed as a signal that the active involvement of the United Nations in the search for a Cyprus settlement has waned, Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that he would withdraw his special advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, from the post he has held for four years as overseer of the negotiating process.
Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for the secretary general, stated that Annan was"ready to exercise good offices to help the parties achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem when [both the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides, as well as Greece and Turkey] show a genuine commitment" to finalizing an agreement based on the plan put forward by the secretary general and to submitting it to separate and simultaneous referendums in the north and the south.
He said Annan attributed a high priority to a Cyprus settlement and believed that it was possible to achieve one if the political will existed.
State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston told the Western Policy Center that"the secretary general's commitment to make the necessary arrangements to pursue his good offices mission when he has received the necessary expressions of political will to achieve a comprehensive settlement from the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders, as well as from a high political level of Greece and Turkey, is an additional strong reason for a prompt expression of that will from all parties."
Annan is appointing de Soto, a career diplomat, as special representative for Western Sahara, a territory in northern Africa between Morocco and Mauritania. The U.N. Security Council has endorsed a peace plan for the territory and has instructed all sides to begin talks on resolving its status.
In response to a question at a press briefing concerning whether or not de Soto will continue to have responsibilities in Cyprus once he assumes his new post, Eckhard stated that the secretary general"will make arrangements, as appropriate, regarding the handling of the Cyprus good offices, when Mr. de Soto takes on his new duties."
The secretary general's intensive push to broker a settlement before Cyprus joins the European Union in May 2004 ended in The Hague in March, when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash rejected the Annan plan for an agreement, leading to the collapse of the talks. The Greek Cypriots stated at that time that they were willing to negotiate on the basis of the plan, with a view toward reaching a settlement before Cyprus becomes an EU member, but they wanted to make changes in it.
Denktash's current position is that he is ready to resume negotiations, but not on the basis of the Annan plan. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos continues to reiterate his willingness to accept the plan as the basis for talks.
Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides stated that the U.N. had assured Nicosia that de Soto would not stop being involved in the Cyprus problem.
August 1, 2003
Turkish Cypriot Trade Delayed by Certificate of Origin Dispute
Washington, D.C. - Plans to initiate trade between Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot area have been hindered by the refusal of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce to issue certificates of origin for goods that would be transported south across the Green Line. The chairman of the Chamber, Ali Erel, said that the reasons for the decision included concern over sales tax issues and the fact that Turkish Cypriot firms were not registered in the Cyprus government company registrar.
The Chamber, which is not part of the administration of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, had initially agreed to issue the documents.
Trade and Industry Minister George Lillikas stated that the Cyprus government had agreed to accept such non-official certificates from the north. The European Commission, in a package of measures for Turkish Cypriots announced in early June, proposed that the Chamber be given the authority to issue the papers, which would accompany Turkish Cypriot goods to be exported to the European Union through the internationally recognized ports in the south. (See Country Updates, Cyprus, "EU Ban on Import of Northern Cyprus Goods Ends,"June 6, 2003.)
Lillikas stated that the Chamber was now asking the Cyprus government to issue the certificates. He said this would not be feasible since it would be difficult for government authorities to examine the goods or agricultural produce requiring certification. He reiterated the longstanding position of the Cyprus government that it would not authorize the Turkish Cypriot administration to issue the documents.
The minister said the government would explore other ways to facilitate trade between the north and the south. The government commission responsible for wheat production has decided to purchase 1,500 tons of wheat from Turkish Cypriot farmers.
August 1, 2003
Foreign Minister Pledges Closer Relations with Iran
Washington, D.C. - During his two-day visit to Tehran, Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou and Iranian officials called for further expansion of relations between the two countries, including the negotiation of a bilateral trade agreement.
Iacovou met with President Mohammed Khatami; his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi; and Speaker of Parliament Mehdi Karroubi to discuss ways to bolster cooperation.
The minister told the officials that Cyprus would pursue stronger relations between Nicosia and Tehran within the framework of the European Union since it is slated to become an EU member on May 1, 2004. Karroubi expressed the hope that Cyprus would be able to play a leading role in the expansion of relations between the EU and Iran.
Khatami assured Iacovou that, within the context of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), of which Turkey is a member, Iran would help in the effort to find a Cyprus settlement.
Iacovou said he conveyed to Khatami the EU's position on Iran’s nuclear program, which includes a call for Tehran to maintain transparency in its nuclear policy, cooperate with the United Nations in this regard, and sign the additional protocol to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Khatami extended an invitation through Iacovou to Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos to visit Iran.
July 28, 2003
Greek Cypriots Reject Denktash's Proposals on Airport, Varosha
Washington, D.C. - In a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's proposal in writing to Annan that the Nicosia airport be opened for use by the two communities, under U.N. provisional administration, was an attempt to direct attention away from the Annan plan as a basis for settlement negotiations. It was also, Papadopoulos said, another attempt to promote recognition of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus by trying to gain a legal port of entry.
Denktash also proposed verbally that he would work toward the resettlement of Varosha, a beach resort adjacent to Famagusta, by Greek Cypriots, under U.N. interim rule, if the airport opening moved forward. In the absence of action on the airport, he said, he would advocate the Turkish Cypriot settlement of Varosha.
Rejecting Denktash's proposals, Papadopoulos once again called on him to focus his attention back to the Annan plan and accept it as a basis for reaching a comprehensive Cyprus settlement.
Since 1974, the Nicosia airport, now straddling the Green Line in the U.N.-controlled buffer zone, has been closed and Varosha, formerly inhabited primarily by Greek Cypriots, has been a ghost town. U.N. Security Council Resolution 550 of 1984 states that it would be inadmissible for anyone other than the original inhabitants of Varosha to occupy the resort, which remains under the control of the Turkish Army today. Following Denktash's recent statement that he could advocate settlement of the resort by Turkish Cypriots, the Security Council reaffirmed the position outlined in Resolution 550.
The measures proposed by Denktash concerning the opening of the airport and the Greek-Cypriot settlement of Varosha were put forth in a package of confidence-building measures presented by then-U.N. secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali for discussion by the two sides in 1993 and 1994. They were initially proposed in 1988 by Major General Gunther Griendl, an Austrian who was serving as both the commander of UNFICYP -- the U.N. peacekeeping force in Cyprus -- and as the Chief of Mission of the U.N. in the country.
The Cyprus government has invested a significant amount of money to transform the Larnaca airport into an international airport, including the construction of a major highway linking it with Nicosia. It is now planning to invest $393 million for the overhaul of the airports both in Larnaca and Paphos, which also handles international flights, with construction expected to begin next year. There is, therefore, little incentive on the part of the government to reopen the airport in Nicosia, which has been declared unsafe by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for landings by contemporary commercial aircraft used for international flights.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Turkey would open its ports, airports, and airspace to Greek Cypriot ships and airplanes if the proposals concerning the Nicosia airport and Varosha were implemented.
Denktash has also notified Annan that the Turkish Cypriot administration would be willing to clear the land mines along the north side of the Green Line. In January 2002, the Cyprus government presented a proposal to UNIFICYP for clearing all minefields in the buffer zone. The proposal, rejected by the Turkish Cypriot side in 2002, was reiterated by the Cyprus government in an April 2003 package of confidence-building measures. For years, the Greek Cypriots have been unilaterally implementing a mine clearance plan south of the Green Line in cooperation with UNFICYP.
July 28, 2003
Denktash Continues to Reject Annan Plan
Washington, D.C. - Denktash stated that he continued to regard the Annan plan for a Cyprus settlement as unacceptable, maintaining that a settlement should be based on confidence-building measures he has recently initiated, including the opening of the Green Line to two-way traffic in April. He said he was willing to resume negotiations with Greek Cypriots, which collapsed in March, but not on the basis of the U.N. plan.
Greece, the United States, Britain, and international mediators have joined Cyprus in calling on Denktash to accept the plan, although Papadopoulos has stated that it should be amended to allow for a more "European, viable, and workable" settlement. He noted, in particular, that the impending accession of Cyprus to the EU in May 2004 must be taken into account and the long timeframes in the plan for the return of displaced Cypriots needed to be revisited in light of the primarily harmonious movement of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots across the Green Line.
On July 21, the Department of Transportation of the Cyprus Ministry of Communication and Works began conducting safety inspections on trucks owned by Turkish Cypriots as a prelude to the issuing of permits to allow the trucks to bring goods into the south and facilitate trade across the Green Line. Representatives of the Turkish Cypriot bus driver and taxi driver unions also met with the director of the Department of Transportation to discuss the possibility that their members could also receive permits to circulate freely in the south.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, marking the 29th anniversary of the July 20 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a Greek-inspired coup against the Cyprus government, characterized the invasion as a "peace operation" that had helped the Turkish Cypriots live in safety and had allowed "two nations" to coexist peacefully since 1974, a long-held, publicly expressed view of previous Turkish governments. He stated that efforts toward a settlement should consider that there are two states on the island.
July 28, 2003
Anti-Aircraft Missile Purchase Underway
Washington, D.C. - The Cyprus government has agreed to purchase additional Aspide and Mistral short-range, surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) from Italy and France, respectively. The government already has both types of missiles in its arsenal, along with SA-7s and Tor-M1s, both short-range SAMs from Russia, as a response to its perception that Turkey’s air force poses a major threat.
The Aspide's maximum range is 11.5 miles, while the Mistral can travel 3.7 miles. The SA-7 has a 2-mile range and the Tor-M1 a 7.5-mile range. Because of the relatively short ranges of these missiles and the restricted capacity of their radar, Turkey does not consider this weaponry to be a threat to its air force on the mainland.
In December 1998, the Cyprus government abandoned its plan to deploy Russian-made S-300 SAM missiles in Cyprus after Turkey threatened to take military action against the Greek Cypriots if the plan went through. Turkey’s primary fear was that the long-range radar system associated with the S-300 would enable the Greek Cypriots to look several hundred miles into Turkey, allowing them to track Turkish air force activities. In addition, with its range of 90 miles, the S-300 could strike planes flying in certain areas along Turkey's southern coast.
Cyprus Defense Minister Kyriakos Mavronikolas stated that the Greek Cypriot National Guard would maintain its combat readiness since no decrease in the Turkish military presence had taken place in northern Cyprus.
July 28, 2003
Membership in EU Ratified by House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. - The 56 members of the Cypriot House of Representatives unanimously ratified Cyprus's entry into the European Union, scheduled for May 1, 2004, along with the entry of nine other countries.
Cyprus is the only one of the prospective EU member states that is not holding a referendum on joining the bloc. The country’s constitution does not require that a referendum be held for the ratification of international agreements or conventions.
Malta, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic have already approved accession through referendums, while Estonia and Latvia have scheduled them for later this year.
The accession treaty, signed by all the new members on April 16 in Athens, must also be ratified by the 15 current EU members and by the European Parliament.
Cyprus began its accession negotiations in 1998. It will be the wealthiest new EU member in terms of per capita income.
June 27, 2003
Council of Europe Cites Human Rights Violations in North
Washington, D.C. - The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution calling on the Turkish Cypriot leadership and Turkey to “cease all humiliation” of the Greek Cypriot and Maronite Catholic communities in northern Cyprus, the so-called “enclaved.” The assembly urged them to end “the climate of intimidation” toward these communities, return their properties and possessions or provide compensation, ensure their freedom of education and worship, grant them equal access to medical care, end restrictions on their movements, and allow them to freely choose their representatives.
In addition, PACE urged Ankara to stop the “colonization” of the north by settlers from Turkey, which has resulted in a change in the demographic structure of the country. The assembly cited the presence of the settlers as an obstacle to a Cyprus settlement. It proposed that international funding be sought to finance the voluntary return of the settlers to Turkey.
In northern Cyprus, there are about 400 Greek Cypriots, primarily in the Karpas peninsula region, and about 150 Maronites in the Kyrenia area. Educational facilities for these communities do not exist beyond the elementary school level. Members of the communities have been able to travel to the south to vote in elections.
June 27, 2003
Naval Patrols with Italy to Stem Illegal Immigration
Washington, D.C. - The Italian government announced that Cyprus, which will become an EU member in May 2004, and Italy, which assumes the rotating EU presidency in July, are planning to implement joint naval patrols of the eastern Mediterranean in an effort to protect the European Union’s southern maritime border from illegal immigration.
Cyprus, near the coasts of Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon, is highly exposed to the flow of illegal migrants from the Middle East who are in transit to European Union countries. Italy has seen an increase in the arrival of migrants from northern Africa. At the EU June summit in Greece, which is also plagued by illegal immigration, the bloc’s leaders agreed to expend greater resources on protecting the European Union from this problem.
June 27, 2003
New Measure Encourages Trade Between North and South
Washington, D.C. - The Cyprus government will begin allowing Turkish Cypriot trucks carrying goods from the north to cross the Green Line into the south in an effort to encourage trade between the two areas. Since the Green Line opened to two-way traffic in April, only private cars from the north have been able to cross the divide.
Inspections of the trucks will be carried out in accordance with European Union regulations and the laws of the government’s Transport Department, which will issue permits to the drivers for the transport of goods.
In order to promote greater freedom of movement of Turkish Cypriots to the south, the Cyprus House of Representatives is also considering extending the period of time during which cars are covered by an insurance fee paid by Turkish Cypriot drivers when they cross the Green Line. Currently, a fee of about $20 provides only one day’s coverage.
In addition, the government abolished the $30 fine for the late registration of births to both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot parents. Turkish Cypriots have been particularly impacted by the fine, since they were not able to travel into the south to carry out the registration until the recent opening of the Green Line.
June 20, 2003
Denktash Rejects EU Trade Measures for Northern Cyprus
Washington, D.C. - Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, in a meeting with European Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen in Cyprus, rejected European Union trade measures for northern Cyprus that would have opened the way for Turkish Cypriot goods to be exported to the bloc. The measures were part of a package announced by the EU in early June to promote the economic development of northern Cyprus and bring it closer to the EU. (See Country Updates, Cyprus, "EU Ban on Import of Northern Cyprus Goods Ends," June 6, 2003.)
Denktash objected to the EU's stipulation that Turkish Cypriot goods must leave Cyprus through the internationally-recognized ports in the south. The Cyprus government will not endorse the use of ports in the north, under Turkish Cypriot administration, for export of these goods.
The Turkish Cypriot leader accepted the other measures in the EU package, including the $14 million in financial assistance to northern Cyprus and the initiatives to inform Turkish Cypriots of the implications of joining the bloc.
Verheugen stated that the European Union would still put the trade measures in place to signal to the Turkish Cypriots that the door to the EU remained open. He urged Denktash and Ankara to work toward the conclusion of a reunification settlement before Cyprus becomes an EU member in May 2004.
State Department Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston, also on a visit to Cyprus, reiterated Washington's support for the Annan plan as a basis for negotiations and called for the immediate resumption of talks in order to reach a settlement by May.
Denktash continued to reject the Annan plan, stating that he would not resume talks without a new negotiating framework and insisting on sovereign recognition of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as a first step toward reunification in the form of a confederation of two independent states.
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos reiterated the government's commitment to reaching a settlement by May on the basis of the Annan plan, which envisions autonomous Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot federal zones linked through a limited central government.
June 13, 2003
U.S. to Push for Resumption of Settlement Negotiations
Washington, D.C. - During a visit of Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou to Washington, the Bush administration agreed to help Cyprus re-open negotiations to reunify the country on the basis of the plan drawn up by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Although the Cyprus government would like to see some of the provisions of the plan altered, it is pushing for a resumption of the talks, which broke down in April when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash rejected the plan.
In his meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Iacovou stated that Turkey should be urged to work toward renewed talks.
Powell told Iacovou that he will raise the Cyprus issue with Annan when he meets with him in Jordan later in June.
June 6, 2003
EU Ban on Import of Northern Cyprus Goods End
Washington, D.C. - The European Commission announced a package of measures for Turkish Cypriots, to be implemented this year, that includes an end to an EU ban on the import of goods originating in northern Cyprus and $14 million in financial assistance.
The Commission proposed that the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce be given the authority to issue “movement certificates” to accompany goods being exported to the bloc, which will be transported through the internationally recognized ports in the south of Cyprus.
A 1994 judgment of the European Court of Justice ruled that movement certificates issued by authorities of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey, would not be accepted by European Union countries under the Association Agreement between the EU and Cyprus, which authorized the Cyprus government to issue such certificates.
The Commission also proposed $14 million in EU financial assistance for northern Cyprus for 2003. About $10.5 million of the aid will be allocated for economic development assistance, which will be carried out in cooperation with the United Nations Development Program. It will include projects to upgrade the wastewater, drinking water, and sewage facilities in the northern part of Nicosia and in the cities of Famagusta and Kyrenia, support for small- and medium-sized businesses, and feasibility studies on preparations for the economic integration of northern Cyprus into the EU when a reunification settlement is achieved.
About $3.5 million will be spent on initiatives to inform Turkish Cypriots of the implications of joining the bloc. These include seminars on EU rules and legislation, which will be translated into Turkish; visits of groups of Turkish Cypriots to EU institutions; the search for ways, by conferring with Cyprus government officials, to encourage the participation of Turkish Cypriots in EU programs; and support for non-governmental organizations and trade unions.
The package of measures, drawn up in close consultation with the Cyprus government, is designed to promote the economic development of northern Cyprus and bring it closer to the EU as part of efforts to achieve a settlement before Cyprus joins the EU in May 2004. It was proposed at the initiative of EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen in response to a request by the European Council at the December 2002 Copenhagen summit and will be submitted to a June EU Council of Ministers meeting and to the EU-Cyprus Association Council for approval. Verheugen will travel to Cyprus on June 17 to discuss the package.
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash asked the European Commission to clarify certain aspects of the package, stating that he would not make a decision on whether to accept the measures until the clarifications were made.
A few days before the EU measures were released, Ankara announced that it would provide two aid packages for northern Cyprus, in addition to the $250 million that it allocates to the Turkish Cypriot administration annually.
One package consists of $450 million in loans over a period of three years, with $160 million of the funds being used for investment incentives for small- and medium-sized businesses and the rest being made available to individuals wishing to invest in the north. The second package will provide $28 million for low-income groups, to be used for housing and investment.
Turkey also amended its citizenship law to stipulate that any citizen of northern Cyprus that applies for Turkish citizenship will receive it automatically.
May 23, 2003
Greek Cypriot Tourists to Travel to Turkey After 40 Years
Washington, D.C. - The Turkish government began allowing Greek Cypriots to travel to Turkey as tourists on May 22 for the first time in 40 years, although Ankara does not recognize Cyprus. During this period, Greek Cypriots have been permitted to visit Turkey only to attend international forums.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Turkey expected Greece to take reciprocal steps, an appeal to the Greek government to allow Turkish Cypriots to visit Greece using travel documents issued by the Turkish Cypriot administration.
Greece, like all other countries except Turkey, does not recognize the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In addition, Greece does not consider its travel documents to be valid. Some countries do allow Turkish Cypriots to obtain visas on the basis of these documents.
The Greek government permits the entry of Turkish Cypriots into Greece if they carry a Cyprus passport and arrive from an internationally-recognized port of entry in the south of Cyprus, or from another country.
The Turkish government said its decision, made one month after Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash opened the Green Line to two-way crossings on April 23, did not signal recognition of Cyprus, which was withdrawn in 1974. Denktash called the decision to allow Greek Cypriot tourists into Turkey “proper and timely.”
Greek Cypriots may enter Turkey without obtaining visas beforehand and will receive one-month tourist visas upon arrival for a fee of about $12, with the possibility of extensions. Before arriving in Turkey, they may also apply for a one-month visa, free of charge, from Turkish embassies or from Turkey’s diplomatic mission in northern Nicosia.
Erdogan specified that Greek Cypriots will not be allowed to travel directly from Cyprus to Turkey unless they leave from northern Cyprus, which would entail going through invalid ports of entry. He stated that they may also travel to Turkey from other countries. Private ships owned by Greek Cypriots will be allowed to visit Turkish ports if they sail from ports in the north and have no commercial aims, he said. In addition to having no diplomatic relations, Cyprus and Turkey have no trade relations.
The Cyprus government has no restrictions on the entry of Turkish nationals into its territory, but, since 1974, the arrivals of Turkish citizens in the south have been limited primarily to journalists and individuals on personal business.
The Cyprus government welcomed Turkey’s decision to admit Greek Cypriots, noting that, by doing so, Ankara was ending an illegal act and was complying with international law and its obligations as a candidate for EU membership. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said, however, that the decision was also aimed at attempting to achieve indirect recognition of northern Cyprus.
Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides stated that the move to allow Greek Cypriots into Turkey should not be considered a goodwill gesture or confidence-building measure. He said it would be illegal for Greek Cypriots to obtain a visa in northern Cyprus or to travel to Turkey from the north, and anyone who did so would face prosecution.
About 20,000 of the 120,000 residents of northern Cyprus have visited offices in the south to apply for Cyprus passports since movement across the Green Line began.
In view of Cyprus’s entry into the European Union next year, the Cyprus government has asked the EU to intercede with regard to Turkey’s refusal to allow the docking of Cypriot-flagged ships at Turkish ports. The government stated that one in every four EU ships in international waters carries a Cyprus flag
The European Union will announce proposals on June 4 that include easing exports from the Turkish Cypriot north to the 15-nation bloc.
May 16, 2003
Erdogan Backs Denktash's Stance on Cyprus Issue
Washington, D.C. - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during his first visit to northern Cyprus since assuming office in March, expressed full support for the positions of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash as he called for any Cyprus settlement that emerges to be based on the existence of two separate, equal states. Erdogan also urged the international community to begin trading with northern Cyprus.
The European Court of Justice maintains that trade with the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey, cannot take place since Turkish Cypriot goods are not accompanied by customs certificates issued by the authorities of the internationally recognized Cyprus government and are not shipped through internationally recognized airports or seaports. Currently, some Turkish Cypriot goods are trans-shipped to other countries through Turkey, where they are stripped of their Turkish Cypriot identity.
The prime minister said that international trade with northern Cyprus would lead Turkey to lift its sanctions against the Cyprus government, including opening air corridors to Greek Cypriot civilian air traffic and allowing Cyprus-flagged ships to dock in Turkish ports. Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus and has no diplomatic or trade relations with its government.
Although the Cyprus government has abolished a ban on the entry of Turkish Cypriot goods into the south through its recent confidence-building measures and will facilitate the transport of these goods to EU states and other countries, the Turkish Cypriot north remains cut off from world trading markets. The government says that the lifting of international sanctions against northern Cyprus must be part of a comprehensive settlement for the reunification of the country.
Erdogan, appealing to Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos to resume negotiations with Denktash, stated that he supported U.N. efforts to reach a settlement and believed the plan put forward by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan could still be a basis for talks.
Denktash said that negotiations should be conducted between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides without outside intervention, stating that he would not agree to resume talks on the basis of the Annan plan, which he does not consider negotiable. He stated that his decision to open the Green Line to free movement on April 23 had prepared a foundation for future negotiations toward a settlement, an assertion that was rejected by Papadopoulos. Denktash also offered to turn over the now-deserted resort town of Varosha, a suburb of Famagusta, to Greek Cypriots in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions against northern Cyprus.
The Greek Cypriots want to resume settlement talks on the basis of the Annan plan, under U.N. auspices, as soon as possible. Papadopoulos stated that many provisions of the plan must be revised to adapt to political developments in the country and the signing of the EU treaty of accession by Cyprus in April.
May 16, 2003
Implementation of Confidence-Building Measures on Both Sides Moves Forward
Washington, D.C. - To facilitate the entry of Turkish Cypriot goods into the south, the Cyprus government is preparing to register Turkish Cypriot companies through the same process used to register those owned by Greek Cypriots, as the Turkish Cypriot administration takes steps toward the normalization of trade with the south.
Each Turkish Cypriot company must be registered through a lawyer who is officially registered in the south and must comply with the European Union's Value Added Tax (VAT) regulations, which require any business whose annual income exceeds $17,786 to make VAT payments.
The government is also conferring with the attorney general's office on how to proceed with handling Turkish Cypriot properties in the south that have been visited by their legal owners since movement across the Green Line began. After 1974, displaced Greek Cypriots settled in some of the homes in the south belonging to Turkish Cypriots, but the Interior Ministry specified that these Greek Cypriots would have custodianship, not ownership, of the properties.
The government will appoint an administrative officer at each district branch of the land registry department to deal with these properties, while Turkish-speaking employees are being hired by the department to assist in the process.
Many Greek Cypriots, as future citizens of the EU, have filed lawsuits at the European Court of Justice concerning claims on their properties in northern Cyprus. Denktash has called on Greek Cypriots to apply to the courts in northern Cyprus to resolve their claims, while the Turkish Cypriot administration is planning to establish a special board to resolve property disputes.
On May 10, the government began permitting Turkish Cypriots to drive south over the Green Line at the new Aghios Dometios checkpoint in a western suburb of Nicosia. Their entry into the south had previously been restricted to foot traffic. Settlers from Turkey, who have come to live in northern Cyprus, are not being allowed to cross into the south at all.
In addition to the four checkpoints along the Green Line that are currently open, the Greek Cypriots have proposed that another four be opened, while the mayors of the two sides in Nicosia have met to talk about reconnecting barricaded streets.
Denktash has announced that scholarships will be provided for a certain number of Greek Cypriots wishing to study in Turkish Cypriot universities, an apparent response to the Cyprus government's announcement that Turkish Cypriots will receive scholarships to attend universities in the south as part of the new confidence-building measures. The Turkish language will also be introduced as an elective in public schools in the south for students over the age of 15, while Turkish Cypriots will be able to attend classes in the south to learn Greek. In addition, the government will soon begin clearing landmine fields on the south side of the Green Line.
The Turkish Cypriot administration is encouraging mobile phone companies in the north to sign roaming agreements with companies in the south, while it will request a meeting between the Turkish Cypriot telecommunications department and its Greek Cypriot counterpart to discuss increasing the number of telephone lines between the north and south. It has also decided to expand the number of checkpoints through which U.N. peacekeepers can cross into northern Cyprus from one to three.
Over 300,000 of the 800,000 inhabitants of Cyprus have traveled across the Green Line in both directions: about 240,000 Greek Cypriots and nearly 90,000 Turkish Cypriots. The 35,000 Turkish troops in the north are normally in uniform all day, but, since Denktash opened the Green Line, they have put on civilian clothes when off duty in an attempt to assume a lower profile.
May 9, 2003
Foreign Minister Attends EU Meeting in Turkey
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou attended a reception hosted by Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul in the Turkish coastal town of Kas as part of informal EU Council of Foreign Ministers meetings that were held primarily on the Greek islands of Rhodes and Kastellorizo under Greece’s current EU presidency. (See Greece section.)
The Turkish Foreign Ministry announced that Iacovou’s presence in Kas did not mean that Turkey recognized “the Greek Cypriot administration,” the Turkish government’s term for the internationally-recognized government of Cyprus, as a state, and it did not signal any change in Ankara’s policy toward Cyprus. Gul stated that recognition could only be possible “when lasting peace is assured” in Cyprus.
Turkey has had no diplomatic relations with Cyprus since 1974. Since then, Cyprus government officials have gone to Turkey, primarily to Istanbul, only on official business within the context of forums held by international organizations.
May 9, 2003
Denktash to Impose Blacklist on Greek Cypriots Heading North
Washington, D.C. - Rauf Dentash has ordered Turkish Cypriot police to prepare a blacklist to prevent a number of what he called “undesirable” Greek Cypriots from crossing into the north. The list is expected to include those known to have killed Turkish Cypriots during the intercommunal strife prior to 1974 and members of EOKA, an organization that campaigned, often using violent means, for the union of Cyprus with Greece in the 1950s and 1960s.
Denktash’s decision followed accusations by Turkish Cypriots that a Greek Cypriot returning to his village in the north had murdered two Turkish Cypriots in 1974. The move was denounced by Denktash’s opponents in northern Cyprus, who noted that killings had taken place on both sides.
May 9, 2003
Greek Cypriots May Face Prosecution for Staying in Hotels in the North
Washington, D.C. - Although the Cyprus government stated that it would not impose any restrictions on the movement of Greek Cypriots across the Green Line, it criticized the Turkish Cypriot decision to allow them to spend up to three nights in the north provided that they stay at Turkish Cypriot hotels, rather than requiring them to limit their visits to day trips. Visits by Turkish Cypriots to the south are still restricted to one day.
President Tassos Papadopoulos described the Turkish Cypriot decision as a “provocation” since most of the hotels in the north had been the property of Greek Cypriots before 1974. The Cyprus government said that it would gather the names of Greek Cypriots who had stayed in these hotels and would support any civil suit against them for trespassing filed by the legal Greek Cypriot owners of the hotels.
The government also said it would discourage foreign tour operators from including the north in their tours. It prohibits foreigners that cross into the north from staying overnight, while it will not permit foreigners that have flown or sailed to northern Cyprus to travel south over the Green Line since they have not entered the country through an internationally recognized port of entry.
May 9, 2003
Omplementation of Government Measures for Turkish Cypriots Begins
Washington, D.C. - The Cyprus government began implementing its April 30 package of measures extending to Turkish Cypriots, where possible, the rights and benefits enjoyed by citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and improving Turkish Cypriot living standards, starting with telephone service connecting the government-controlled south directly to northern Cyprus and to Turkey.
The government is working with the United Nations to upgrade a U.N.-controlled telephone center in the buffer zone, which was set up after the lines between north and south were cut in 1974, in order to increase the number of telephone lines handling calls between the two sides from 20 to 100.
The government also established May 10 as the target date for allowing Turkish Cypriots to drive their cars into the government-controlled area. Some 40,000 cars have been driven into the north by Greek Cypriots, who have to purchase vehicle insurance from the Turkish Cypriot authorities, while the government has prohibited Turkish Cypriots from entering the south by car because of insurance concerns and other vehicle regulations.
The government has submitted a bill to the House of Representatives that will amend these regulations, without recognizing the related documents of the Turkish Cypriot administration, in order to permit Turkish Cypriots to drive across the Green Line. The numbers of their car chassis and engines will be recorded to ensure that the vehicles were not expropriated from Greek Cypriots after 1974.
Other measures in the package include lifting the trade ban between north and south and arranging for the movement of goods produced in the north to the European Union and elsewhere; facilitating the employment of Turkish Cypriots in the south under the same terms that apply to other employed Cyprus citizens; assigning contracting and subcontracting to Turkish Cypriots for projects in the south; granting scholarships to Turkish Cypriots to attend educational institutions in the south; introducing in the south the teaching of the Turkish language by Turkish Cypriot teachers; including Turkish Cypriot athletes in the 2004 Olympics to mark the beginning of the participation of such athletes in the national teams of Cyprus; providing expanded medical service to Turkish Cypriots in the government-controlled area, which had previously been primarily restricted to emergency care; removing the land mines in the buffer zone; and allowing Turkish Cypriots to participate in local elections in the government-controlled area and in the European Parliament elections.
In addition, the Interior Ministry is expected to submit a proposal to the cabinet the week of May 12 concerning legislation, in conformity with EU regulations, on the status of land in the south owned by Turkish Cypriots prior to 1974. Many Turkish Cypriots taking day trips into the government-controlled area have visited the ministry to establish the status of their properties, which were placed under its jurisdiction in 1974 until a political settlement could be reached.
On May 21, the European Union will announce a package of measures, including $17 million in aid to the Turkish Cypriots, that will facilitate trade between the EU and northern Cyprus in order to promote the economic development of the region. The measures, which are being implemented independently from those initiated by the Cyprus government, will also include ways of providing information to the Turkish Cypriot public on the benefits of EU membership and the way the EU operates.
May 9, 2003
Government, International Bodies Stress Need for Settlement
Washington, D.C. - An estimated $13 million have flowed into northern Cyprus with the two-way movement of more than one-fourth of Cyprus’s population across the Green Line since Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash lifted travel restrictions on April 23, a week after Cyprus signed the EU treaty of accession in Athens.
Unemployment in the north is estimated to be 60 percent in the cities and 40 percent in the countryside, while unemployment in the government-controlled area stands at 4.1 percent.
The traffic has consisted of about 75,000 Turkish Cypriots, many of whom have applied for Cyprus passports and looked for jobs in the south, and about 170,000 Greek Cypriots, most of whom have visited their former homes in the north. The checkpoints opened are the Ledra Palace Hotel in Nicosia, Pergamos near Pyla in the Larnaca district, and Strovilia near Famagusta. A checkpoint at Aghios Dometios in a western suburb of Nicosia is expected to open as well.
Although the Cyprus government, European Union, and United Nations have welcomed the opening of the Green Line, they continue to emphasize that the measure is not a substitute for a comprehensive settlement, negotiated under U.N. auspices, that addresses the core issues underlying the 29-year division of the country.
President Tassos Papadopoulos stated that he did not consider the Green Line crossings to be a significant step in the direction of a solution to the Cyprus problem and urged Denktash to resume U.N.-sponsored negotiations based on the plan put forward by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Although Denktash has refused to resume U.N.-brokered talks, his son, Serdar Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot “deputy prime minister” who has assumed a more prominent public profile since the crossing initiative began, stated that the easing of restrictions on movement was aimed at building confidence so that negotiations can begin again.
However, at a regular meeting of the leaders of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot political parties in the U.N.-controlled buffer zone in Nicosia, Serdar Denktash was the only leader to oppose a proposal by former Cyprus president George Vassiliou for political parties from both sides to ask Annan to resume negotiations. Instead, he called for more time to implement confidence-building measures before a decision is made to restart talks.
Rauf Denktash has reportedly appealed to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, scheduled to visit northern Cyprus on May 9 to assess prospects for a settlement, not to announce any concessions to Greek Cypriots. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul stated that the goal of the prime minister’s visit was to encourage the recent steps taken by Denktash.
April 25, 2003
Greek Prime Minister Meets with Turkish Cypriot Party Leaders Under EU Auspices
Washington, D.C. - Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot party leaders, meeting with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in Nicosia in his capacity as current president of the European Council, agreed that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s plan should be used as the basis for a reunification settlement in Cyprus.
The visit of the Greek prime minister to Cyprus, accompanied by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, was the first stop on a tour of the current 15 EU member states and the 10 prospective members, in order to prepare the ground for the next EU summit, to be held in Thessaloniki in June 2003.
The leaders of the parties represented in the Cyprus parliament and those of the Turkish Cypriot opposition parties attended the meeting with Simitis at the residence of Greece’s ambassador to Cyprus. Denktash and the heads of the pro-Denktash ruling parties -- Dervis Eroglu of the National Unity Party and Serdar Denktash of the Democratic Party -- declined Simitis’s invitation to take part.
The Turkish Cypriot leaders were critical of Denktash’s approach to the settlement negotiations, stating that they were looking toward Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to move the peace process forward. Turkish Cypriot main opposition leader Mehmet Ali Talat, the head of the Republican Turkish Party, called on Erdogan to sit at the negotiating table with the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriot leaders asked to continue consultations with the Greek government.
The Turkish Cypriot representatives demanded that two of the six seats allotted to Cyprus in the European Parliament be kept vacant for Turkish Cypriots. In addition, they demanded that the Turkish language be officially included among EU languages, since the Cyprus constitution lists Turkish as one of three official languages of the Republic of Cyprus, along with English and Greek. The EU has stated that it will not do so until a reunification settlement is concluded.
Simitis and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, during separate talks, reaffirmed their commitment to supporting the Annan plan as the basis for negotiations, provided certain adjustments are made to ensure that it complies with EU laws and human rights standards, while making the state function more effectively.
Speaking on behalf of the EU in an address to the Cyprus parliament, Simitis called on Turkey to facilitate a settlement in Cyprus if it wants to move toward EU membership. He also reiterated that Turkey will not be able to seek entry into the EU if it does not reverse its refusal to recognize Cyprus, which becomes a member of the bloc in May 2004.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul stated that the Turkish government would like to solve the Cyprus problem by the end of 2003. Prime Minister Erdogan stated that the Annan plan could still form the basis for a settlement, adding that amendments to the plan should be put forward for discussion to indicate that the road to resuming negotiations is not closed.
Denktash, who has rejected the Annan plan, called for direct talks between the Turkish Cypriot administration and the European Union, stating that the Cyprus government does not represent the Turkish Cypriots. The EU has consistently stated that it will only discuss matters concerning Cyprus’s entry into the bloc with the internationally recognized government of the Republic of Cyprus.
April 25, 2003
Government Measures Improving Life for Turkish Cypriots to Be Announced
Washington, D.C. - During the first 10 days of May, the Cyprus government will announce a series of confidence-building measures aimed at improving the living standards of Turkish Cypriots.
The measures include allowing trade within Cyprus and between northern Cyprus and the European Union, enabling Turkish Cypriots to work in the government-controlled area, helping them obtain Cyprus passports, providing Turkish Cypriot access to health services in the south, extending scholarships for Turkish Cypriot students to attend educational institutions in the south, including Turkish Cypriots in national athletic teams going abroad, and opening five new checkpoint crossings along the Green Line.
The Cyprus government is still discussing the measures with the European Union to ensure that they are compatible with the body of EU laws. Once they are finalized, the Turkish Cypriot leadership will be informed. Some of the measures can be implemented directly, and others will require the cooperation of the Turkish Cypriots.
The government said the measures were designed to enhance cooperation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in order to create conditions that could further joint efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, while also safeguarding the rights and benefits for Turkish Cypriots stemming from Cyprus’s EU membership.
The government had been planning to announce the measures since before the December EU summit in Copenhagen, but delayed doing so until after the country’s April 16 signing of the EU treaty of accession.
April 25, 2003
Thousands of Turkish, Greek Cypriots Cross Green Line for Day Trips
Washington, D.C. - For the first time in nearly 29 years, the administration of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is permitting people living north of the Green Line to make unrestricted day trips to the government-controlled south, provided that they show their identification cards or passports at checkpoints, have no more than $55 on them, and carry only personal belongings.
It is also allowing Greek Cypriots in the south to visit the north if they present their passports, which are not being stamped by Turkish Cypriot authorities. A stamp is being placed on a separate piece of paper for a fee of about $6.
The Denktash administration said the measures were designed to bolster confidence between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots and determine whether they can live together.
The actions have been accepted by the Cyprus government, which has always maintained a policy of facilitating the free movement of all of its legal citizens throughout Cyprus and has considered Denktash’s restrictions on movement across the Green Line to be illegal.
Although the government considers a demand to check passports to be an illegal act by an illegal entity, it is not taking any steps to stop the move, noting that its decision not to interfere does not constitute recognition of the Turkish Cypriot administration as a sovereign state. Cyprus Minister of Interior Andreas Christou stated that the movement across the Green Line had “worked to a large degree for the unity” of Cyprus and that facilities to handle the flow of Turkish Cypriots into the south would be expanded.
The day after the April 23 opening of checkpoints in Nicosia and at Pergamos in eastern Cyprus, some 2,000 Greek Cypriots had entered the north and about 3,000 Turkish Cypriots had crossed into the south.
Since 1974, travel of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots across the Green Line has been restricted primarily to crossings to take part in religious pilgrimages under the auspices of the United Nations, attend bicommunal meetings of political parties and other groups, and seek medical treatment.
The Turkish Cypriot administration plans to open another checkpoint near Famagusta in the east as soon as the appropriate infrastructure is completed.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated that Washington welcomed measures having the potential to increase contact and understanding between the two communities and thus improve the atmosphere in which to create a just and durable Cyprus settlement. The European Commission also stated that it welcomed the developments.
April 18, 2003
Cyprus and Nine Other Nations Sign EU Treaty of Accession
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos joined the leaders of nine other countries in signing the EU treaty of accession, which will lead to the formal entry of the countries into the bloc on May 1, 2004, following ratification of the treaty by the parliaments of the 15 EU member nations and by referendums in each of the prospective new member states.
In addition to Cyprus, the signatories were the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The signing ceremony in Athens, under Greece's EU presidency, marked the largest expansion of the union since the six-member European Economic Community was formed in 1958.
The leaders of Bulgaria and Romania, EU candidates that are now conducting accession negotiations and hope to become members in 2007, were also present. Turkey, which is an EU candidate, but has not yet begun accession negotiations, was represented at the ceremony by Turkey's Ambassador to Greece Yigit Alpogan, rather than by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who did not travel to Athens.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, taking Erdogan's place, arrived in Athens after the signing ceremony, attending the banquet that followed it and the European Conference meeting the next day on the future institutions and constitution of an expanded bloc. The absence of Erdogan and Gul during the ceremony was viewed as a reflection of Turkish displeasure that Cyprus had been allowed to sign the treaty despite the lack of a settlement to reunify the country. Gul stated that his presence in Athens did not signal recognition of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey.
At the signing ceremony, Papadopoulos said he regretted that the Turkish Cypriots had been prevented from proceeding with the Greek Cypriots, within the framework of a reunited Cyprus, on the way to Europe. He reiterated his commitment to achieving the reunification of Cyprus, despite the country's impending accession to the EU. Gul, during his stay in Athens, also said his government would continue efforts toward resolving the Cyprus problem.
Both the Turkish government and the Turkish Cypriot administration stated that the signing of the treaty of accession by Cyprus was an invalid and illegal act. They maintain that the 1959-1960 London-Zurich Agreements establishing the Republic of Cyprus prohibit Cyprus from joining international organizations of which Turkey and Greece are not both members.
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash stated that the signing of the treaty had effectively sealed the partition of Cyprus, adding that the country's reunification would only be possible if Turkey were to enter the bloc at the same time as Cyprus.
In northern Cyprus, some 100 supporters of the opposition Patriotic Unity Movement (PUM), led by Alpay Durduran, celebrated the signing of the accession treaty by Papadopoulos. Mehmet Ali Talat of the Turkish Republican Party, considered the main opposition party in the north, criticized the move by the PUM. Talat, who is believed to be grooming himself to become Denktash's successor, had been instrumental in planning massive Turkish Cypriot demonstrations calling on Denktash to endorse U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's plan for the reunification of Cyprus.
The U.N. Security Council on April 14 passed a resolution placing the blame for the collapse of Cyprus negotiations on Denktash and urging that talks resume on the basis of Annan's plan. Denktash has rejected the plan as a basis for continued negotiations.
April 11, 2003
U.N. Report Blames Turkish Side for Failure to Reach Settlement
Washington, D.C. - U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, in a report to the Security Council on more than three years of U.N.-sponsored negotiations at a cost of over $3 million, placed the "prime responsibility" for the failure to achieve a reunification settlement through the most recent U.N. plan on Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Annan noted, however, that, from late 1999 to March 11, 2003, the period covered by the negotiations, there had been many missed opportunities and "both sides bear a share of the blame for those failures." He said that the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots had done little over the years to prepare their respective publics for the compromises that a settlement would involve.
The secretary general stated that, "except for a very few instances, Mr. Denktash by-and-large declined to engage in negotiations on the basis of give and take." Annan said he had never been able to convince Denktash that the "realities" of the Cyprus problem were not only the circumstances on the ground since 1974, as the Turkish side had long maintained, but also the realities of international law and international politics.
Annan stated that former Cyprus president Glafcos Clerides had shown a willingness to find ways to circumvent ideological barriers and solve problems in a practical way, while showing a capacity to accept that his side "bore its share of responsibility for the bitter experiences of the past." The secretary general noted that Clerides' successor, Tassos Papadopoulos, had reiterated his continued desire to seek a settlement on the basis of the plan proposed by Annan, even after Cyprus accedes to the European Union in 2004.
Annan also noted that Denktash had not accepted the fact that there has been "a sea change from the confrontational atmosphere of the 1960s" to the Europe that Cyprus is joining. He described the Turkish Cypriot leader as being "strongly resistant to the United Nations playing a substantive role [in the peace effort] and, in this, he received the full support of Turkey."
The secretary general said that, while Greece had offered continuous strong support for the U.N. negotiations, it was only during the last few months of the negotiating process that Turkish government officials had "seriously engaged in the substance of the [Cyprus] issue." He expressed the hope that Turkey would support the search for a settlement since, without that support, it would be difficult to foresee one being reached.
Annan restated that his plan remains on the table, but he said he would not take any new initiatives toward negotiating a settlement unless there is the "political will for a successful outcome."
He noted that the plan included 250 pages of finalized laws, as well as 6,000 pages of draft laws and 1,954 treaties and instruments necessary to finalize the plan, which had been submitted to committees for consideration. He also stated that the U.N. had received 1,506 entries for the flag competition for a reunified Cyprus and 111 suggested national anthems from entrants in over 50 countries.
April 11, 2003
U.S. House of Representatives Places Blame on Denktash for Settlement Failure
Washington, D.C. - The House of Representatives voted 422-0 to pass House Resolution 165 stating that the Annan settlement plan failed when Denktash rejected the proposals in the plan and refused to refer it to the Turkish Cypriot people in a referendum.
The House expressed its "very strong regret" that Denktash had rejected the plan and, by also rejecting a referendum, had denied the members of the Turkish Cypriot community the opportunity to determine their future.
The resolution encouraged Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Denktash to renew their efforts to reach a Cyprus settlement based on the Annan plan. In addition, it urged the governments of Turkey and Greece to do everything possible to support the settlement process, while specifically calling on Turkey to help persuade Denktash to reach a reunification agreement that would serve the interests of both the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.
The resolution stated that a solution to the Cyprus problem was in the strategic interests of the United States, given the important location of the country at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Reiterating U.S. support for the efforts of the U.N. secretary general to achieve a comprehensive Cyprus settlement, the resolution said that Washington remained committed to giving any assistance necessary for reaching an agreement. It also urged the U.S. government and others to redouble their efforts toward concluding a settlement.
April 11, 2003
Turkey Objects to "Republic of Cyprus" Reference in EU Accession Protocol
Washington, D.C. - Greece, as the current president of the European Union, has rejected Turkey's demand that references to "the Republic of Cyprus" in an EU accession protocol be changed to "Cyprus." The protocol, concerning the suspension of the acquis communautaire in northern Cyprus once the country joins the EU, will be an annex of the treaty when it is signed in Athens on April 16 by all 10 of the prospective new members of the bloc, including Cyprus.
urkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, which is recognized by the United Nations as the sole legitimate government of Cyprus.
In a letter to Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his 14 European counterparts, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul stated that the protocol continued "to give credence to the Greek Cypriot contentions and arguments that the party which is to integrate with the EU is the Republic of Cyprus and that the Turkish Cypriot community would be entitled to join this Republic in due course."
Gul said that the wording in the protocol was a deviation from the fundamental principle of Annan's settlement plan, which envisaged establishing a new "state of affairs" in "Cyprus." The plan was rejected by Denktash.
In response to Gul's letter, Papandreou replied that the contents of the protocol reflected a position concerning Cyprus's impending membership that had been agreed upon by the 15 EU member states and sent to the European Parliament for approval.
April 11, 2003
Denktash Pondering Settlement of Varosha by Non-Greek Cypriots
Washington, D.C. - Denktash stated that he is considering opening Varosha, a suburb of Famagusta in northern Cyprus that has been a virtual ghost town since 1974, to rebuilding and resettlement by non-Greek Cypriots.
Before 1974, the suburb was a Greek Cypriot tourist resort with a population of about 65,000 people. The cost of rebuilding Varosha has been estimated at $1.5 billion.
Varosha, however, is under the sole control of the Turkish military and has been since 1974. Neither Denktash nor the Turkish Cypriot administration has the authority to negotiate the status of Varosha, including its resettlement, without the approval of the Turkish General Staff.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 550, passed in 1984, states that any attempt "to settle any part of Varosha (Famagusta) by people other than its inhabitants is inadmissible."
April 4, 2003
Denktash Proposes Confidence-Building Measures as Basis for Restarting Negotiations
Washington, D.C. - Three weeks after his rejection of a U.N. plan to negotiate a comprehensive Cyprus settlement, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash proposed six confidence-building measures that he stated could serve as a basis for restarting a dialogue with Greek Cypriots and as a catalyst for concluding a settlement.
In his response to Denktash, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos indicated that he would resume talks with the Turkish Cypriot leader only under the auspices of the United Nations, which has conducted negotiations between the Cyprus government and the Turkish Cypriot administration since 1974. Papadopoulos also called on Denktash to accept the settlement plan of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as a basis for further negotiations.
The measures proposed by Denktash are: transferring Varosha, a Greek Cypriot suburb of Famagusta in the north, which has been under Turkish military control since 1974, to Greek Cypriot control to be opened for resettlement; lifting the restrictions on overseas trade, transport, travel, and cultural and sport activities from or to both parts of Cyprus; facilitating freedom of movement between the north and south, including tourist traffic; taking gradual steps toward the normalization of the flow of goods between the two sides; lifting the restrictions on the movement of U.N. peacekeeping troops in the north, which were imposed by the Turkish Cypriot administration in July 2000; and establishing a reconciliation committee composed of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Denktash, who sent a copy of his April 2 proposals to Annan, stated that he was prepared to discuss with Papadopoulos how the two sides could benefit from the assistance of the United Nations and the European Union in the implementation of the measures. He noted, however, that he did not consider it necessary for them to be negotiated within the framework of the U.N. peace process.
While the Turkish Foreign Ministry expressed support for Denktash's proposals, calling on the U.N. and the EU to encourage the two sides to implement them, the Greek government reaffirmed Papadopoulos's position that further settlement negotiations must be carried out specifically within the U.N. framework.
At the end of March, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed that settlement talks begin between Papadopoulos, Denktash, and representatives of Cyprus's three guarantor powers, Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus, outside the auspices of the United Nations. While Denktash backed the proposal, the Cyprus government rejected it.
Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, stating that they wanted to launch an initiative for the resumption of negotiations, asked Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou to meet with them on April 9 on the sidelines of a summit of leaders of southeastern European countries in Belgrade to discuss prospects for new talks. The Greek officials declined the proposal since it was outside the U.N. framework.
Denktash warned that the chances of making progress toward a settlement will diminish if Cyprus signs the EU treaty of accession in Athens on April 16, opening the way for its entry into the bloc in May 2004. EU laws and benefits resulting from accession will not apply to the Turkish-occupied north until a reunification settlement is reached.
Once Cyprus signs the treaty, representatives of the Cyprus government, as well as those of the other nine countries acceding to the bloc, will participate in all EU meetings and proceedings over the next year until it becomes a member in May 2004, following the process of ratifying the treaty in the 15 member countries and the 10 candidate nations.
March 21, 2003
Airspance Access Granted to U.S. for Iraq War
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus has approved a U.S. request to use its airspace in conjunction with operations against Iraq. The government spokesman stated that Washington had not requested the use of airfields or ports in the Republic of Cyprus, but the government would consider such a request if the need arose.
Britain, which is Washington's closest ally in the Iraq war, has an airfield on one of the two sovereign base areas that it maintains in Cyprus. This airfield can be used by British and U.S. planes without requiring the consent of Cyprus government authorities. Britain has unrestricted access to Cypriot airspace under a 1960 treaty that accompanied Cyprus's independence from Britain.
March 14, 2003
U.N.-Sponsored Settlement Negotiations Collapse
Washington, D.C. - U.N. efforts to reach a comprehensive Cyprus settlement collapsed March 11 when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash called U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's plan unacceptable and said he was not prepared to put it to a referendum.
Denktash said he had fundamental objections to the basic points of the plan, which envisions a federation based on the Swiss government model with the presidency rotating between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and he believed that further negotiations should begin from a new starting point.
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos told Annan that he was ready to have the Greek Cypriots vote on the plan, provided that the gaps concerning federal and constituent state legislation and the country's security architecture were closed. Papadopoulos said he was prepared not to pursue further negotiations on the plan's basic points if the other side was prepared to do the same. He also underscored the importance of Greece and Turkey agreeing to the security provisions in the plan and committing themselves to uphold them.
When Annan asked the two negotiators to meet with him in The Hague on March 10 to announce whether they would agree to hold simultaneous March 30 referenda on the plan in their communities, he stipulated that it would not be possible for only one side to schedule a referendum. Once the meeting began, the secretary general proposed April 6, just 10 days before Cyprus signs the EU treaty of accession, as a date for the referenda, with March 29 being the final date for concluding last-minute negotiations concerning the plan.
After Denktash ruled out the scheduling of a referendum in northern Cyprus, Annan stated that the "end of the road" had been reached, while instructing his representative who oversaw the negotiations, Alvaro de Soto, to close his office in Nicosia where he had worked for 18 months in support of the talks. Annan's statement followed a 20-hour meeting with the negotiators and representatives of Greece, Turkey and Britain, Cyprus's guarantor powers under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee accompanying the island's independence from British rule.
Annan said, however, that both Papadopoulos and Denktash had expressed their willingness to continue talks, although there were no immediate plans to resume negotiations. Officials in Greece and Turkey said they would also continue to try to resolve the Cyprus problem.
Papadopoulos stated that negotiations toward a Cyprus settlement could take place only under U.N. auspices. His remark was in response to a statement by Denktash that he would send the Cyprus president a letter outlining the changes he would like to see made in the U.N. plan and proposing that the two meet the week of March 17.
The secretary general said that the U.N. plan remained on the table if the two sides wished to use it as a basis for negotiations, adding that he would be ready to assist the negotiators in the future if there were a realistic prospect of finalizing a settlement with the full backing of Greece and Turkey. He said he doubted that the unique opportunity currently existing to conclude a settlement would re-emerge by 2006 when his tenure as U.N. secretary general ends.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Beth Jones stated that Washington was deeply disappointed that the talks in The Hague did not result in an agreement to put Annan's plan to referenda in both communities. She said the U.S. regretted, in particular, that Denktash had refused to allow the Turkish Cypriots to make their own decision concerning their future. Despite this setback, she stated, the U.S. remains committed to seeking a just and durable settlement to the Cyprus problem.
Turkish Cypriot opposition leaders Mehmet Ali Talat of the Republican Turkish Party and Hussein Angolemli of the Communal Liberation Party stated that they would ask the U.N. and the EU to oversee and monitor a referendum in the north on the Annan plan in defiance of Denktash's decision to reject the scheduling of a referendum.
A poll released on March 10 indicated that Greek Cypriots favored resolution of the Cyprus problem on the basis of the Annan plan by a narrow margin. In the poll, 40 percent voted in favor of the plan, while 38 percent opposed the plan. Twenty-three percent declined to answer or were undecided.
March 14, 2003
New Pressures on Turkey's EU Aspirations, Relations with Northern Cyprus
Washington, D.C. - European Commission spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori said it would be difficult for the Commission to recommend an opening date for Turkey's EU accession talks, following its scheduled December 2004 review of Ankara's preparedness for the beginning of negotiations, if no Cyprus settlement were reached by then.
Not only would part of EU territory be under illegal occupation, he said, but Turkey also does not recognize Cyprus now and has said that it would not recognize the country if it became an EU member without the participation of the Turkish Cypriots.
The official confirmed that Cyprus's EU accession process would continue as scheduled, with the signing of the EU treaty of accession on April 16 in preparation for membership in May 2004. Upon accession, EU laws will not apply to northern Cyprus unless reunification takes place before then.
Cyprus is slated to join the EU along with nine other countries. Once the treaty of accession is signed, its membership is assured unless a current EU member does not ratify the treaty by May 2004, which is considered unlikely. The lack of a Cyprus settlement would mean that the country would become an EU member without resolving the security dilemma posed by the presence of 35,000 Turkish troops in the northern part of the country.
If Turkey, in the absence of a settlement by May 2004, decides to recognize Cyprus to enhance its chances of opening accession talks with the EU, it will necessitate the end of its recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, established unilaterally by Denktash in November 1983 and recognized only by Ankara for just over 19 years. Under these circumstances, Denktash must prepare for an end to the recognition of his regime by his only ally.
March 7, 2003
U.N. Pushes for Referendums on Settlement Plan
Washington, D.C. - U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has asked Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to inform him on March 10 when they meet with him in The Hague whether they will sign a commitment to hold simultaneous March 30 referendums in their respective communities on accepting the second and latest revision of the U.N. peace plan as a Cyprus settlement.
Annan has asked the two negotiators to agree to the referendums at the end of the month even if one or both of them have decided not to endorse the plan as a settlement. Scheduling the referendums at that time would be key to efforts to have a reunified Cyprus sign the EU treaty of accession on April 16 in order to join the bloc by May 1, 2004. It will not be possible for only one side to hold a referendum if either Papadopoulos or Denktash opts not to give the go-ahead for a referendum.
The secretary general has asked the prime ministers of Greece, Turkey, and Britain, as guarantor powers for Cyprus under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee accompanying Cyprus's independence, to be represented at the meeting in The Hague in order to offer their support for the referendum initiative. The three countries will also be asked to countersign the referendum commitment if it moves forward.
If referendums are not scheduled on March 30, the U.N. plan will be shelved, marking the end of Annan's initiative that began with the release of the first draft of the plan on November 11 aimed at pushing a settlement through by April 16. The U.N. will then be expected to relax its efforts for the near future to facilitate a comprehensive settlement.
In preparation for their meeting with Annan, Papadopoulos met with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in Athens, while Denktash traveled to Ankara to consult with Turkish political and military officials. A spokesman for Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer stated that the U.N. plan was far from meeting Ankara's expectations, while Simitis called on Turkey to contribute decisively to breaking the impasse in the settlement negotiations.
Papadopoulos has stated that the Greek Cypriots want a settlement as soon as possible, although he would like to see amendments made to the U.N. plan.
Denktash has said that he will reject the plan and seek broad changes to it when he meets with Papadopoulos and Annan. He stated that he could not submit a settlement plan that he did not endorse to the Turkish Cypriot voters in a referendum.
Annan has said that amendments can still be made to the plan but each side should avoid seeking major changes, given the urgency of meeting the referendum deadline.
During a visit to Cyprus from February 26 to 28, Annan presented the third version of the plan to the two negotiators and extended the deadline for a settlement from the last day in February to March 10.
During Annan's Cyprus visit, some 50,000 Turkish Cypriots staged a demonstration in support of adopting the U.N. plan as a settlement in anticipation of Cyprus's EU accession. U.S. State Department Coordinator for Cyprus Tom Weston and U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Michael Klosson went to northern Cyprus to observe the rally. Their action, which reportedly infuriated Denktash, was widely viewed as signaling official U.S. support for Turkish Cypriot aspirations for a reunified Cyprus and participation in the country's EU membership.
European Union Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said Turkey would be "well-advised" to consider the consequences on its own EU aspirations of a failure to reunite Cyprus. He said it would be difficult for EU accession negotiations with Turkey to begin if Ankara did not recognize Cyprus once it became an EU member. Turkey has threatened not to recognize the country if the area now controlled by the Cyprus government joins the EU without the north.
Under these circumstances, Cyprus will have achieved its long-cherished goal of entering the EU, but it will have failed to downsize or remove the 35,000-member Turkish troop presence in northern Cyprus.
February 27, 2003
Annan Pushes for Settlement on Eve of Deadline
Washington, D.C. - Just two days before the February 28 deadline he set for the conclusion of a settlement, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan arrived in Cyprus to present a second revision of the U.N. peace plan to Cyprus President-Elect Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in an attempt to narrow the differences between the two sides over the future structure of a reunified country. His Cyprus visit was preceded by talks with officials in Turkey and Greece to brief them on the new elements of the plan.
The original plan, engineered by Annan, was released to the two sides on November 11 and was first revised on December 10. The latest revision addresses the objections on the part of both sides that have arisen in negotiations based on the plan.
The secretary general urged the negotiators to work toward meeting the deadline, which could be extended to March 7. That would allow the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to schedule referendums on March 30 to approve a settlement in time for a reunified Cyprus to sign the EU treaty of accession on April 16. Annan warned that any delay beyond March 7 would hinder the prospect of a unified Cyprus signing the treaty.
Although the Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, and Greek officials have indicated that it might not be possible to meet the February 28 deadline, the leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stated that he believed the Cyprus issue was closer than ever to resolution. He noted that the revised U.N. plan appeared to remove, to a large extent, prior concerns raised by each side during months of settlement talks. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis asked President Bush to pressure the Turkish side to reach an agreement within the timeframe designated by the U.N.
Among other changes, the revised plan includes proposals to allow Greece and Turkey to each keep 6,000 troops in Cyprus and to give Turkish Cypriots 29.2 percent of the country's territory, slightly higher than the percentage suggested in previous versions of the plan. In addition, it increases the number of Greek Cypriots to be settled in northern Cyprus from 65,000 to 85,000.
February 27, 2003
Britain Offers to Turn Over Land on Military Bases as Part of Settlement
Britain, one of the three guarantor powers of Cyprus under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee accompanying the island's independence, has offered to give up about half of its 98-square-mile Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) on the southern coast of Cyprus to boost the chances of concluding a settlement. Ninety percent of the ceded land would come under Greek Cypriot control, while the rest would go to the Turkish Cypriots.
The offer is included in the latest revision of the U.N. peace plan. The land will not be relinquished unless the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots both agree to the entire plan as a basis for a settlement and the settlement is approved by both sides through referendums.
A spokesperson from Britain's Foreign Office stated that ceding 45 square miles of the base areas would not affect British military capability on the island since the territory designated consists of villages and farming communities, mostly Greek Cypriot, which are under British civilian administration.
The SBAs are not part of the European Union, despite Britain's membership in the bloc. However, under an agreement between the Cyprus and British governments, EU law, rather than British law, will apply to all Cypriot citizens living in the SBAs when Cyprus becomes an EU member.
There are about 3,500 British personnel in the SBAs, which comprise 3 percent of Cypriot territory. The western SBA consists of Akrotiri, the largest Royal Air Force facility outside of Britain, and Episkopi, the administration headquarters. To the east lies Dhekelia, an army post that has an infantry battalion and engineering, aviation, and logistical units, and Agios Nicolaos, a key listening post on the Middle East. The territory to be given up would come from both the east and west base areas.
Cyprus President-Elect Tassos Papadopoulos welcomed the land offer but said that it was not a factor that would "seal an agreement."
February 21, 2003
Papadopoulos Wins Presidential Election
Washington, D.C. - Tassos Papadopoulos, a 69-year-old lawyer and the leader of the center-right Democratic Party (DIKO), pledged to continue negotiations based on the U.N. plan for reunification of the country after winning the presidential election with 51.5 percent of the vote in the first round.
Papadopoulos's margin of victory, achieved with strong backing from the communist party AKEL, the country's largest party, and the Social Democrats Movement (KISOS), was the third largest in the 43-year history of the republic. It was the first time in 20 years that a president has been elected in the initial round.
He takes office for a five-year term on February 28, the deadline set by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan for a Cyprus settlement based on the U.N. plan.
President Glafcos Clerides, the 83-year-old, two-term incumbent and member of the center-right Democratic Rally Party (DISY), received 38.8 percent. He had sought a 16-month mandate to conclude reunification talks and oversee Cyprus's accession into the EU in 2004. Attorney General Alekos Markides, 60, a DISY member and close aide to Clerides who had run as an independent, came in third with 6.6 percent.
Papadopoulos said he would aim at concluding a Cyprus settlement by February 28, but, if that did not happen, he would continue the talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in order to reach an agreement as soon as possible. Negotiations are not expected to resume until after February 28, when the president-elect will officially take over the role of negotiator for the Greek Cypriot side.
Papadopoulos will meet with Annan during his visit to Cyprus from February 26 to 28, seen as a last-ditch effort by the secretary general to gain acceptance of the U.N. plan. Meeting the February 28 deadline for a settlement would allow each side to hold a referendum on the agreement on March 30 in time to have a re-unified Cyprus sign the EU treaty of accession on April 16.
In his victory speech, Papadopoulos stated that he would be flexible and show good will in the negotiations to bring about improvements in the U.N. plan so that it will become a workable and viable solution, one that reflects "a society of equality in which the traditions, rights, and history of the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots are respected." Papadopoulos has called for the return of all Greek Cypriot refugees, about 160,000 to their original homes, while the U.N. plan provides for the return of about 90,000.
Papadopoulos said he would make every effort to see that a reunited Cyprus joined the European Union so that both Greek and Turkish Cypriots would enjoy the benefits of membership. He has asked Clerides to be an advisor in the negotiations, and Clerides has accepted.
Following the election, Denktash said that Greek Cypriots who did not want a reunification agreement had elected Papadopoulos, adding that it was unlikely that he and Clerides would have achieved an agreement.
February 21, 2003
Greek-Turkish Talks on Cyprus Security Architecture Begin
Representatives of Greece and Turkey, as guarantor powers under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee concerning Cyprus's independence, began talks in Ankara on the structure of the security architecture of Cyprus once a reunification settlement is achieved.
The discussions will focus primarily on the size of the Greek and Turkish troop contingents that will remain in post-settlement Cyprus and the types and quantity of weapons they will have.
Former Greek Ambassador to the U.S. Alexander Philon is representing the Greek Foreign Ministry, while former Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. Baki Ilkin, the current political director of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, will represent Turkey in the talks. The two diplomats recently served simultaneously in Washington. Military experts from both countries will also attend the meetings.
In early February, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan requested that Greece and Turkey negotiate the security architecture required under the U.N. plan that is serving as the basis for current negotiations toward a settlement between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Current troop levels in Cyprus are 30,000 Turkish soldiers; about 4,000 troops in the Turkish Cypriot Security Force; 5,000 Greek troops; about 17,000 members of the Greek Cypriot National Guard, with 35,000 in the Greek Cypriot ready reserve; and a force of 1,250 in the United Nations peacekeeping force, which has been on the island since 1964.
The U.N. plan calls for the disbanding of the Greek Cypriot National Guard and the Turkish Cypriot Security Force, and the establishment of units of equal size, under 10,000 troops, from Greece and Turkey.
February 14, 2003
Greece Asks Turkey to Begin Talks on Cyprus Security Architecture
Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou on February 12 sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart Yasar Yakis formally inviting Turkey to join Greece in conducting negotiations on a new security architecture for Cyprus. A response from Turkey is pending.
In the letter, Papandreou emphasized the need to begin the talks as soon as possible, perhaps by the week of February 17. He proposed that the consultations be held in both Athens and Ankara at the level of secretary general of the two foreign ministries. During a January 31 visit to Ankara, Papandreou, in talks with Yakis, had suggested that the two countries hold bilateral talks on Cyprus's security issues.
Earlier in February, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan requested that both countries, as guarantor powers under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee concerning Cyprus's independence, negotiate the security architecture required under the U.N. plan that is serving as the basis for current negotiations between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in Nicosia.
Greece's decision to initiate bilateral talks with Turkey on issues regarding Cyprus's security is a shift in strategy for the Greek government, which has consistently stated that Cyprus is an international issue, not one that should be handled bilaterally between Greece and Turkey.
February 28 is the targeted deadline for the conclusion of a Cyprus settlement based on the U.N. plan.
February 14, 2003
Papadopoulos Projected to Win Presidential Election
Washington, D.C. - Three polls released by television stations within days of the February 16 presidential election projected center-right Democratic Party (DIKO) leader Tassos Papadopoulos as the winner in a preliminary round and again in an expected second round on February 23 over the current president, Glafcos Clerides. Papadopoulos was selected by 45 to 48 percent of the voters surveyed, while 39 to 42 percent chose Clerides.
In the final days before the election, Clerides abandoned his "Rose Garden" strategy of not actively campaigning and began to take part in campaign activities.
Papadopoulos, a British-trained lawyer, held various ministerial posts in the 1960s and 1970s. Clerides is completing his second five-year term as president.
A survey indicated that 53 percent of Cypriots believed that there was little or no chance that a Cyprus settlement would be achieved within the next few months, while 43 percent said an agreement within that timeframe was very likely or quite likely.
February 7, 2003
U.N. Calls on Greece, Turkey to Discuss Cyprus Security Issues
Washington, D.C. - U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on February 6 invited representatives from Greece and Turkey, as guarantor powers under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee concerning Cyprus's independence, to meet very soon in New York to discuss security and military issues concerning Cyprus, in order to move the settlement process along ahead of a February 28 deadline to conclude peace talks.
New security arrangements are required under Annan's plan, which is the basis for current negotiations between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in Nicosia.
In letters to the governments of Greece and Turkey, Annan referred to the matter as "particularly urgent."
Greece said it was prepared to enter into talks with Turkey on the proposed structure of Cyprus's security framework under a settlement, particularly the number of troops in the country and where they would be based.
The troop inventory in Cyprus is currently 30,000 Turkish soldiers; about 4,000 troops in the Turkish Cypriot Security Force; 5,000 Greek troops; about 17,000 members of the Greek Cypriot National Guard, with 35,000 in the Greek Cypriot ready reserve; and a force of 1,250 in the United Nations peacekeeping force, which has been on the island since 1964.
The U.N. plan calls for the disbanding of the Greek Cypriot National Guard and the Turkish Cypriot Security Force, and the establishment of units of equal size, under 10,000 troops, from Greece and Turkey.
During a January 31 visit to Ankara, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, suggested that the two countries hold bilateral talks on the island's security issues. (Read: Resolving Cyprus: The Future of Secular Turkey.)
February 7, 2003
Washington, D.C. - A poll published two weeks before the February 16 presidential election gave center-right Democratic Party (DIKO) leader Tassos Papadopoulos an 8 point lead over Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, a member of the center-right Democratic Rally Party (DISY).
In the telephone poll of 462 people, conducted by AMER Nielsen, a joint venture between the U.S. marketing information company A.C. Nielsen and the Cyprus-based firm AMER World Research, 45.3 percent said they would vote for Papadopoulos in an expected second round, while 37.4 percent chose Clerides.
In the first round, the breakdown was 38 percent for Papadopoulos, 24.4 percent for Clerides, 7 percent for Attorney General Alekos Markides, a member of DISY who is running as an independent, and 2 percent for Nikos Koutsou, the leader of the nationalist New Horizons Party. About 15 percent said they were undecided, and about 5 percent declined to respond.
Clerides, who is completing a second five-year term, has declared that he will stay in office only 16 months, if elected, to maintain the continuity of ongoing negotiations for a settlement to reunify the country, based on the U.N. plan, before Cyprus officially becomes an EU member in May 2004. Papadopoulos has stated that he is committed to negotiating a settlement on the basis of plan. On February 5, the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yusuf Buluc, said there was a need for the guarantor powers to "come to an agreement" based on the responsibilities they have undertaken under the Treaty of Guarantee.
January 31, 2003
Turkish Government, Military Send Mixed Signals as Denktash Threatens to Quit Negotiations
Washington, D.C. - Under pressure from Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), to conclude a Cyprus settlement on the basis of the U.N. plan, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash stated that Turkey should find another negotiator to replace him if it believed that the plan should be accepted in its present form.
Denktash threatened to resign rather than sign an agreement based on the plan, unless his demands for major modifications of its proposals were met. He added that efforts were being made to "give away and destroy Cyprus."
The Turkish Cypriot leader was responding to Erdogan's statement while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that both Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Denktash lacked the political will to solve the Cyprus problem. Erdogan also said the Turkish government believed that the proposals in the U.N. plan were negotiable and both sides should negotiate without preconditions. Denktash stated that Erdogan's remarks were weakening his hand in the negotiations.
Although Clerides and Denktash have accepted the plan as a basis for negotiations toward reaching a settlement by February 28, they both want to amend some of its provisions. Clerides called on the international community to exert influence on the Turkish side to work toward conclusion of a settlement, while Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul stated that Turkey was expanding its efforts to reach a solution that satisfies both sides in Cyprus by the February deadline.
Gul said that Turkey was now following a different policy concerning Cyprus, one aimed at promoting the entry of the Turkish Cypriots into the EU together with the Greek Cypriots. His governmen, the said, did not consider the absence of a settlement to be a solution.
Mehmet Ali Talat, the leader of the Republican Turkish Party, a Turkish Cypriot opposition party, stated that the U.N. plan could be signed in its present form as he reiterated his call for Denktash's resignation.
Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, during a trip to northern Cyprus for talks with Denktash following the Davos summit, told the Turkish Cypriot leader that Turkey stood behind him, adding that Denktash was carrying out his negotiating responsibilities successfully.
The commander of the Turkish Army, Gen. Aytac Yalman, also on a visit to northern Cyprus, expressed support for Denktash's handling of the Cyprus problem, stating that the U.N. plan posed security problems for Cyprus and could lead to a return of the country's pre-1963 conflict environment. He added that the existing de facto situation in Cyprus had maintained peace and stability both on the island and in the eastern Mediterranean, noting that the Turkish armed forces would not allow any moves that disrupted peace in Cyprus and in the region.
A poll conducted by the independent Cyprus Weekly, the English-language newspaper with the highest circulation, indicated that 76.8 percent of Greek Cypriots accepted the U.N. plan as a basis for negotiations, while 13.8 percent rejected it. Only 3.4 percent said the plan, as it stands, would be suitable as a settlement.
January 31, 2003
Washington, D.C. - Recent public opinion polls gave Tassos Papadopoulos, the leader of the center-right Democratic Party (DIKO) a considerable lead over Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, a member of the Democratic Rally Party (DISY), going into the February 16 presidential election.
The surveys gave Papadopoulos roughly 42 percent in the first round against about 31 percent for Clerides and 14 percent for Attorney General Alekos Markides, a member of DISY and a top aide of Clerides who is running as an independent. In an anticipated runoff election on February 23, they projected a Papadopoulos victory over Clerides, 47 percent to 41 percent, with 13 percent currently undecided.
Clerides has the backing of DISY, while Papadopoulos is supported by the communist party, AKEL, the largest party in Cyprus; DIKO; and the Movement of Social Democrats (KISOS).
Those polled found Clerides to be more suitable than Papadopoulos to handle negotiations for a Cyprus settlement, 38 percent to 34 percent, as well as the remaining steps in the country's EU accession process, 36 percent to 33 percent.
Although the electorate has given Clerides credit for positive developments in the negotiating process, election observers said that support for him may be eroding because of his stated intention to remain only 16 months as president, if elected, in order to conclude peace talks, necessitating another election. In addition, as Cypriots turn their attention to the government's domestic agenda now that few uncertainties about the country's EU accession remain, they may feel that Clerides' focus on domestic issues has been insufficient. Papadopoulos, in contrast, is viewed as putting forward a broader agenda concerning domestic problems.
Denktash stated that the negotiating process could be severely hindered if Papadopoulos were elected, citing his former membership in EOKA, the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters, which fought against British colonial rule in Cyprus from 1955 to 1959, advocated union with Greece, and was responsible for much of the violence against Turkish Cypriots during that period.
EU to Organize International Donor Conference to Finance Settlement
EU Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen said the European Commission, with the full backing of Commission President Romano Prodi, was prepared to organize an international donor conference as soon as a Cyprus settlement is reached to provide financial support for implementing the settlement. An endorsement of the conference by both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots would be sought.
The Cyprus government stated that it would be unable to take on the financial burden of implementing a Cyprus settlement based on the U.N. plan, which it estimated to be about $1.9 billion. It said the primary costs would be associated with resettlement and the economic incentives for the return to Turkey of a certain number of Turkish nationals living in the north as settlers.
Verheugen said the EU would provide considerable financial support as soon as an agreement is reached to help overcome economic disparities in Cyprus and prepare the north for EU membership. The European Commission has already set aside about $222 million in assistance for the Turkish Cypriots once a settlement is in place.
The United States said that it would participate in the donor conference and contribute funds for the implementation of a settlement. U.S. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher stated that Washington was also ready to provide support and expertise for an assessment of the needs associated with implementing the agreement as the first step in preparing for a donor conference.
January 31, 2003
Humanitarian Relief Headquarters for U.N. Personnel in Iraq Planned
Washington, D.C. - The Cyprus government has agreed to a request by the United Nations that Cyprus provide a relief center for the 1,200 U.N. personnel and members of non-governmental organizations currently in Iraq who would have to be evacuated if a war against Baghdad begins. The U.N. employees in Iraq are primarily involved in administering the oil-for-food program and the weapons inspections.
Following an evacuation and the transfer of personnel to other countries, the center in Larnaca would also serve as a base for coordinating U.N. humanitarian relief efforts in Iraq and in countries adjacent to Iraq affected by the war, as well as security issues concerning U.N. staff.
It will be the only center in the region serving these U.N. needs. The United Nations Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) currently operates a regional office in Larnaca that serves as a staging post for the operations of the U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq. Larnaca is 620 miles from Baghdad.
January 31, 2003
British Naval Support for Iraq War Anchored off Cyprus
Washington, D.C. - Fifteen ships of the British Royal Navy, carrying 5,000 personnel, conducted training exercises off the coast of Cyprus in preparation for sailing to the Gulf.
The flotilla, which is expected to contribute to the U.S.-led military build-up for a possible war against Iraqis the largest British maritime deployment since the 1982 Falklands War. It is led by an aircraft carrier and the helicopter carrier "Ocean," Britain's largest warship.
Britain's sovereign bases in Cyprus, which provided the ships with supplies, will play a key role as staging and supply posts in a war with Iraq.
Talks Intensify as Settlement Deadline Approaches
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash began meeting three times a week on January 20 in order to accelerate their efforts to revise the U.N. peace plan by the February 28 deadline for a settlement established by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. The two negotiators opened the intensified round of talks by exchanging documents outlining the amendments they would like to see made in the plan.
Referring to the U.N. plan as a "crime against humanity" that would bring about the end of the Turkish Cypriot population within 10 years, Denktash stated that, unless the plan is changed radically by the end of February, he will refuse to sign it and will resign from his role as the Turkish Cypriot negotiator.
In an interview with Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper, Clerides stated that he and Denktash should push themselves to reach the target deadline, but that negotiations should continue past February 28 if an agreement is not reached by then. He added that having another Turkish Cypriot negotiator take Denktash's place would create difficulties that could hinder the negotiating process.
The U.N.'s special envoy to Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, who is mediating the talks, said that officials in Turkey and Greece had made clear to him that they wanted a settlement to be reached by the February deadline. He noted that it would be difficult for the negotiators to work past this deadline if the provisions of a settlement were to be incorporated into the EU treaty of accession to be signed by Cyprus on April 16. Annan's office stated that, if the U.N. timeframe for a settlement is not met, it will be hard to find another comparable opportunity to reach an agreement.
The United States is working with the European Union to identify the financial requirements of implementing any settlement that emerges and is anticipating contributing to a financial package spearheaded by the EU. In January 2002, the European Commission announced that it had set aside about $222 million in assistance for the Turkish Cypriots once a settlement is in place. This assistance would be allocated to them between 2004 and 2006. The Greek Cypriots have stated in recent years that the portion of the Cyprus government's defense budget previously targeted for arms purchases would be reallocated toward economic development in the north in the event a settlement is reached.
Both Clerides and Denktash have authorized the United Nations to accept proposals for a new flag and anthem for Cyprus. Committees comprised of representatives of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, which will be chaired by the U.N., will review the entries and make recommendations by February 28.
January 24, 2003
Denktash Proposes Turkish Cypriot Referendum Before Signing Settlement
Washington, D.C. - The United Nations has called for both a Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot referendum on a settlement after it is signed, not before. However, Denktash has asserted that, according to Turkish Cypriot administration laws, Turkish Cypriots would have to approve through a referendum the text of any settlement on reunification that emerges from the peace talks before it can be signed by him, a step that could dramatically slow down the settlement process.
With February 28 established as the target date for an agreement, simultaneous referendums on a settlement in both communities are envisioned on March 30. Both the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot referendums will be accompanied by a second referendum approving the accession of Cyprus to the European Union.
January 24, 2003
Washington, D.C. - A poll published on January 21 in the Cypriot daily newspaper Alithia, which expresses the views of Clerides' Democratic Rally Party (DISY), indicated that Tassos Papadopoulos, the leader of the center-right Democratic Party (DIKO) leads in the race for president of Cyprus by 1.4 percent over Clerides.
The survey gave 36.5 percent to Papadopoulos and 34.9 percent to Clerides in the first round on February 16when a candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the vote to claim victory. Attorney General Alekos Markides, a DISY member and top aide of Clerides who is running as an independent, received 10.4 percent. In a possible second round, Papadopoulos would edge out Clerides 39.8 percent to 38.4 percent.
The poll showed that the 22 percent of Greek Cypriot voters who are undecided or not committed to either Clerides or Papadopoulos would play a decisive role in the election, with progress toward a Cyprus settlement being the main criterion for determining their choice. The majority of the participants in the poll considered Clerides to be the most suitable person to negotiate a settlement.
January 17, 2003
Pressure Mounts for Settlement in Final Stretch of Negotiations
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash resumed direct negotiations in Cyprus on the reunification of the country, faced with mounting international and domestic pressure to conclude a settlement based on a U.N. plan by February 28.
The day before the negotiations resumed, about 50,000 of an estimated population of 80,000 Turkish Cypriots, marshaled by opposition groups, non-governmental organizations, and trade unions in the north, staged a demonstration in northern Nicosia expressing their support for the U.N. plan. They demanded that Denktash work toward meeting the February deadline for a settlement.
Many demonstrators called on him to resign if he failed to sign an agreement by then, reflecting the anger building in the north over the possibility that the Republic of Cyprus, without the Turkish Cypriot community, could sign the EU treaty of accession on April 16 in Athens, admitting it and nine other countries into the bloc, pending ratification of the treaty. The demonstration, indicating unprecedented public dissatisfaction with Denktash's longstanding position, was the largest ever held in northern Cyprus. It was a follow-up to a December 26 rally that drew about 30,000 people who accused the Turkish Cypriot leader of stonewalling the settlement process.
Denktash stated that the chances were poor for meeting the February 28 deadline set by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan since more time would be required to address his concerns about the plan. He also said that the demonstrations by Turkish Cypriots weakened his bargaining position in the settlement talks. The Cyprus government said it would make every effort to achieve the best amendments to the plan by the February deadline.
U.N. special envoy to Cyprus Alvaro de Soto called on Clerides and Denktash to negotiate with a sense of urgency, saying that the choice for the negotiators would be between the U.N. plan, with refinements, and "no agreement at all." Failure to reach a settlement on the basis of the plan by February 28 would diminish the possibility of an agreement in the near term, he said.
While Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has appealed to Denktash to change his negotiating strategy in order to meet the February deadline, the Turkish military, which maintains that Cyprus is strategically important for Turkey, has expressed support for Denktash's negotiating position. The chief of the Turkish General Staff, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, stated that the "entrapment of Turkey in Anatolia" will be complete if the U.N. plan is accepted. In addition, the speaker of the Turkish parliament, Bulent Arinc, urged Turkish Cypriots to unite behind Denktash. Turkish opposition leader Deniz Baykal suggested that the U.S. should recognize the Turkish Cypriot breakaway state in exchange for Turkey's support in a possible war against Iraq.
Although Greek Cypriots responded to the U.N. peace plan coolly when it was unveiled in November, there are signs that public opinion is gradually shifting in support of the plan. This has been attributed to the EU's decision to invite Cyprus to join the bloc at the December 2002 Copenhagen summit and the December 10 revisions to the plan, which allow 90,000 Greek Cypriots to return to the north, about half the number that fled to the south following the 1974 Turkish invasion after a Greek-inspired coup, and reduce the number of settlers from Turkey permitted to remain in Cyprus from the current 115,000 to about 50,000.
The Greek government stated it would support an agreement that eliminated guarantor powers for Greece, Turkey, and Britain in Cyprus. If this is not possible, Athens will seek a minimal foreign military presence in Cyprus, Greek government spokesman Christos Protopapas said.
Requests by Turkish Cypriots for Cypriot passports are on the rise, with 1,200 having been issued recently. If a divided Cyprus accedes to the EU, a substantial exodus of Turkish Cypriots from Cyprus is expected.
January 17, 2003
The supreme council of President Glafcos Clerides' center-right Democratic Rally Party (DISY) voted to back the president in the February 16 presidential election, dropping its previous support for Yiannakis Omirou, the head of the Movement of Social Democrats (KISOS). DISY backed Clerides' candidacy over that of his top aide, Attorney General Alekos Markides, who is also a member of DISY and will run against Clerides as an independent.
Omirou stepped down from the race and will back Tassos Papadopoulos, the leader of the center-right Democratic Party, who has been endorsed by the communist party, AKEL, the country's largest party.
January 10, 2003
Majority of Turkish Cypriots Support U.N. Reunification Plan
Washington, D.C. - Sixty-five percent of Turkish Cypriots are in favor of reunifying Cyprus on the basis of the U.N. plan submitted to Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in November, according to a January 6 public opinion poll conducted by northern Cyprus's largest-selling daily newspaper Kibris.
Even in the northwest Morphou area, slated for return to Greek Cypriots under the proposals in the U.N. blueprint for a settlement, 75.3percent of those questioned said they supported the plan.
More than half of the overall respondents said they approved of the provisions in the plan concerning proposed borders, property exchanges, and security and sovereignty arrangements. Forty-five percent were opposed to the provisions outlining the return of Greek Cypriots to Turkish-held areas.
Denktash has argued that the proposals in the U.N. plan on territorial adjustments, the return of displaced people, and sovereignty issues pose a threat to Turkish Cypriot interests. The head of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is pressing Denktash to negotiate a settlement on the basis of the plan.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has set February 28 as the deadline for concluding a Cyprus settlement, while Turkey's foreign minister, Yasar Yakis, stated that April 16, the date on which Cyprus and nine other countries will sign the treaty of accession, would be a more realistic date. The U.N. plan provides for late March referendums in northern and southern Cyprus on any settlement that emerges, allowing a unified Cyprus to sign the treaty.
January 10, 2003
Possible Division of Centrist Votes with Presidential Candidacy of Close Clerides Aide
Washington, D.C. - The day after Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides unexpectedly announced that he would seek re-election in the February 16 presidential poll, his top aide and senior advisor in the U.N.-sponsored settlement negotiations, Attorney General Alecos Markides, also announced his candidacy for president.
Although Markides said he would run on an independent ticket, both he and Clerides are members of the center-right Democratic Rally Party (DISY), sparking a potential division within the party over the attorney general's candidacy at a time when party unity is desired during the final push toward a Cyprus settlement by the February 28 deadline.
Clerides stated that Markides would remain his chief negotiator in the settlement talks. Markides will also continue to be the coordinator of the Greek Cypriot side in the two ad hoc technical committees bringing together Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot legal experts to formulate joint positions on Cyprus's international treaties and domestic laws that will go into effect when the country is reunified. The committees began their technical meetings on January 7. Negotiations between Clerides and Denktash are expected to get underway again in mid-January.
The president of DISY, Nicos Anastassiades, said the party's political bureau had decided by an overwhelming majority to back Clerides' candidacy, though the final decision would be made at a meeting of the party's supreme council on January 11. The supreme council had previously backed the candidacy of the head of the Social Democratic Movement (KISOS), Yiannakis Omirou.
Clerides said he would seek a 16-month term in office, rather than the five-year term specified in the constitution, to enable him to conclude the settlement negotiations and oversee the planned entry of Cyprus into the European Union in May 2004. He said he would view a successful candidacy as a national mandate to continue attempts at reunification. Clerides has already served two five-year terms.
Markides, who has taken a leave of absence without pay from his post as attorney general until the end of February, when he will submit his resignation, would not be expected to offer any significant alternatives to Clerides' policies on the Cyprus problem.
Until Clerides entered this year's presidential race, the front-runner had been Tassos Papadopoulos of the center-right Democratic Party (DIKO), who is backed by both DIKO and AKEL, the communist party and Cyprus's largest party. Opinion polls indicate that both Clerides and Markides would each receive more votes than Papadopoulos, but there is speculation that their two candidacies could split the centrist vote, allowing Papadopoulos to win. Markides stated that Clerides' decision to run was a political mistake.
January 3, 2003
Denktash Under Pressure from Erdogan, Turkish Cypriots to Negotiate Settlement
Washington, D.C. - Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), strongly criticized Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for not moving forward quickly enough toward a Cyprus settlement on the basis of the U.N. plan submitted to the two sides in November by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
In a dramatic shift from the stance of previous Turkish governments, Erdogan stated that he opposed the continuation of Denktash's policies, which have dominated the Turkish Cypriot community since the early 1960s. These policies include the view that the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the separation of the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities effectively solved the Cyprus problem.
Erdogan said that it would be possible for Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Denktash to reach an agreement by the February 28 deadline set by Annan, and backed by the European Union, in order to promote entry of a reunified Cyprus into the bloc when the treaty of accession is signed on April 16.
An unprecedented demonstration of some 30,000 Turkish Cypriots, nearly half of the adult Turkish Cypriot population of northern Cyprus, called for the reunification of Cyprus, its entry into the EU, and Denktash's resignation. They criticized the Turkish Cypriot leader for stonewalling the negotiating process and urged him to, instead, facilitate a settlement when his talks with Clerides resume in mid-January in Cyprus. Public employees in the north also declared a one-day strike to protest the lack of movement toward an agreement, while prominent members of the Turkish Cypriot opposition staged a hunger strike in support of the protestors' demands.
Clerides agreed to work for a solution by the end of February. Denktash said he hoped to see an agreement emerge by the end of February but would like to continue negotiating in March in the absence of a breakthrough. He also stated that, if no agreement emerged in February, he would propose to the EU that it sign an agreement with the Turkish Cypriot administration to enable a "Turkish Cypriot component state" to join the bloc when Turkey joins. The EU has consistently stated that it requires a single Cyprus government in all representations within the bloc.
Beginning January 7, meetings between two ad hoc technical committees of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot legal experts will be held to study international treaties and legislation that will come into effect when a settlement is reached.
On December 29, Denktash returned to Cyprus, where he has spent only five days since he underwent two open heart operations in New York in October. The negotiations between the Turkish Cypriot leader and the Cyprus president, which began in January 2002, have been on hold since early October.
January 3, 2003
Clerides to Run for Third Term as President
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides said he would seek re-election in the February 16 presidential poll to maintain momentum in the U.N.-brokered negotiations for a Cyprus settlement.
Clerides, 83, stated that, if re-elected, he would remain in office for 16 months in order to work toward the accession of a reunified Cyprus to the European Union in May 2004, following the ratification of the treaty of accession to be signed in April 2003.
The Cyprus president is coming to the end of his second five-year term. He had not intended to be a candidate again but had hinted that he might consider running if there was political will for him to do so.
If a settlement is reached before February 16, involving the need for a new Cyprus constitution, the presidential election will be rendered unnecessary.
Other presidential candidates are Tassos Papadopoulos, leader of the centrist Democratic Party, who is backed by the main opposition communist AKEL party; socialist Yiannakis Omirou, who has been supported by Clerides' right-wing Democratic Rally Party; and Nikos Koutsou, head of the smaller New Horizons party.
December 20, 2002
Cyprus Invited to Join European Union
Washington, D.C. - At the December 12-13 EU summit in Copenhagen, Cyprus was invited to join the European Union along with nine other countries: Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
The treaty of accession covering all 10 countries will be signed in Athens, under Greece's EU presidency, on April 16, 2003. After that date, no candidate country that is a signatory to the treaty can be excluded from membership.
The treaty must then be ratified by the parliaments of each candidate country and the 15 current EU member states by May 1, 2004. The European Parliament must also approve the entry of the new members by that date, on which their accession will become final in time for them to participate in the elections for the European Parliament in June 2004.
This expansion of the EU is the first since Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined in 1995 and the largest of four expansions since the bloc was established over 50 years ago. With the addition of the new members, the EU will grow 20 percent and, with 445 million people, will surpass the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as the world's largest market.
December 20, 2002
Negotiations to Move Forward on U.N. Peace Plan
Washington, D.C. - Unable to persuade the two sides to agree to an accord on the basis of the United Nations peace plan by the end of the Copenhagen summit, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urged Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to negotiate a settlement based on the plan by February 28, 2003, when Clerides will step down as president.
An agreement by that date would allow a reunified Cyprus to sign the treaty of accession in Athens in April, preceded by late March referendums in both the north and the south on any settlement that emerges. The U.N. plan has been revised to take into consideration the objections the two sides had raised concerning the original document.
Both Clerides and Denktash have agreed to enter into negotiations on the U.N. plan, with talks expected to be particularly intensive in January. Talks between the two, begun in January 2002, were interrupted in October and November to permit Denktash to undergo and recuperate from open-heart surgery.
A December 18 statement by the U.N. Security Council said the Council regretted that the Turkish Cypriot leadership had not "responded in a timely way" to the U.N. plan and called on it to work constructively to reach an agreement by the end of February.
The EU expressed its support for a February 28 deadline for a settlement in the presidency conclusions issued at the Copenhagen summit, preferring the accession of a united Cyprus to the European Union. The EU said it believed that the proposals in the U.N. plan offered a unique opportunity to reach a settlement and urged the two sides to seize this opportunity.
The presidency conclusions at the summit stated that, in the absence of a settlement by the time Cyprus accedes to the EU, the application of the acquis communautaire, the body of European laws, to the northern part of Cyprus would be suspended. The EU invited the European Commission, in consultation with the Cyprus government, to consider ways of furthering the economic development of the northern part of Cyprus and bringing it closer to the EU, in effect promoting the opening of trade with the diplomatically unrecognized area.
December 20, 2002
Opposition to Dentash's Policies Grows Among Turkish Cypriots
Washington, D.C. - Following the EU's call for a reunified Cyprus to join the bloc, organizations, opposition politicians, and the opposition press in northern Cyprus intensified calls for Denktash's resignation due to his failure to promote the conclusion of a framework agreement for a settlement prior to the EU summit.
Mehmet Ali Talat, head of the pro-settlement opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP), which swept municipal elections earlier this year, said Denktash should step down immediately since his unwillingness to endorse the U.N. plan before the summit constituted a betrayal of the Turkish Cypriot people.
Thousands of Turkish Cypriots have staged demonstrations calling for a change of leadership in northern Cyprus. They have urged Denktash to sign the U.N. plan in order to allow northern Cyprus to be part of the country's accession to the EU in 2004. Polls have indicated that up to 66 percent of Turkish Cypriots are opposed to Denktash's negotiating stance.
A survey showed that nearly 90 percent of Turkish Cypriots want to join the EU, while 53 percent favor the U.N. plan. Fewer than one in ten would like to see northern Cyprus integrated with Turkey, though the Turkish Cypriot assembly is dominated by nationalist parties that are hostile to a settlement.
Greek Cypriot opposition to the U.N. plan stood at 60-64 percent in late November, according to various polls.
December 6, 2002
EU Accession Negotiations Completed
Washington, D.C. - By completing the final two chapters of its EU accession talks in early December, Cyprus became the first of the 10 candidate countries slated to be asked to join the bloc at the December 12-13 Copenhagen summit to wrap up negotiations.
The two chapters, concerning agricultural and budgetary arrangements, were among the 31 chapters that guide the harmonization of a candidate country's laws with the EU's acquis communautaire, the entire body of European laws that each prospective EU member must adopt and implement. The EU satisfied the demands of the country's farming sector for milk-production quotas, support premiums for cattle and sheep, and aid to wine-makers.
The final ratification of the conclusion of the negotiations, which began in March 1998, will take place just prior to the Copenhagen summit at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. At the summit, Cyprus is expected to be offered EU membership in 2004, along with the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
December 6, 2002
Changes Desired in U.N. Peace Plan Submitted by Both Sides
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash have each submitted changes they would like to see made in the peace plan proposed by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on November 11. The U.N. is now expected to hold separate talks with the two sides in order to incorporate their suggestions into a revised text that can serve as the basis for continued negotiations.
Clerides formally notified Annan on November 18 that the Greek Cypriot side accepts the U.N. plan as a basis for negotiations. Denktash has not yet issued any formal notification.
Following the submission of the points in the plan that he would like to see changed, Denktash stated that it would be "an impossible position" for the Turkish Cypriot side to reach a settlement if Cyprus is asked to join the European Union in Copenhagen.
The secretary general's special advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, who is in Cyprus, presented the Turkish Cypriot points to Clerides, while also delivering the Greek Cypriot points to Denktash's advisor, Ergun Olgun.
On December 6, Denktash was to leave New York for Cyprus. He has remained in the city since October to recuperate from heart surgery.
The U.N. plan was designed to provide the impetus for negotiating an agreement that would reunify Cyprus before the Copenhagen summit, where the country is expected to be invited to join the European Union in 2004. The EU has stipulated that a settlement will not be a precondition for the accession of Cyprus to the bloc.
December 6, 2002
High-Level U.S. Official in Last-Minute Push for Cyprus Settlement
Washington, D.C. - Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman met with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot political leaders in Cyprus to urge the two sides to negotiate the framework of a settlement on the basis of the U.N. plan so that the EU can invite a unified Cyprus to join the bloc in Copenhagen. While in Cyprus, Grossman did not meet with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who has remained in New York since October to recuperate from heart surgery.
Grossman also visited Turkey and Greece to promote the U.N. plan as the best chance in years to break the impasse in negotiations to reunify the country, pledging U.S. support for helping to achieve a breakthrough by December 12. In his talks with Cypriot, Greek, and Turkish officials, Grossman also emphasized that Washington wants the EU to set a date in Copenhagen for Turkey's accession talks.
November 22, 2002
Greek Cypriots Accept Annan's Negotiating Offer, Turkish Cypriots Request More Time
Washington, D.C. - Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides notified U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that the Greek Cypriot side would agree to use the new U.N. plan as a basis for negotiations, while Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash asked Annan for more time to consider the suitability of the plan as a basis for talks.
Denktash was re-hospitalized in New York on November 15 with an infection contracted while recuperating from two October operations on his heart. He told Annan in a letter that he had been unable to study the plan due to his ill health and had also not been able to consult with either the Turkish Cypriot administration or the new government in Turkey, which was in the process of taking over the reins of power from the Ecevit government, regarding the plan. The parliamentary vote of confidence officially launching the new Turkish government will not take place until late November.
The Turkish Cypriot leader has been convalescing in New York continuously since his first operation on October 7. It remained unclear whether he would be well enough to return to Cyprus before December.
Annan had asked the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides to inform him by November 18 whether they considered the plan to be appropriate as a basis for negotiations, in an effort to reach an outline for a settlement by the December 12-13 EU Copenhagen summit.
Annan was scheduled to meet with his special advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, in The Hague on November 22 to assess how to proceed in moving the negotiating process forward. The secretary general expressed concern over Denktash's delay in responding, noting that the timetable calling for resolution of the main elements of the Cyprus problem prior to the Copenhagen summit was "part and parcel of the plan" and that further delay could result in the "disappearance of the opportunity" to resolve the problem by mid-December.
Denktash stated that there were "deficiencies, disruptions, and traps" in the U.N. plan, objecting particularly to the inclusion of maps designating the proposed territorial adjustments, which include reducing the Turkish Cypriot-held land from 37 percent to about 28.5 percent.
Denktash's National Unity Party, the ruling party in the self-styled "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," stated that the Annan plan did not meet the expectations of the Turkish Cypriot side with respect to territorial concessions, guarantees, and sovereignty, and it did not constitute a basis for negotiations. The party proposed that Clerides and Denktash continue their direct talks, which began in January and were interrupted by Denktash's surgery, with the aim of preparing their own settlement plan.
Clerides stated that, if political will existed on the part of the Turkish Cypriots, it would be possible to reach a settlement agreement, in principle, prior to the Copenhagen summit. He noted that the Greek Cypriot side would ask for clarifications on some issues and would negotiate modifications of other issues in the plan. The president pointed out that he did not agree with the proposed three-year transitional period during which the two sides would be co-presidents of a Swiss-style common state consisting of two politically equal component states, or cantons.
Although Cyprus's National Council, an all-party advisory body, agreed to proceed with negotiations on the basis of the U.N. plan, Cyprus government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou stated that the Council believed the timetable was suffocatingly" tight and, therefore, the dates proposed for reaching a settlement on the basis of the blueprint "should not be considered binding."
November 22, 2002
Turkey, Greece Accept U.N. Plan as Basis for Settlement Talks
Washington, D.C. - Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won a majority in Turkey's parliament in the November 3 elections, said he accepted Annan's plan as a starting point for Cyprus negotiations, despite its numerous "objectionable and unacceptable elements." Turkey's new prime minister, Abdullah Gul, applauded the U.N. plan as a historic opportunity for a settlement.
Erdogan stated, however, that it would be impossible to reach an agreement before the Copenhagen summit because the handover of power in Ankara to the new government was still in progress. In addition, he said, Denktash's illness made it an inopportune time to expedite the peace process.
As a result, Erdogan proposed that the European Union postpone the invitation to Cyprus to join the EU until the June 2003 Thessaloniki summit, under Greece's EU presidency, when Turkey could also be given a starting date for accession talks. He also called on the EU to admit Cyprus and Turkey simultaneously to the bloc, a proposal that was immediately discounted by a European Commission spokesman.
Erdogan reiterated his view that Turkey's bid to join the European Union was linked to progress on resolving the Cyprus issue, while also stating that the designation of a starting date for Ankara's accession talks would facilitate a settlement in Cyprus. In this respect, the AKP leader has reversed the policy of Turkey's previous governments, which rejected any link between resolution of the Cyprus problem and Turkey's accession to the EU. He said "mutual compromise" would be necessary to resolve the Cyprus problem and expressed concern over the provisions in the U.N. plan concerning territorial readjustments.
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis stated that the U.N. plan, despite some "significant problems," was a starting point for negotiations, which had to be carried out in order to overcome the effects of the Cyprus issue on relations between Greece and Turkey. He stressed that a Cyprus settlement was critical to Turkey's EU membership aspirations. Foreign Minister George Papandreou called the plan a historic opportunity for resolving the Cyprus issue.
The Greek prime minister's proposals for amending the U.N. plan included removing the plan for a joint presidency, cutting the transition period from three years to one, requiring some of the Turkish settlers in northern Cyprus to return to Turkey, allowing for the greatest possible return of Greek Cypriot property, and keeping Greek and Turkish troops in Cyprus to a minimum.
Greece's main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Caramanlis stated that he disagreed with the assessment of the U.N. plan as a historic opportunity, noting that difficult negotiations lay ahead to achieve a functional state, a new constitution, resolution of the Turkish settler issue, and harmonization of a unified Cyprus with EU laws and practices.
November 15, 2002
U.N. Plan for Cyprus Settlement Released
Washington, D.C. - In an effort to promote a Cyprus settlement so that a re-unified country can be asked to join the European Union at the bloc's December 12-13 summit in Copenhagen, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, on November 11, delivered a comprehensive U.N. plan for the resolution of the Cyprus problem to Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides in Nicosia and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in New York, where he was recovering from heart surgery.
The plan was also distributed to the governments of Greece, Turkey, and Britain, as guarantor powers for Cyprus's independence and territorial integrity under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, through their permanent U.N. representatives.
Under the 137-page plan, the Republic of Cyprus would be replaced by a Swiss-style "common state" consisting of two politically equal "component states" or cantons, one Greek Cypriot and the other Turkish Cypriot. This common state would have a single sovereignty, single citizenship, and single international identity.
The component states, each with its own legislature, would be governed by a single, six-member executive presidential council made up of four Greek Cypriots and two Turkish Cypriots. The council's offices of president and vice president would rotate between a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot every 10 months. No more than two consecutive presidents may come from the same component state. The council would be established after an initial three-year period, during which the leaders of the two sides would be co-presidents.
The six members of the council would be elected every five years from a single list by the "common state" parliament, composed of two chambers, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. A special majority vote would be required in the Senate, and the choices would be approved by a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. Each chamber would have 48 members. The representation of the two states would be equal in the Senate and proportional in the Chamber of Deputies, where neither state would have less than 25 percent of the deputies.
Each component state would exercise all powers not vested by the constitution in the common state government and would organize itself freely under its own constitution. The component states would cooperate with each other and with the common state through cooperation agreements and constitutional laws.
The final borders of the component states would be determined by the two sides with consideration for the cultural, religious, and archaeological areas that are important to each community. The Turkish Cypriot area would cover about 28.5 percent of the country, down from the current 37 percent, to more accurately reflect the sizes of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot populations. Turkish Cypriots make up about 20 percent of the country's population of 750,000.
The northwestern area of Morphou, the eastern coastal town of Varosha, just south of Famagusta, and villages in the Mesaoria plain east of Nicosia would come under Greek Cypriot administration, allowing for the return to these areas of about 80,000 of an estimated 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees that fled to the south in 1974. About 42,000 Turkish Cypriots would also be displaced.
In areas subject to territorial adjustment, properties would be reinstated to dispossessed owners, but, in areas not subject to territorial adjustment, arrangements concerning properties would be made on the basis of compensation. Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots residing in specified villages in the other component state would enjoy cultural and educational rights and be represented in the other component state's legislature.
Greek and Turkish military contingents, each under 10,000 troopswould be stationed in the Greek Cypriot component state and the Turkish Cypriot component state, respectively. Turkey currently has about 30,000 troops in northern Cyprus, while Greece stations 2,000 to 3,000 troops in the southern part of Cyprus. All Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot forces, including reserve units, would be dissolved. There is currently a Turkish Cypriot regiment numbering 2,000 to 3,000 in the north, and the Cypriot National Guard in the south has 14,000 troops. A U.N. peacekeeping operation would monitor the agreement, along with a committee that included representatives of the guarantor powers, Greece, Turkey, and Britain.
A Supreme Court would have nine judges -- three Greek Cypriots, three Turkish Cypriots, and three foreigners - and would resolve disputes between the component states, or between one or both of the component states and the common state.
The plan also envisions a reconciliation commission similar to that created in South Africa following the lifting of apartheid.
November 15, 2002
Timetable Outlined for Consideration of U.N. Plan
Washington, D.C. - The U.N. secretary general, who made it clear that he hoped the plan could be the basis for at least an outline of a Cyprus settlement by December 12, asked Clerides and Denktash to inform him by November 18 whether they agreed that it could.
This plan has been accompanied by a greater sense of urgency on the part of the United Nations than that associated with previous initiatives by the world body concerning Cyprus, and it outlines a more definitive vision of what constitutes a settlement. This urgency reflects a growing sense of international exhaustion stemming from the lack of progress in reaching a settlement over nearly four decades during which the Cyprus issue has been a high-profile diplomatic problem. It also conveys the sense that a failure to reach an agreement on the basis of this plan could cause the international community to pull back on further efforts to work toward a solution.
The plan was drawn up by a U.N. team headed by the secretary general's U.N. envoy Alvaro de Soto with considerable behind-the-scenes help from the United States and Britain. In addition, the U.N. worked closely with the European Union concerning the provisions of the plan to ensure that they were in line with the EU's acquis communautaire, the entire body of European laws, in view of the accession of a potentially reunified Cyprus to the EU.
The U.N. would like to see the second phase of the negotiations, to work out final points of an agreement, completed by February 28, 2003, when Cyprus's presidential election is scheduled. Clerides will not be a candidate in the election. Any settlement that might be reached on the basis of the U.N. plan is expected to be the overriding issue in the campaign leading up to the election.
If a settlement is reached, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will hold simultaneous referendums on March 30, 2003, to vote on whether to accept or reject the settlement.
Annan has made it clear to Clerides and Denktash that failure to reach at least an outline of a settlement by December 12 will result in the abandonment of the new U.N. plan as a basis for negotiations.
November 15, 2002
Initial Reaction to U.N. Plan by All Parties Optimistic
Washington, D.C. - Both Clerides and Denktash reserved initial specific comment on the U.N. blueprint, as requested by Annan, saying that they would examine it carefully and report back to the secretary general on November 18 concerning its acceptability as a basis for an agreement.
Both have hinted, however, that it could serve as a basis for talks. Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said that the initial response of the Greek Cypriot side was that it would agree to negotiate on the basis of the plan. Denktash stated that the negotiations had "turned a new page" with the release of the document.
The initial reactions of the Greek government and the future ruling party of Turkey, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), were positive.
Describing the plan as a starting point for constructive negotiations, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis stated that it presented a historic opportunity to arrive at a settlement, noting that it was time for Cyprus to overcome its political problem and move forward for the benefit of itself and the region. He stressed that the final settlement reached must adhere to U.N. Security Council resolutions and the EU's acquis communautaire. Simitis was scheduled to meet with Clerides in Athens on November 16 to discuss the plan.
AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointed out the linkage between finding a solution to the Cyprus question and accelerating Turkey's entry into the European Union. He also said a Cyprus solution would be an important step in overcoming difficulties between Turkey and Greece. In addition, AKP said it would not oppose the reduction of troops in Cyprus envisaged by the U.N. plan.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw expressed the full support of Britain, as Cyprus's third guarantor power, for the plan, saying that the best chance in decades to solve the Cyprus problem existed and was not likely to recur in the foreseeable future. He said Britain would be working with all concerned for achievement of a settlement.
Both the European Commission and the European Union said they supported the plan. The EU's foreign policy and defense chief, Javier Solana, called it a window of opportunity for Cyprus, while Guenter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for enlargement, said that all efforts should be undertaken to make use of the very limited time remaining to bring the process to a positive outcome. He also noted that a second review of the plan by the EU would be required following amendments to it by Clerides and Denktash in their negotiations, in order to ensure its continued compliance with the acquis communautaire. Verheugen emphasized that Cyprus would still be invited to accede to the EU whether or not a settlement was reached.
November 15, 2002
Annan Discusses Cyprus Plan with Officials in Washington
Washington, D.C. - Two days after releasing the blueprint for a Cyprus settlement, Annan met in Washington for discussions on Iraq and Cyprus with President George Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, who both expressed their support for the plan.
Annan said he expected Bush to help in achieving a settlement in Cyprus and was certain that the president would do everything he could to assist.
State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Tom Weston urged Clerides and Denktash to consider the plan seriously or miss out on a "settlement opportunity that may not exist for some time to come."
November 8, 2002
U.N. to Present Plan for Resolution of Cyprus Problem
Washigton, D.C. - U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is expected to submit a plan for the resolution of the Cyprus problem to Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash the week of November 11 in an attempt to facilitate the conclusion of a settlement by the December 12-13 EU summit in Copenhagen.
The European commissioner in charge of enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, stated that he had been in continual contact with Annan concerning the plan to ensure that it was in line with EU principles. Verheugen said that the plan would be submitted to the European Commission, which would examine it to confirm its adherence to these principles.
President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in letters to Annan, have urged the secretary general to push harder for an agreement on the reunification of Cyprus.
There has been a flurry of visits by high-level State Department officials to Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus in recent weeks to discuss Cyprus and other U.S. priority issues. Along with the ongoing presence in the region of State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Tom Weston, the officials have included Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Elizabeth Jones, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau Lynn Pascoe, and Director of the Office of Southern European Affairs Doug Hengel.
November 1, 2002
Greece, Turkey, Cyprus Call Off Exercises to Avoid Tensions
Washington, D.C. - The Greek, Turkish, and Cyprus governments agreed to postpone annual military exercises scheduled in and around Cyprus in early November, in an effort to avoid tensions during a critical period in the negotiations to resolve the Cyprus problem.
Each year, the Greek military and the Cypriot National Guard carry out the joint "Nikiforos-Toxotis" sea, air, and land maneuvers. Shortly afterward, Turkey conducts similar exercises, codenamed "Taurus, " in northern Cyprus. The two war games usually raise military tensions in Cyprus.
November and December are crucial months in the U.N.-led Cyprus settlement talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who have been trying to resolve the core issues of the Cyprus problem by the EU's December 12-13 summit in Copenhagen. The ongoing direct talks, which began in January, are expected to resume following Denktash's recuperation from two rounds of heart surgery on October 7 and October 20.
The summit is a critical benchmark in Turkish-Greek-Cypriot relations. Ankara has said that it will take steps toward the greater integration of northern Cyprus into Turkey if Cyprus receives an invitation to join the European Union, as expected at the summit, before a Cyprus settlement is found. The Turkish government hopes that the EU will set a date for the start of Ankara's accession talks at the summit.
In late October, Greece and Cyprus stated that they would postpone their joint exercises in Cyprus this year, to defuse any potential tensions in the months leading up to the summit, if Turkey called off its exercises in northern Cyprus. Turkey accepted the proposal.
October 11, 2002
European Commission Recommends Accession of Cyprus to EU
Washington, D.C. - In its October 9 progress report on the 13 EU candidate countries, the European Commission recommended that Cyprus be invited to join the European Union at the bloc's December summit in Copenhagen and become a member in the first wave of enlargement in 2004, along with Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, and Malta. Cyprus began accession negotiations in 1998.
The Commission's recommendation will be debated by the EU's 15 leaders at a meeting in Brussels on October 24-25, and the final decision on enlargement will be made by them at the December summit. The accession treaty would be signed in the spring of 2003.
The report said that, in the absence of a settlement in Cyprus, the decision concerning the country's accession would be based on the conclusions of the European Council at the EU Helsinki summit in December 1999. Those conclusions stated that a settlement would facilitate the accession of Cyprus to the EU. However, they noted that, if no settlement had been reached by the completion of Cyprus's accession negotiations, the Council's decision on its entry into the bloc would be made without a settlement being a pre-condition, taking into account “all relevant factors.”
In the report, the Commission called on all parties concerned to make a determined effort to achieve a settlement this year so that all Cypriots can benefit from EU accession.
The enlargement of the European Union is contingent on Ireland's ratification of the Nice Treaty in a second referendum on the matter on October 19. In a first referendum in June 2001, the Irish rejected the treaty, which was signed in 2000 to pave the way for expansion of the bloc.
Annan Intensifies Consultations with Negotiators as Year's End Approaches
Washington, D.C. - U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan held intensive meetings on October 3 and 4 with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in New York, just one month after similar consultations in Paris.
Though the New York meetings produced no breakthrough in the negotiations, Clerides and Denktash agreed to resume their direct talks at the end of October, following Denktash's recuperation from his October 7 heart surgery.
At Annan's suggestion, Clerides and Denktash agreed to set up two committees of legal experts, which will fill some of the gaps in the negotiating process during the Turkish Cypriot leader's recuperation. One committee will prepare legislation that would take effect when a settlement is reached, while the other will examine treaties signed in the past in order to determine which ones can remain in force in a reunited Cyprus.
Annan asked the negotiators to meet with him again in November as part of U.N. efforts to promote agreement on the core issues of the Cyprus problem by the December EU summit, where Cyprus is expected to receive an invitation to join the bloc. The meetings will be the fourth between Annan and the negotiators since May, while direct talks between Clerides and Denktash have been ongoing since January 2002.
October 4, 2002
Closer Integration of Northern Cyprus into Turkey
Washington, D.C. - In an attempt to mirror the imminent entry of Cyprus into the European Union, the Turkish government has taken steps toward the integration of northern Cyprus into Turkey by granting Turkish citizenship to Turkish Cypriots and by establishing a joint parliamentary committee to examine ways of achieving this fusion.
Turkey had long pledged that it would move toward integration of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)” into the only country that recognizes its existence if Cyprus joined the European Union before a settlement to the division of the country was achieved. The EU is expected to extend an invitation to Nicosia to join the bloc at the EU Copenhagen summit in December, while the possibility of a settlement by the end of the year appears unlikely.
Agreements reached between Turkey and northern Cyprus allow Turkish Cypriots to acquire Turkish citizenship even if they do not reside in Turkey and give them the same residence, employment, and property rights that Turkish citizens enjoy.
Up until now, Turkish Cypriots have had to apply for permission to work in Turkey and have been issued one-year work permits that are renewable. They have also been issued one-year temporary Turkish passports if they want to travel outside of Cyprus.
Turkish Foreign Minister Sukru Sina Gurel, who signed the agreements for the Turkish side, reiterated Ankara’s policy that the EU’s admission of Cyprus would cause Turkey to “come closer to the TRNC in the same way that the EU makes steps to come closer to the Greek Cypriot side.”
The agreements were signed in Ankara in late September during the fifth meeting of the Turkey-TRNC Partnership Council, established in August 1997 to promote unification of their economies. The meeting focused on measures to establish sustainable economic growth in northern Cyprus, including ways of stimulating employment, tourism, investment, and exports. The Council has not met since January 2001.
A 2002 study by the European Union’s Economic and Social Committee determined that the 30 percent interest rates in northern Cyprus were obstacles to obtaining private-sector loans, hindering business investment in the region. Although the economy of northern Cyprus is heavily subsidized by Turkey, the average annual salary of Turkish Cypriots is about $3,600.
Turkish and Turkish Cypriot officials also signed an agreement in late September to form a joint commission to improve cooperation in air transport, maritime issues, and search and rescue procedures. In addition, the Turkish Interior Minister visited northern Cyprus to sign a protocol concerning joint action in protecting the region’s coasts and shipping activity, while presenting the Turkish Cypriot administration with three patrol boats.
September 13, 2002
No Progress at Annan Meeting
Washington, D.C. - U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan met with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in Paris on September 6 to assess the status of their negotiations and urge them to intensify their efforts toward a solution to the Cyprus problem.
No breakthrough in the negotiating process, which has been continuing through direct talks between Clerides and Denktash since mid-January, was reported following the Paris meeting.
Annan invited the two negotiators to New York for talks on October 3 and 4. The meeting will be the third consultation since May between Annan and the two men, who resumed their direct talks in the U.N.-controlled buffer zone in Cyprus after returning from Paris.
August 30, 2002
By Col. Stephen Norton
Senior Policy Advisor, Western Policy Center
Overall Turkish Force Level in Cyprus Constant
Recent reporting on the Turkish troop level in Cyprus has been incomplete. The Cyprus government claimed in late May 2002 that 5,500 additional Turkish soldiers had arrived in northern Cyprus. At that time, U.S. sources stated that U.N. peacekeepers had observed an increase of approximately 2,400 troops, not 5,500. In mid-August 2002, Cyprus Minister of Defense Socrates Hasikos said that Turkey had withdrawn an unspecified number of troops from Cyprus. What exactly has taken place? Has the Turkish military increased its presence in Cyprus? If so, by how much?
First, troops are not individually counted in northern Cyprus. Estimates of the Turkish force level are based on the number and type of units assigned there, not on the number of individual soldiers. For instance, Turkey maintains one corps headquarters and two infantry divisions, along with armor and logistical units, in Cyprus. At full strength, this would equate to about 30,000 to 33,000 troops. In addition, the security force comprised of Turkish Cypriots has an estimated strength of 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers. If Turkish and Turkish Cypriot units are combinedt, here is a military force level in northern Cyprus of about 35,000 troops.
Second, U.N. peacekeepers do not have the capability to observe every troop and unit rotation that takes place in northern Cyprus. The Cyprus government routinely points out new troop arrivals from Turkey but rarely comments when troops return to Turkey. This creates an impression of a steady build-up of forces, rather than routine troop rotations.
What is important is whether or not Turkey has more units in Cyprus now than it did before May 2002. Up to this point, there is no evidence that this is the case. The normal rotation of units or the bringing of existing units up to full strength, or both, can explain the recent reporting of troop movements in northern Cyprus. In either case, because the Turkish troop level in Cyprus is predicated on units at full strength, the estimate for this level remains constant.
August 23, 2002
New U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus to Assume Post
Washington, D.C. - By the end of August, the new U.S. ambassador to Cyprus, Michael Klosson, will have arrived in Nicosia to assume his post, replacing the outgoing ambassador, Donald Bandler. He was sworn in by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in Washington, D.C., on August 19.
Ambassador Klosson, a 27-year career Foreign Service Officer, was Consul General in Hong Kong from August 1999 to 2002. He served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs from 1996 to 1999, covering Bosnia, Kosovo, China, North Korea, and Haiti.
The ambassador has also served as Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm and as Charge d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in The Hague. He has also held posts in the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and Office of Japanese Affairs, as well as the U.S. Embassy in Taipei.
July 3, 2002
Election Results in Northern Cyprus a Victory for Pro-EU Forces
Washington, D.C. - Turkish Cypriots expressed their strong desire for a Cyprus settlement and a chance to join Greek Cypriots in the country's expected accession to the European Union through the defeat of the Turkish Cypriot administration's ruling party in key local elections in the north's three major cities.
The candidates of the ruling National Unity Party (UBP) were defeated by those of the Socialist Republican Turkish Party (CTP) in the mayoral races in Nicosia, Famagusta, and Kyrenia. The CTP's election campaign had called for rapid resolution of the Cyprus problem and the inclusion of northern Cyprus in the country's EU accession process.
The only city of the three in which the mayor was already a CTP member was Famagusta. Half of the population of northern Cyprus lives in these cities.
The UPB won 16 of the 28 mayoral races scattered throughout the rest of northern Cyprus.
The results sent a strong message to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, whose direct negotiations with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides are continuing, but failed to produce a breakthrough toward a settlement by the end of June, a verbal deadline set earlier in the year by the two negotiators.
The economy of northern Cyprus continues to decline in tandem with that of Turkey. Turkish Cypriots fear that the prospect of further integration with Turkey if no Cyprus settlement is reached will lead to an even lower standard of living in the north.
June 28, 2002
EU Reaffirms Nicosia's Road to Accession
Washington, D.C. - In the presidency conclusions of the European Union's June 21-22 summit in Seville, the EU expressed its preference for the accession of a reunited Cyprus to the bloc, although it reaffirmed its adherence to the conclusions of the EU's December 1999 Helsinki summit as the basis for its position toward Cyprus. The Helsinki conclusions stipulate that a political settlement in Cyprus would facilitate the country's accession to the EU, but a settlement is not a precondition for accession.
The EU called on Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to intensify and expedite their U.N.-led negotiations in order to attempt the achievement of a settlement before the accession talks conclude. The bloc emphasized that, as an EU member state, Cyprus will have to speak with a single voice. The EU also said that it would make a substantial financial contribution in support of the development of the northern part of a reunited island.
The EU stated that, if the current rate of progress in accession negotiations and reforms is maintained, it is determined to conclude the negotiations with Cyprus and nine other countries by the end of 2002, if the countries are ready. Signing of the Treaty of Accession by these countries would be expected in spring 2003, with the objective being that the countries would participate in the European Parliament elections in 2004 as EU members. The EU is expected to extend invitations to the countries to join the bloc at its December summit in Copenhagen.
Upon his return from the Seville summit, Clerides stated that his talks with Denktash, which began in mid-January, were facing a deadlock. The two sides had hoped to reach an agreement by the end of June.
June 24, 2002
Presidency Conclusions: Seville European Council (excerpts on Cyprus) 21 -22, June 2002 Seville
The European Council reaffirms that, if the present rate of progress in negotiations and reforms is maintained, the European Union is determined to conclude the negotiations with Cyprus, Malta, Hungary, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia by the end of 2002, if those countries are ready. The principle of differentiation must be fully complied with until the end of the negotiations. Drafting of the Treaty of Accession should continue so that it can be completed as soon as possible after the conclusion of the accession negotiations. It would seem reasonable to expect that the Treaty of Accession could be signed in spring 2003. The objective remains that these countries should participate in the elections for the European Parliament in 2004 as full members. However, this common aim can be realized within the time frame envisaged only if each candidate country adopts a realistic and constructive approach.
24. In respect of the accession of Cyprus, the Helsinki conclusions are the basis of the European Union's position. The European Union's preference continues to be for the accession of a reunited island. The European Council fully supports the efforts of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and calls upon the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to intensify and expedite their talks in order to seize this unique window of opportunity for a comprehensive settlement, consistent with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, hopefully before conclusion of the negotiations. The European Union would accommodate the terms of such a comprehensive settlement in the Treaty of Accession in line with the principles on which the European Union is founded: as a Member State, Cyprus will need to speak with a single voice and ensure proper application of European Union law. The European Union would make a substantial financial contribution in support of the development of the northern part of a reunited island.
June 24, 2002
Turkish Troop Increase in Northern Cyprus at Critical Negotiating Period
Washington, D.C. - Although Turkey has denied that it increased its troop presence in Cyprus, the United States has cited evidence that at least 2,400 additional Turkish troops were deployed in late May and early June in northern Cyprus, where the Turkish Army already maintains a force of about 35,000 soldiers.
The U.S. believes that the new troops have been brought in to flesh out units of the Turkish Army's two infantry divisions and one armored division that have long been operating below capacity, rather than as replacement troops as claimed by the Turkish Cypriot administration. Washington has no evidence that the number of new troops deployed, which disembarked in full view of U.N. peacekeepers, has reached 5,500 as asserted by the Cyprus government.
Cyprus Defense Minister Socrates Hasikos accused Turkey of deploying the additional troops in an attempt to create tension between the two sides in Cyprus and jeopardize Nicosia's chances of being asked to join the European Union at the EU's December summit in Copenhagen. Cyprus expects to conclude its accession negotiations by July. Turkey is strongly opposed to Cyprus's accession to the EU before a political settlement is reached.
The troop placement came at a critical period in the negotiations between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who have agreed to work toward achieving a political settlement by the end of June, well in advance of the European Union's mid-course summit on October 24-25, when the EU is expected to announce the candidate states that are technically and administratively prepared to enter the bloc. There has been no sign that the June deadline will be met.
Any buildup of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus is in contravention of U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning Cyprus that call for the withdrawal of occupation troops from the country.
May 17, 2002
Landmark Visit by U.N. Secretary General Boosts Peace Process
Washington, D.C.-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan consulted with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in Cyprus in mid-May in an effort to accelerate the slow pace of direct talks between the two launched in January.
It was the first visit by a U.N. secretary general to Cyprus since 1979, reflecting the urgency with which the international community views the need to reach a political settlement before the country is asked to join the European Union and avoid the prospect of the EU admitting a divided country. An invitation is expected at the EU's summit in Copenhagen in December 2002.
Upon his departure from Cyprus, Annan stated that both Clerides and Denktashwere ready to intensify their efforts toward a settlement. He said he was convinced that the two sides could resolve the core issues of the Cyprus problem by the end of June if they proceeded "decisively" and "with the necessary political will." He listed the core issues to be targeted as governance, security, territory, and property. The Greek Cypriots are calling for a bizonal, bicommunal federation, while the Turkish Cypriots want a union of two sovereign states.
Annan's remarks contrasted with the view of Denktash, who said he believed that a June deadline for resolving the core issues was impossible. The Turkish Cypriot leader said that resolution of these issues would be possible by December. The June target date had been set earlier by both Clerides and Denktash, and was backed by the U.N. Security Council.
Annan's trip took place shortly after the Security Council had suggested that the Turkish Cypriot side, particularly, needed to do more to help formulate the basis for a settlement.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, who is responsible for matters concerning Turkey's preparations for European Union membership, stated in mid-May that the proposals put forth by Denktash on the Cyprus issue were inadequate, noting that the Turkish Cypriot leader should act in a more conciliatory manner if he wanted to help Turkey accede to the EU. Yilmaz's statement was a radical departure from the views of other Turkish government officials, who have publicly supported Denktash's negotiating stance.
Yilmaz said that Turkey should undertake new initiatives on the Cyprus issue based on parameters that are acceptable to the European Union and the international community, since Turkey is in the most critical year of its accession process.
The Turkish official added that, if Cyprus joins the EU without the participation of the Turkish Cypriot community, the number of Turkish troops innorthern Cyprus will exceed the number of Turkish Cypriots in 10 years. Yilmaz was referring to the fact that Turkish Cypriots have been steadily leaving Cyprus because of the stagnating economy in the north, crippled by an international trade embargo.
by Col. Stephen R. Norton
Senior Policy Advisor
U.N. Efforts in Cyprus Adrift: Time for U.S. Action
Fourteen years ago, when I was the U.S. defense attaché in Nicosia, the United Nations was excited and optimistic about a breakthrough in Cyprus.
At that time, the U.N. was trying to broker a deal that would return the former resort town of Varosha, near Famagusta, to Greek Cypriot control. Varosha had been sealed off by the Turkish Army in 1974. In return, the airport in Nicosia, also closed since 1974, would reopen, and arriving passengers would be able to go either to the north or the south.
Then, U.S. policy was, and still is, to support the efforts of the U.N. in finding a solution to the Cyprus problem. When I called on the commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Austrian Major General Günter Greindle, to check on the progress of the U.N. initiative, I learned a valuable lesson when it comes to Cyprus.
During his seven years in Cyprus, the commander had seen many instances of excited politicians and diplomats proclaiming that a "breakthrough" or even a "settlement" was at hand. He calmly and plainly pointed out that nothing had changed, that nothing had happened. "Don't get too excited about diplomatic rhetoric until you have an agreement," he said. "You have no agreement." That was in 1988.
The U.N. keeps plugging away, however. Almost a decade and a half later, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan made the following announcement in reference to settlement talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash at the conclusion of his three-day visit to Cyprus on May 16, 2002: "Despite their difference on substance and on the time frame, I am still convinced that, between now and the end of June, they can resolve all the core issues, provided they go about their task decisively and with the necessary political will."
Should we get excited about this? If the two sides differ on the substance and time frame, why is Annan confident that everything will work out?
Let's turn to the U.S. role in Cyprus. Congress has been prodding the Executive Branch to take a more active role in settling the Cyprus problem. In 1978, for instance, Congress passed legislation, PL95-384, that called for a bi-monthly presidential report on progress in resolving the Cyprus problem.
Clearly, the intention of this report was to highlight U.S. diplomatic efforts with regard to the Cyprus problem as well as those of the United Nations. PL95-384 is still in effect, and the president is sending his report every 60 days to the speaker of the House of Representatives and to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Unfortunately, these reports contain no hint of U.S. initiatives, no warning of the potential harm to U.S. interests in the eastern Mediterranean if a Cyprus settlement is not reached, and no substance of any kind.
The reports are repetitive to the point of being useless. Aside from a change in the date, the reports over the last year contain two identical sentences: "The United Nations continued in its efforts to sustain the proximity talks that started in December 1999. The United States remains committed to the United Nations effort to find a just and lasting settlement to the Cyprus problem." That's it. Nothing else.
If some accommodation is not found for the future of Cyprus that takes into account the interests of both Cypriot communities as well as the security concerns of Turkey and Greece, these two NATO allies in the eastern Mediterranean are headed into another era of military tension between them at a time when the U.S. needs alliance cohesion and unity of effort to combat terrorism.
Frankly, backing U.N. efforts for a Cyprus solution is no longer enough, and it probably never was. U.S. interests are at stake in the outcome in Cyprus, and Washington should get engaged in the Cyprus peace process.
Cyprus is more than a problem between two ethnic communities; it is a problem between two NATO allies. The United Nations may not see it that way, but the United States should, because that is the reality.
Annan Visit to Cyprus Aimed at Breaking Negotiation Deadlock
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan traveled to Cyprus in mid-May for meetings with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash aimed at breathing new life into direct negotiations between the two that began in mid-January but have failed to produce tangible results.
The secretary general, with the backing of the United Nations Security Council, is encouraging the two sides to at least reach an agreement in principle on the core issues of the Cyprus problem by June, when the country's European Union accession negotiations will be nearing their conclusion.
Both Clerides and Denktash have expressed the view that a settlement is possible by June.
An early May statement by the Security Council said the Council's members had "urged both sides, and in particular the Turkish side, " to cooperate with Alvaro de Soto, Annan's Special Advisor on Cyprus, who continues to be present at the negotiations, to move forward toward a settlement so that a united Cyprus can join the European Union. The European Union is expected to invite Cyprus to become a member at its summit in December 2002.
In late April, Denktash warned that the Turkish Cypriot administration would "hermetically" seal the north of Cyprus if Nicosia joins the EU before a settlement is reached.
Bicommunal TradeOpening Encouraged
A group of Greek Cypriot businessmen has called on the Cyprus government to boost the economy of northern Cyprus by advocating trade with the Turkish Cypriot community, now isolated through an economic blockade that was imposed by a European Court decision.
A representative of the Brussels Group, a contact committee for businessmen from the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities, has presented a proposal on the idea to the government.
The group suggests that allowing trade in domestically produced dairy and agricultural foodstuffs would be appropriate. Government authorities say that their lack of access to northern Cyprus would prevent their internationally recognized inspection and certification of livestock and produce from taking place, and would heighten the risk of outbreaks of disease, particularly if unrestricted animal imports into Cyprus from Turkey are occurring.
No Cypriot law prohibits the flow of goods across the country's Green Line. In practice, authorities stop anyone who attempts to transport goods or herd livestock in either direction because of the lack of infrastructure in place along the buffer zone to handle health and tax considerations. Despite this, some goods clandestinely cross the Green Line, primarily from north to south.
Viewing June Deadline, U.N. Urges Intensified Peace Talks
The United Nations Security Council expressed concern over the slow progress of the direct talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for a solution to the Cyprus problem and urged them to focus without delay on narrowing the differences between them on all issues.
The Security Council called on Clerides and Denktash to intensify their negotiations in view of the June target date they have set for achieving significant progress toward a settlement.
It has endorsed the June target date, which would pre-date the completion of Nicosia’s European Union accession talks by the end of the year and Denktash’s heart surgery, expected in August.
This year’s third round of direct talks, which are taking place in Cyprus’s U.N.-controlled buffer zone in the presence of the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, began on April 9.
Although Clerides is required to step down at the end of his second five-year term in February 2003, the Cyprus president said next year’s presidential elections would probably be postponed if a solution to the Cyprus problem were reached over the next 12 months. He said a referendum would have to be held to endorse any solution and, if it were approved, time would be needed to draft a new constitution, which would provide for a new system of elections.
Turkish, Cypriot Leaders in Symbolic Exchange
Diplomatic relations are non-existent between Cyprus and Turkey, which alone recognizes the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.” Therefore, a handshake between Cyprus President Clerides and Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit at a mid-March European Union meeting in Barcelona, the first time the two had met, took on special meaning.
Ecevit told Clerides that it was time for the Cyprus problem to be solved, though there was no further discussion of the issue. Afterward, Ecevit described the incident as a social contact and reiterated that the existence of two separate states had to be recognized in Cyprus.
In February, a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman denied that the participation of Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides in a joint forum organized by the European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Istanbul marked a change in Ankara’s policy of non-recognition of the Cyprus government.
Possible Base Use for Anti-Iraq Campaign Stirs Economic Concerns
The Cyprus government has expressed concern over Britain’s plans to upgrade its sovereign bases area on the island to enable it to serve as a forward operating base for potential allied military operations in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East.
Manned by about 3,500 troops, the bases, which include an air base, have been used primarily for reconnaissance, training, and support for British military operations in the region.
In the event of military action against Iraq, Nicosia fears that related activity on the bases could subject the island to the threat of reprisals, which would cause tourism, the country’s main industry, to plummet as it did during the 1991 Gulf War, when the bases played a major staging role.
Under a 1960 treaty granting independence to the former British colony, the 99 square-mile area on which the bases are located, on the eastern part of the island, is sovereign British territory, and the Cyprus government’s permission is not necessary for changes in the function of the bases.
First Round of Direct Talks Concludes
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash concluded the first of a number of intensive rounds of negotiations in the neutral U.N.-controlled buffer zone of Cyprus with no public sign of a breakthrough. The next round is scheduled to resume on March 1.
The talks are widely regarded as the last chance for the country’s reunification before the European Union’s expected invitation to Cyprus at the December 2002 EU summit to join the bloc in 2004.
The negotiations, held in the presence of the U.N. secretary general’s special advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, have been described as open-ended and are being conducted with the aim of reaching a settlement on the divided country’s future by June.
Denktash announced in late February that he may have heart surgery in 6 to 12 months, a factor that had led to his decision to ask Clerides to hold face-to-face talks.
The first round of negotiations, lasting five weeks with 14 sessions of talks, ended on February 20 without an announcement on the degree of progress achieved toward a Cyprus settlement because of a U.N.-imposed news blackout. Blackouts imposed during previous negotiations have frequently been violated when one side or the other felt it was being asked to make concessions it was unwilling to make.
While the two met approximately three times a week in the first round, they will conduct longer sessions twice a week in the next round and will tackle the issues in greater depth.
The four key issues are the territorial boundary between the ethnic Greek and Turkish sides; the political administration at the local and federal levels; the future of refugees and compensation for loss of property resulting from Turkey’s 1974 invasion of the country; and security, which may result in significant demobilization with an international force remaining.
Participation in EU Rapid Reaction Force Envisioned
Looking ahead toward meeting its obligations concerning the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) as a prospective member of the EU, Cyprus is planning to contribute two unmanned spy planes to the EU rapid reaction force. Cyprus is expected to purchase the planes from Israel Aeronautics Industries for $17 million.
Conciliatory Moods Herald Resumption of Direct Talks
In a major breakthrough in the Cyprus negotiating process, Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash launched ongoing face-to-face talks in Cyprus on January 16 within the framework of the U.N.-brokered peace process.
They have agreed to meet three times a week on a regular basis in Cyprus to negotiate without preconditions and with all issues on the table until a comprehensive settlement is achieved. They have also stated that they will not come to an agreement until all issues are agreed upon.
The talks are being conducted in the presence of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Special Advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, in the U.N.-controlled buffer zone region of Nicosia.
The resumption of talks at this time has been hailed as the best chance in decades to reach a settlement. Resolution of the Cyprus problem has taken on a sense of urgency on the Turkish side with the EU’s invitation to Cyprus to join the bloc expected in December 2002. The Turkish side has opposed the accession of Cyprus to the EU before a settlement is reached, while the EU has stated that a settlement is not a precondition for its membership.
In November, Denktash cautioned that European Union accession before a settlement could spark a Greek-Turkish war, while Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit warned that Turkey would consider annexing the northern part of Cyprus if accession occurred prior to a settlement.
On December 4, Clerides and Denktash met face-to-face for the first time since August 1997 and pledged to launch direct talks. The meeting in Cyprus followed a 13-month boycott of U.N.-sponsored proximity talks by Denktash, during which he had insisted that international recognition of the Turkish Cypriot breakaway state and a halt to Nicosia’s EU accession talks would be required before he would agree to return to the negotiating table.
Denktash dropped the requirements when, through a series of letters to Clerides in November, he asked the Cyprus president to meet with him to determine how to break the negotiation impasse. Clerides also stepped back from his insistence that talks should be held in an international environment rather than in Cyprus. In September, Denktash turned down an invitation by Annan to resume proximity talks.
Before the January talks began, Cyprus government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said Clerides could discuss confidence-building measures with Denktash, measures that could be implemented quickly, improve the negotiating climate, and facilitate a settlement. Such measures could include handing over the Turkish-controlled ghost town of Varosha to U.N. control, with a possible resettlement by Greek Cypriot residents, a reduction in Turkish forces in Cyprus, and a freeze on arms spending by both sides.
Bicommunal Progress on Missing Persons Issue
Clerides and Denktash met in Cyprus the week before their January face-to-face talks began in order to discuss the issue of about 1,600 Greek Cypriots who disappeared when Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 and some 800 Turkish Cypriots listed as missing as a result of intercommunal violence since 1963. The Cyprus government said the discussion was not linked to the direct talks between the two on resolution of the Cyprus problem.
The meeting was a breakthrough in the impasse on the issue since an agreement was brokered by the U.N. in 1997 to move forward with the identification of remains in mass graves on both sides of the Green Line. Mass exhumations have occurred only in the government-controlled south, resulting in the identification of about 115 people, about 30 of whom were related to cases of missing persons. The 1997 agreement also called for investigations into cases where Greek Cypriots saw compatriots, who disappeared, being taken prisoner.
Clerides and Denktash agreed to prepare documents outlining their views on practical ways to determine the fate of the missing persons in order to facilitate the joint drafting of an agreement on the matter. The Cyprus president later met with relatives of the missing to exchange opinions on drawing up the Greek Cypriot document.
Clerides has urged Denktash to agree to the creation of a DNA bank to enable identification of exhumed remains. Up to now, Denktash has refused to permit Turkish Cypriots to give the blood samples required to allow DNA to be used in the identification of the remains.
During unprecedented visits to each other’s homes for talks over dinner, Clerides and Denktash also discussed the living conditions of 580 Greek Cypriots living in an enclave in the Karpasia region of northern Cyprus and the restrictions placed on them by the Turkish Cypriot administration.
Agreement on Direct Talks in December
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash have agreed to hold face-to-face talks for the first time since meeting directly during U.N.-brokered talks in Switzerland in 1997.
The talks, which will be without an agenda and pre-conditions, will take place on December 4 at the U.N. office in Nicosia in the presence of Alvaro de Soto, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Special Advisor on Cyprus.
Denktash, who had requested a direct meeting with Clerides in three letters since September, agreed in mid-November to Clerides’ insistence that any such meeting be held in the presence of a U.N. representative.
In the letters, Denktash invited the Cyprus president to meet with him face-to-face in the absence of a third party, with no pre-determined agenda or pre-conditions, in order to discuss the Cyprus problem against the backdrop of EU plans to admit Cyprus to the bloc even if a political settlement has not been reached. Previously, Denktash had refused to meet directly with Clerides unless the breakaway Turkish Cypriot entity was recognized as a separate state.
Denktash withdrew from proximity talks, launched in December 1999, in November 2000 and refused Annan’s invitation to resume these talks in September 2001, when he first proposed a direct meeting with Clerides.
Turkey Threatens Annexation of North as EU Accession Proceeds
European Commission President Romano Prodi, on a trip to Cyprus, confirmed that Cyprus will be among the first candidate countries to join the EU in the new wave of enlargement, even if there is no political solution to the division of the country. The EU is expected to vote on Cyprus’s accession in December 2002.
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit stated that the accession of Cyprus to the European Union prior to a political settlement on the island that is acceptable to all parties would result in Ankara’s annexation of northern Cyprus or the establishment of a special autonomous status for the region, in which the Turkish Cypriot administration would independently conduct its internal affairs but would depend on Turkey regarding foreign policy and defense matters.
Ecevit also stated that, if the north and the south were forcibly united, the movement of Greek Cypriots into the north would result in Greek Cypriot violence against Turkish Cypriots.
European Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen warned Turkey not to act on Ecevit’s statement concerning annexation, stating that it would put a serious strain on Turkey-EU relations. The EU urged Turkish Cypriots to work toward a settlement in order to reap the benefits of Cyprus’s eventual membership in the bloc.
One of the bloc’s conditions for naming Turkey an EU candidate at its Helsinki summit in December 1999 was that it support the U.N. secretary general’s efforts to promote a solution to the Cyprus problem.
Turkey, which already maintains close political and economic ties with northern Cyprus, maintains that Nicosia’s road toward EU membership on behalf of all Cypriots is hindering efforts to reach a political settlement in Cyprus. Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has repeatedly turned down invitations by the EU and the Cyprus government to participate in Cyprus’s membership negotiations.
Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is one of the three partners in Turkey’s governing coalition, stated that the Turkish government would not agree to any compromises concerning Cyprus, even if such a decision endangered Ankara’s aspirations to join the EU.
Stepped-Up Anti-Terrorism Measures Focus on Assets, Intelligence
In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Cyprus parliament is expected to move quickly to ratify the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, which the government signed in May.
Provisions of the legislation ratifying the convention are expected to include stiff penalties for anyone found guilty of offering financial assistance to terrorists and authorization to confiscate assets belonging to individuals who have funded terrorist groups, with the money collected being placed in a support fund for terrorist victims. A special inter-agency unit to coordinate anti-terrorism efforts by all governmental and law enforcement entities may also be included in the legislation.
The Cyprus government has launched an investigation to determine whether individuals or organizations that the U.S. suspects of engaging in terrorism hold bank accounts and assets in Cyprus. It will implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373 to freeze them, including those of Osama bin Laden or his associates, if they are found.
Cyprus is sharing intelligence with U.S. agencies, while granting clearance for American military aircraft to fly over Cyprus and use its airports for an unlimited period of time. It is also extending full cooperation for the effective use of the sovereign British military bases in the country in the war effort. The Cyprus government has granted $100,000 in humanitarian aid to Afghan refugees.
In addition to increasing security measures at airports, ports, and certain embassies, such as the U.S. Embassy, the government banned all flights over Nicosia and prohibited foreign trainee pilots from flying alone anywhere in the country. All foreign pilots being trained in Cyprus must now be accompanied by their instructors at all times.
Bill on Passport Ban for Turkish Cypriots Withdrawn
Following a strong outcry from opposition leaders and trade unions in northern Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriot administration withdrew a bill from further consideration by its legislative body that would have criminalized possession of a passport issued by the Republic of Cyprus.
If the bill had become law, all holders of Cyprus passports in northern Cyprus would have been required to turn them over to Turkish Cypriot authorities within 30 days. Failure to do so would have resulted in a fine of about $1,200 and/or five years in prison. The bill would also have allowed Turkish Cypriot authorities to restrict or ban Turkish Cypriots from leaving northern Cyprus or from traveling to certain countries. Several Turkish Cypriot opposition leaders had stated that they would refer the issue to international courts if the bill had become law.
Applications for Cyprus passports by Turkish Cypriots have more than tripled this year with the likelihood that the country will be asked to join the EU at the end of 2002. Following accession, bearers of the passports would be allowed to live and work anywhere in the EU.
Cyprus Slated to Become Natural Gas Supplier to EU
Nicosia, Cairo, and Damascus are moving ahead with plans that could transform Cyprus, as a future European Union member, into a supplier of natural gas to the EU by 2006.
In October, Cyprus Commerce and Industry Minister Nicos Rolandis met with Egyptian Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy and Syrian Energy Minister Mohammed Jamal in Cairo to discuss this possibility and a proposal to carry out joint exploration for oil and gas deposits believed to exist in the Mediterranean off these countries’ shores. The three delegations will hold future talks by the end of the year in Syria and early next year in Cyprus.
The three countries have established a committee that will proceed in 2002 with delimiting the continental shelf of each country and defining the offshore economic exclusion zones between Cyprus and Egypt and between Cyprus and Syria to allow joint exploration of the oil and gas deposits to go ahead. Talks on these matters are also expected to involve Israel.
The ministers discussed the possibility that Egyptian gas could be exported to Cyprus through a proposed underwater pipeline from the Syrian Port of Baniyas, where the gas will have arrived via a grid linking Egypt with Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, to be built over a four-year period. The gas could then be liquefied in Cyprus and shipped to EU countries. In January 2001, Egypt reached a $1 billion agreement with Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria concerning construction of a pipeline to supply them with gas.
Terrorist Attacks Denounced
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides condemned the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States and said the Cyprus government pledged to cooperate fully with the U.S. administration and all other governments engaged in the battle against terrorism.
The government said the attacks were an assault on the international legal order, democracy, freedom, and the right to life, adding that they underscored the need for the members of the international community to redouble their efforts in a more systematic and coordinated manner to fight terrorism.
Cyprus's National Council, comprised of the eight parties represented in parliament, also unanimously condemned the attacks.
Support for Counter-Terrorism Steps
Cyprus will allow its airspace and airport facilities to be used by the U.S. air force for Washington's anti-terrorist operations. Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou stated that the U.S. government had asked the Cyprus government for permission to use air corridors over Cyprus and have landing rights in the country for an unspecified period of time.
Cyprus Defense Minister Socrates Hasikos said that Cyprus would take into consideration any European Union decision to contribute to such operations or a request to use facilities already offered by Nicosia to the rapid deployment force being established by the EU under its European Security and Defense Policy. As a candidate for EU membership, Cyprus has pledged the use of facilities such as airports, ports, and radar for potential EU military operations in the broader region.
Britain's two bases in Cyprus, which were established as British sovereign territory under the 1960 Treaty of Establishment creating the independent Republic of Cyprus, are expected to constitute an important listening post and staging area for operations in response to the attacks on the U.S., given Britain's support for Washington's counter-terrorism campaign.
Attempt to Restart U.N. Peace Talks Fails
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's attempt to restart peace negotiations failed when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash rejected his invitation to travel to New York for indirect talks with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides on September 12.
Denktash declared that no common ground had been established for a new round of talks since November 2000, when he withdrew from the negotiations after five rounds that began in December 1999, declaring them to be unproductive. He continued to call for recognition of the Turkish Cypriot administration as a state.
Although Clerides accepted Annan's invitation to resume negotiations, his September 11 flight to New York was diverted to Canada and his meeting with the secretary general was canceled. The U.N. Security Council expressed "disappointment at the unjustified decision" by the Turkish side to reject the invitation.
In a surprise move, Denktash told Annan's special envoy to Cyprus Alvaro de Soto that he would like to meet face-to-face with Clerides secretly for a discussion to prepare common ground for resumption of the talks. Clerides rejected the proposal as not conforming to the parameters set for the negotiations by the U.N. and the international community. Clerides and Denktash have not met face-to-face since 1997 during U.N.-sponsored talks.
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit declared publicly that Ankara backed Denktash's stance, noting that the Turkish Cypriot leader had consulted with Turkey before refusing Annan's invitation.
With Cyprus edging closer to European Union membership, possibly as soon as 2003, the EU has increasingly urged Turkey to encourage Denktash to return to peace talks to take advantage of the opportunity to work toward a settlement before Nicosia's accession.
Economic Anxiety Triggers Challenge to Turkish Cypriot Leadership
Reflecting growing opposition among Turkish Cypriots to Denktash's policies, several political party leaders in northern Cyprus have publicly criticized the Turkish Cypriot leader for refusing to accept Annan's invitation to return to the negotiating table.
Republican Turkish Party Chairman Mehmet Ali Talat stated that the Turkish Cypriot community's economic prospects will be endangered if northern Cyprus is left out of Cyprus's accession to the EU. He pointed out that Denktash's decision not to return to peace negotiations endangered Turkey's EU accession course as well. Patriotic Union Movement leader Izzet Izcan stated that Denktash's decision was contrary to the wishes of the majority of Turkish Cypriots.
Most of the Turkish Cypriot opposition parties, unions, and non-governmental organizations have united on a common platform called the Group of 41. Denktash has openly supported the National Patriotic Movement, created in response to the opposition group in order to eliminate criticism of Turkey in northern Cyprus.
Northern Cyprus, which uses the Turkish lira, has limited agricultural production and industry, and relies largely on imports from Turkey. Its economy has been hard hit by Turkey's financial crisis and the 50 percent devaluation of the lira against the dollar. Many small businesses in northern Cyprus have closed as a result of the crisis.
Turkey has been pressuring the Turkish Cypriot administration to cut back on its expenses, decrease social expenditures, and increase the retirement age. Inflation in northern Cyprus, which receives economic assistance from Turkey, is hovering around 100 percent. The implementation of a new austerity package, imposed by Turkey, could prompt further social unrest among Turkish Cypriots.
A growing number of Turkish Cypriots are applying for passports from the Cyprus government, with the hope of leaving the north. The number of applications rose from about 450 during the first half of 2000 to about 800 the first half of this year.
European Parliament Warnings on Turkish Positions
The European Parliament adopted a resolution on the status of Cyprus's European Union accession negotiations stating that Turkey's bid for membership in the European Union would be ended if Ankara were to carry out its "threat of annexing" northern Cyprus as its 82nd province, in clear breach of international law, in response to Cyprus's expected accession to the bloc.
Ankara reacted angrily to the resolution, drafted by the European Parliament's rapporteur on Cyprus, Jacques Poos of Luxembourg, stating that it had never had plans to annex northern Cyprus.
The resolution also reaffirmed that a political settlement in Cyprus would not be a precondition for its accession to the EU, although such a solution prior to accession would be desirable. In addition, it "deplored" Denktash's withdrawal from settlement negotiations and urged him to participate in a new round of talks.
The resolution expressed the European Parliament's concern over the intimidation of Turkish Cypriot supporters of Cyprus's EU accession by "a recently established nationalist organization with official backing" in northern Cyprus, an apparent reference to the National Patriotic Movement.
U.N. Effort Toward Resumption of Settlement Talks
The U.N. is undertaking a major effort to restart settlement talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash aimed at resolving the Cyprus impasse after a 10-month lapse in negotiations. In late August, the effort was officially launched with a meeting between Denktash and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in Salzburg, Austria, followed by U.N. envoy Alvaro de Soto's discussions with Clerides and Denktash in Cyprus.
The format of the anticipated negotiations is expected to be similar to that of the five rounds of "proximity talks" conducted in 2000, when U.N. mediators shuttled between rooms in which the representatives of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities remained separated. The U.N. has suggested that they be called "indirect talks" to denote that incremental progress has occurred since last year's talks folded.
Denktash, backed by Ankara, pulled out of the talks last November, declaring them unproductive. He has continued to insist that the breakaway state in northern Cyprus be recognized before any negotiations can resume. He has sought a new basis for the talks, while the Cyprus government has insisted that they pick up where they left off within the parameters of U.N. resolutions, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the EU's acquis communautaire, the complete body of the EU's legislation. Denktash has stated that he will make no concessions concerning his demand for equal sovereignty for the north.
There is a greater sense of urgency in the international community that progress needs to be made in reaching a political settlement in Cyprus as the European Union's vote on the country's accession to the bloc, expected in December 2002, draws near. If Cyprus joins the EU without a settlement in place, Ankara has threatened to integrate northern Cyprus with Turkey to an extent that will mirror Cyprus's integration with the EU.
Oil Exploration with Syria in the Offing
Cyprus has agreed to work with Syria in the search for undersea oil and gas reserves believed to be located in the 62-mile stretch of the Mediterranean Sea between the two countries.
During a visit by Syria's Petroleum Minister, Mohammed Maher Jamal, to Nicosia to meet with Cyprus Minister of Commerce Nicos Rolandis, the officials said the two governments hoped to conclude an accord by the end of the year that would delineate the countries' continental shelves and delimit the economic exclusion zones of each country. Demarcation of these zones is expected to involve discussions with Egypt, Lebanon, and Israel.
Because of the possibility that oil and gas deposits exist in other areas of the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus is also expected to pursue talks with Egypt, Lebanon, and Israel concerning potential joint exploration activity. An agreement was signed between Nicosia and Cairo earlier this year on similar cooperation.
Rolandis and Jamal also discussed the possibility that Syria could supply natural gas to Cyprus, a project requiring the construction of a $250 million pipeline between the two countries.
Denktash stated that the continental shelf and economic exclusion zone of Cyprus should be determined through agreements with all countries in the region, including Turkey, and with the Turkish Cypriot administration. He said that the Turkish Cypriot "state" has equal sovereignty rights over the seabed off the coast of Cyprus.
Narrow Communist Election Win in Parliament
An official of the euro-communist party, AKEL, was elected president of Cyprus's House of Representatives for the first time since the country gained independence in 1960, following AKEL's narrow victory over Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides' ruling party in parliamentary elections. Dimitris Christofias replaced outgoing parliament president Spyros Kyprianou of the Democratic Party (DIKO).
Elections for the House are viewed as a test run for the national presidential election, to be held by February 2003, suggesting that the race between coalitions led by both parties will be close. Clerides is constitutionally barred from seeking a third five-year term. Cyprus, with its presidential system, has no prime minister.
The 34.7 percent lead of AKEL, the Cyprus Progressive Party of the Working People, over the ruling center-right Democratic Rally's (DISY's) 34 percent marked the party's largest share of the popular vote in 20 years and the first time the party has been the top vote-getter.
Although AKEL and DISY received percentages that were close to those received in 1996, AKEL's lead has been partly attributed to the 50 percent plunge in the Cyprus stock market from 1999 to 2000.
The primary task of the new parliament will be preparing Cyprus for European Union membership, including implementing tax reform and opening the national telecommunications sector to competition. The country is expected to fulfill requirements for membership in the bloc by December 2002 and become a member by 2004.
Internal Crises Rupture Turkish Cypriot Coalition
The division that has emerged within the Turkish Cypriot administration over Cyprus's expected accession to the European Union, the search for a Cyprus settlement, and recent economic crises led to the collapse of the two-party governing coalition in northern Cyprus, led by "Prime Minister" Dervis Eroglu's center-right National Unity Party (UBP).
The turmoil in the coalition, in power since January 1999, coincided with increasing concern over whether the European Union will accept Cyprus as a member by 2004.
The UBP supports Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's withdrawal from the U.N.-sponsored proximity talks last November, his opposition to Cyprus's EU accession, and his push for a confederal solution to the Cyprus issue.
The center-left Communal Liberation Party (TKP), the other member of the coalition, led by "Deputy Prime Minister" Mustafa Akinci, believes that the Turkish Cypriot side should return to the negotiations, that Cyprus should join the EU, and that the Turkish Cypriots should reunify the country by joining with the Greek Cypriots in a federation. The TKP also wants the Turkish Cypriot administration to act more independently from Turkey by transferring the responsibility for the police and fire services from the Turkish army to the Turkish Cypriot interior ministry.
A new coalition formed between the UBP and the center-right Democratic Party, led by Salih Cosar, said that it will further integrate northern Cyprus with Turkey if Cyprus joins the European Union before Turkey does. Denktash wants Cyprus and Turkey to enter the European Union at the same time, allowing the reunification of the country to be discussed within the framework of the EU.
Northern Cyprus has been hit hard by the recent financial crises in Turkey, which have resulted in a 44 percent devaluation of the Turkish lira, the primary currency of the Turkish Cypriot administration.
Missing Turkish Cypriots to Remain Unidentified
Denktash said Turkish Cypriots whose relatives had disappeared after intercommunal hostilities broke out in 1963 would not provide blood samples to the Cyprus government so that they could be compared with remains in unmarked mass graves in the south believed to hold missing Turkish Cypriots.
The Cyprus government had initially announced that it would open the graves, the first believed to contain Turkish Cypriot remains. It later stated that it was rethinking its plans after Denktash refused to cooperate with the investigation, which cannot be conducted without relatives' blood samples.
Since 1999, a Physicians for Human Rights forensics team and scientists from the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics have been opening graves in two makeshift cemeteries in the government-controlled region and have been using DNA testing to identify the remains of Greeks and Greek Cypriots buried after the 1974 Turkish invasion.
A total of 108 persons in the graves have been identified, 26 of whom were on the list of about 1,600 Greek Cypriots, Greeks, and Americans designated as missing since the invasion. The Turkish Cypriots say 804 of their own have been missing since 1963.
In 1997, a U.N.-brokered agreement was concluded between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Denktash for the exchange of information on missing persons from both sides. Cooperation on the Turkish Cypriot side has been limited, with the exhumation process being carried out only in the south. A recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of failing to conduct an effective investigation in the north to clarify the fate of Greek Cypriot missing persons.
British Military Presence Sparks New Protests
Britain's right to construct new 300-foot military antennae at the British Royal Air Force Base at AkrotiriCyprusas part of a British strategic global communications and intelligence-gathering network, is being challenged by Greek Cypriots who claim that the installations will create electromagnetic fields that will endanger nearby residents and migratory birds.
Some 500 Greek Cypriots opposed to the erection of the antennae stormed a military police station and set fire to vehicles and other equipment at the base. They were protesting the arrest of Cyprus parliamentarian Marios Matsakis by base police for trying to break into the compound while leading a demonstration against the planned communications towers. About 40 people, including 27 British policemen, were injured in the riot, which resulted in the release of Matsakis.
Afterward, Britain and Cyprus agreed to commission a joint study on possible health risks to local residents from the new antennae, slated for completion in 2004, by testing electromagnetic emissions from smaller existing antennae at the base.
The base is one of two British Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus that cover about 100 square miles and house about 4,000 British military personnel and their families. Britain retained sovereignty over the bases when it granted independence to Cyprus in 1960 and is one of the guarantor powers of the country's independence, along with Greece and Turkey.
The bases are critical to London's electronic intelligence-gathering in the Middle East, Russia, and North Africa, and have been used as a staging area for military operations in the Middle East, such as the 1956 Suez crisis and the 1991 Gulf War.
May / June 2001
Despite Ban, Turkish Cypriot Passport Requests Increasing
The Cyprus government has reported a significant increase in the number of Turkish Cypriots applying for Cypriot passports in the first four months of 2001 in comparison to last year, despite Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's prohibition against the procurement of passports by residents of northern Cyprus.
About 250 passports were issued to Turkish Cypriots by the end of April, compared to 400 for all of the year 2000. At this rate, another 750 Turkish Cypriots will hold Cypriot passports at year's end, an 88 percent increase over last year, far exceeding earlier annual increases of 10 to 15 percent.
The trend has been linked to the spillover of the economic crisis in Turkey into northern Cyprus and to the possibility that Cyprus could join the EU within three years. Turkish Cypriots are apparently seeking the privileges that will accompany the holder of a Cypriot passport after the country becomes a member of the EU, including the right to travel, live, and be employed anywhere within the bloc.
The requirements for obtaining passports are the same for both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, including possession of a Cypriot identity card, and applicants must apply for the passports at a Cypriot embassy or at the Nicosia passport office. Because the Turkish Cypriot administration does not permit Turkish Cypriots to travel to the south, they obtain passports by submitting applications through middlemen or by applying for them in person at Cypriot embassies in Britain and Germany, which recognize travel documents issued by the Turkish Cypriot administration.
May / June 2001
European Court Criticizes Handling of Turkish Cypriot Detainees
The European Court of Human Rights found the Cyprus government guilty of human rights violations stemming from police mistreatment of nine Turkish Cypriots while they were being detained in the southern part of the country in 1994. The group had entered the south from northern Cyprus to look for work.
The court said the brutality did not constitute torture but was serious enough to be considered inhuman behavior. It said Greek Cypriot police expelled the Turkish Cypriots from the government-controlled region, telling them that they would be killed if they returned. The judges also found that the nine had been forced to sign statements saying they were returning to northern Cyprus voluntarily. Cyprus was ordered to pay about $30,000 to each of the eight surviving plaintiffs and the family of the ninth, who has since died.
The Cyprus government said it respected the court's decision and would work to ensure that such incidents do not recur.
Powell Pushes U.N. Framework for Solution
During an April meeting between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides in Washington, Powell expressed the support of the United States for continuation of the U.N.-led proximity talks aimed at a settlement in Cyprus.
In earlier talks in March, Powell told Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem that the United States would like to see the stalled proximity talks move forward with the return of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to the negotiating table.
Kasoulides stressed that Cyprus considered the republic's anticipated accession to the European Union to be a significant factor that could act as a catalyst for breaking the current deadlock in negotiations. He said the Cyprus government believed that, as the deadline for a decision on accession approached, progress would be made in the negotiations as the Turkish side realized that all Cypriots can benefit from joining the European Union once there is a political settlement. Kasoulides noted that EU membership would address the security concerns of both the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The minister referred to this potential EU accession as the only "leverage" that existed in the process of working toward resolution of the Cyprus question.
A decision on Nicosia's accession to the bloc is expected by the end of 2002. At the European Union summit in Helsinki in December 1999, the EU declared that a political settlement in Cyprus would not be a precondition for its accession to the bloc.
Cooperation with Belgrade on Money-Laundering Probe
The Central Bank of Cyprus has turned over 25 boxes of documents to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague concerning possible money-laundering by former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and his associates, widening the ongoing investigation into the illegal transfer of an estimated $1 billion out of Yugoslavia while he was in office.
In April, Nicosia announced that the government's anti-fraud unit had uncovered two suspicious cases in which Yugoslav funds had been channeled through banks in Cyprus and transferred to other countries, though there was no evidence that Cypriots had been involved in the transfer of funds or that any law had been violated. The anti-fraud authorities concluded that, with regard to the evidence collected in these cases, which was sent to Belgrade, Cyprus had not disregarded its obligations to any international conventions. Cyprus Foreign Minister Kasoulides said all transactions that had taken place under the Central Bank of Cyprus appeared to be justified according to international laws and standards.
During the March visit of Yugoslav central bank governor Mladjan Dinkic to Nicosia, Cypriot authorities and Dinkic discussed the legal channels through which requests from Belgrade concerning Yugoslav funds would be forwarded to the Yugoslav capital.
Dinkic has initially sought the cooperation of authorities in Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and Switzerland, believed to be principal conduits for the laundering of funds taken out of Yugoslavia. Belgrade authorities are also in the process of expanding the investigation to other suspected destinations, including France, Germany, and Italy.
In October 2000, war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte gave Cypriot authorities a list of offshore accounts she wanted investigated. Cyprus immediately froze up to 15 accounts that the tribunal suspected of having links with Milosevic. In addition, it blocked the arrival of a banker connected to the Milosevic government and revoked the Beogradska Bank's operating license. More than 7,500 offshore companies are registered in Cyprus.
Northern Cyprus Rocked by Turkish Crisis
The abrupt devaluation of the Turkish lira as a result of steps taken by Turkey to curb the effects of its economic crisis shook northern Cyprus, where the lira is the official currency. (See Turkey section.) Currency transactions were frozen, prices of goods doubled overnight, and bank account holders saw their savings plummet in value.
There was general uncertainty over the future of the Turkish Cypriot economy, which is heavily subsidized by Ankara, as a result of the crisis. Economists feared that the situation could result in another banking crisis in the occupied region, particularly among Turkish banks with large foreign currency commitments. The Turkish Cypriot administration is slowly making payments to 30,000 people who lost a total of $200 million last year when six banks in the region collapsed and were taken over by the administration.
Union Protests Ankara's Dominance in the North
Police in northern Cyprus raided the offices of the Turkish Cypriot Teachers Union and questioned 30 of its officials after the union publicly protested the Turkish government's influence over northern Cyprus, particularly its economic austerity program.
In an advertisement in the daily Avrupa newspaper, the union asserted that the Turkish Cypriot administration's policies were dictated by the army and government of Turkey and did not reflect Turkish Cypriot public opinion.
Last year, the editor of Avrupa was arrested and charged with spying after he wrote an article asserting that the administration of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash was a puppet government under the control of Ankara.
Iran Seeks Cooperation on Commerce, Culture, Science
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi met with Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides in Nicosia to discuss ways of launching joint investments between Iran and Cyprus in industry, banking, air services and commercial shipping, tourism, and energy.
The ministers also discussed the possibility of further cooperation in combating drug trafficking in the region and exchanged views on regional crises such as the turmoil between the Israelis and Palestinians and the situation in Afghanistan. The two countries will expand cooperation in the cultural and scientific sectors.
January / February 2001
Proximity Talks Jeopardized, Again
The sixth round of proximity talks, scheduled between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash at the end of January in Geneva, may be suspended as a result of Denktash's insistence, once again, on recognition of the breakaway entity in northern Cyprus as a precondition for his participation. He said he would talk to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in Geneva only if Clerides were not there at the same time, despite the urgings of the U.S. and Britain to continue the talks. Clerides and Denktash have participated in five rounds of proximity talks that began in December 1999 under U.N. auspices.
Denktash told the National Security Council in Ankara that his decision stemmed from his belief that the indirect talks were not making progress and that direct talks should begin on a state-to-state basis. He also told the Council that the EU's plan to admit Cyprus as part of the first wave of enlargement within several years was an injustice to Turkish Cypriots. The Cyprus government has stated that its application to join the EU foresaw that all of Cyprus would accede to the bloc, including the Turkish Cypriot area.
The tense climate between the two Cypriot communities has been exacerbated by reciprocal arrests of individuals from both communities on drug charges. A Turkish Cypriot was first arrested by Cyprus government authorities and will remain in custody until his trial by a Cyprus court on charges of drug trafficking and possession of drugs on January 29.
Eleven days later, a Greek Cypriot was arrested by Turkish Cypriots and will be tried in northern Cyprus on the same charges in mid-February. Cyprus government officials said the man was abducted from British Sovereign Bases territory. They believed that the abduction was carried out to force the release of the Turkish Cypriot. British base police said they found no evidence to suggest that the Greek Cypriot had drugs in his possession. London has joined Nicosia in urging his release. The Cyprus government has appealed to the U.N., the Council of Europe, and Amnesty International to take measures to expedite the man's release.
January / February 2001
Belgrade Allegations of Aiding Milosevic Money Laundering
Yugoslavia's Central Bank Governor Mladjan Dinkic said the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) provided evidence to indicate that more than $1 billion in Yugoslav public funds had been funneled through banks in Cyprus on behalf of associates of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic during the 1990s before being transferred to other destinations. He said it was the first major evidence that large amounts of public funds had been taken out of Yugoslavia by the Milosevic regime.
Dinkic said investigators had not determined the current location of the funds. The Yugoslav government seeks to repatriate the funds, and the U.S. Treasury agency has reportedly offered its cooperation. The investigation involved examining bank accounts and internal bank records in both Yugoslavia and Cyprus, with the cooperation of authorities in both countries. Nicosia is expected to investigate OFAC's findings.
The governor of the Cyprus Central Bank, Afxentis Afxentiou, said that the Cyprus government's investigation into Milosevic's alleged connection with the Cyprus bank accounts of 12 companies, which was concluded prior to OFAC's investigation, had found no incriminating evidence. Nicosia's investigation was carried out at the request of Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. During the Kosovo war, NATO spokesmen accused Bogoljub Karica minister without portfolio under Milosevic, of attempting to launder money through Cyprus.
January / February 2001
Multi-Year Aid Package to Bolster Northern Cyprus Economy
As the only country to recognize northern Cyprus as a sovereign state, Turkey, in January, announced a $350 million, three-year aid package for the Turkish Cypriot administration. The package will help develop the region's agricultural infrastructure, tourism, light industry, and institutions of higher learning. In addition, it will help buffer the economy of the region as it implements an economic austerity program through an agreement with Turkey. The package is separate from Turkey's annual financial assistance to the Turkish Cypriot administration, which will be $180 million for 2001. Most of Ankara's regular annual assistance is provided in the form of improvements in the region's infrastructure.
As part of the package, Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots agreed to create a joint economic zone to facilitate the movement of goods, services, and capital between Turkey and northern Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriot administration exports textiles, manufactured goods, and food products to Turkey. The illegal status of the Turkish Cypriot area prevents other countries from maintaining regular trade relations with the region.
January / February 2001
Turkish Cypriots Protest Stringent Economic Measures
Some 40 trade unions and organizations staged a week-long general strike in northern Cyprus in December to protest economic austerity measures aimed at cutting public expenses and boosting the region's economy. Future strikes are also planned.
Public services, schools, and electric power generation facilities came to a halt as public sector workers demonstrated in opposition to measures such as higher taxes; higher electricity, water, and natural gas costs to offset lower subsidies for these services; and the administration's decision to stop adjusting salaries against inflation, which is about 40 percent.
There is virtually no unemployment among those who work as laborers or in the service sector, but there are few jobs for university graduates, who tend to seek employment elsewhere.
In November, the Turkish Cypriot administration began to make regular payments of about $240 a month to 30,000 people who lost a total of $200 million last year when six banks collapsed and were taken over by the administration. Four of the banks are still in receivership, while the opening of the other two has been approved. Turkish Cypriot authorities have begun prosecuting those responsible for the collapse of the banks.
November / December 2000
Fifth Round of Peace Talks Ends Quietly
The fifth round of peace talks, held in early November, ended without any significant developments between the two sides, represented by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said the sixth round would take place in Geneva in late January, and the format would continue to be proximity talks.
Annan said the talks had taken up substance and the parties were quite engaged, which he described as "good progress." The secretary general's special advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, will visit Athens, Ankara, and Nicosia in December.
November / December 2000
First Participation in European Military Exercise
Officers from the Cypriot National Guard participated in a European joint military exercise held in Austria within the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, marking the first time that National Guard members took part in an international exercise.
Also taking part in the exercise were Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, and Ukraine. The exercise was part of efforts underway to set up a European military force as part of the European Union's plan for a common security and defense policy. Cyprus, as a candidate for EU membership, has participated twice in meetings concerning the establishment of the force.
November / December 2000
Joint Exercise with Greece Brings Turkish Reaction
Greek fighter jets on their way to Cyprus to participate in a military exercise with Greek Cypriot forces were buzzed by Turkish jets, resulting in mock dogfights between the Greek and Turkish warplanes. In addition, Greek Cypriot anti-aircraft radar, part of the recently supplied Russian TOR-M1 missile systems, locked on to two Turkish F-16 fighter planes flying close to an air base in the western Cypriot town of Paphos.
The exercise, "Nikiforos-Toxotis," has been held annually for the past few years as part of Greece's defense pact with Cyprus. Turkey also staged its own maneuvers, codenamed "Toros," in the Turkish-occupied region of Cyprus.
November / December 2000
War Crimes Tribunal Calls for Freeze on Serb Accounts
Cyprus imposed a freeze on the bank accounts of 10 to 15 Serbian businesses at the request of Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the U.N. war crimes tribunal, which is investigating the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic. The tribunal suspects that the businesses may have ties to Milosevic. They were included in a list given to Cypriot authorities by Del Ponte during a visit to Cyprus, part of a tour of countries in the region to gather information about Milosevic's financial dealings.
In the past, the tribunal has asked Cyprus to investigate whether Milosevic and his closet associates maintained bank accounts in Cyprus. Although Nicosia authorities said no such accounts were found, the Cyprus Central Bank ordered a freeze on capital from Yugoslavia, estimated at over $150 million, immediately after Milosevic's electoral defeat.
November / December 2000
Clinton Regrets Lack of Cyprus Settlement
President Clinton said the fact that more progress had not been made to resolve the Cyprus issue during his eight years in office was one of his disappointments as president. He said he intended to continue working on the problem after he leaves office.
The president said it made no sense in the larger context of the futures of Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus to maintain the present impasse with all the conflicts and estrangement it has brought. He added that Turkey should be integrated into Europe, while Turkey and Greece should be natural allies after a half century of membership in the NATO alliance.
Hint of Substantive Progress in Talks
By the end of the fourth round of U.N.-sponsored proximity talks on Cyprus in New York in September, Alvaro de Soto, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Special Advisor for Cyprus, said that a “qualitative step forward” had taken place. He noted that Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash had engaged in “substance” during the talks in a way that had not occurred in previous rounds. De Soto, the chief U.N. negotiator, added that there was still a long way to go in reaching a settlement. A fifth round of negotiations is scheduled to take place from November 1 through 10 in Geneva. A sixth round may take place in early January in New York.
During the talks, Clerides reportedly rejected an informal suggestion put forward by the U.N. proposing the establishment of a presidency that would rotate between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots within a federal state. Denktash supports the idea.
Denktash told journalists that Turkish Cypriots would never allow the guarantee system for Cyprus to be changed. Under the Treaty of Guarantee, one of the treaties establishing the independence of Cyprus in 1960, Britain, Greece, and Turkey were named guarantor powers and were given the right to intervene if the independence and territorial integrity of the country were threatened.
Misimpressions Nearly Derail Negotiations
The fourth round of talks got off to a rocky start when Clerides boycotted two days of negotiations in reaction to statements by Annan that were perceived as pro-Turkish.
Annan stated to both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot parties that “each represents its side - and no one else - as the political equal of the other” to bring about a “settlement enshrining a new partnership on which to build a better future . . . on a united island.” Annan added that the “equal status of the parties must and should be recognized explicitly” in the comprehensive settlement that emerges from the negotiations.
Both sides interpreted Annan’s statements as a U.N. move toward backing the Turkish Cypriot demand for a confederation of two independent states in Cyprus. That position has been rejected by the Greek Cypriot side, which continues to work toward a bizonal, bicommunal federation in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolutions. The absence of any reference by Annan to the Greek Cypriot goal or to U.N. resolutions in his statements reinforced this interpretation.
The Greek Cypriot side perceived the statements as an effort to diminish the status of the internationally recognized government of all of Cyprus and equate it with the unilaterally declared breakaway entity in the Turkish-occupied zone, referred to by Turkish Cypriots as the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)” and recognized only by Turkey. However, the 1977 high-level agreement between Archbishop Makarios, then president of Cyprus, and Denktash indicates that political equality of the two sides has long been considered a target of the negotiations. The Greek Cypriots objected to the idea implied in Annan’s statements that the Cyprus government represents only the Greek Cypriot community.
Clerides agreed to return to the talks after the U.N. assured him that it ruled out recognition of the “TRNC” and that the negotiations were being conducted within the framework outlined in U.N. resolutions on Cyprus, which reject a union of two independent states.
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit regarded Annan’s statements as U.N. recognition of “separate identities and sovereignty” in Cyprus. Denktash said the statements constituted a move in the right direction but would not result in his agreeing to enter into direct negotiations with Clerides because they did not include explicit recognition of the “TRNC.” Denktash also wants Clerides to publicly declare that he is not the president of all of Cyprus.
Clerides may have been compelled to remain in New York for continued proximity talks, despite increasing frustration at home, given the close European Union monitoring of the pace of negotiations on the part of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. In addition to a political settlement in Cyprus, Nicosia’s paramount foreign policy objective is accession to the EU, preferably by 2005.
Fourth Round of Peace Talks in September
The third round of U.N.-ponsored peace talks in seven months ended in Geneva with no sign of an imminent breakthrough. Both Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash committed themselves to a fourth round in New York, which will begin on September 12 and is expected to run into October.
Clerides expressed frustration over the fact that the negotiations in New York would continue to be proximity talks, in which U.N. officials shuttle between the two delegations, which are positioned in separate locations. Clerides wants direct talks. Denktash has refused to negotiate face-to-face with Clerides until his administration in the occupied region is recognized as a separate state.
Bicommunal Contacts Sputter as Talks Stalemate
Goodwill visits between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities were canceled in the wake of a forward move in June by Turkish troops into the village of Strovilia in the Green Line. Cyprus government officials said they would not allow 800 Turkish Cypriots to visit a village in the south unless these troops withdrew to their original positions north of the buffer zone. Some 1,600 Greek Cypriots were also to have visited a monastery in the occupied region.
Such bicommunal exchanges have taken place on a limited basis over the last few years despite Denktash's prohibition on contacts imposed in late 1997. The prohibition has been eased since Turkey was named a candidate for EU membership last December.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan sent a letter to the president of the Security Council asking for the status quo in Strovilia to be restored and protesting the restrictions placed on the movements of peacekeepers by the Turkish Cypriot authorities.
Financial Crisis Ignites Turkish Cypriot Unrest
An unprecedented political and economic crisis has emerged over a banking scandal in the Turkish Cypriot community, highlighting the north's economic stagnation and exacerbating rifts among the elected officials of the self-declared "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," recognized only by Turkey.
Some 2,000 Turkish Cypriots broke down police barriers, while several dozen occupied the north's parliament building, to protest the administration's failure to fully reimburse some $200 million lost by 30,000 depositors following the collapse of six banks earlier this year. The demonstration, calling for the resignation of Turkish Cypriot officials, was considered the most violent Turkish Cypriot protest since the end of British colonial rule in 1960.
Demonstrations are rare in the Turkish-occupied area, populated by 35,000 Turkish soldiers, 100,000 Turkish Cypriots, and 80,000 settlers from Turkey. One member of almost every family in northern Cyprus was a victim of the banking crisis.
Denktash echoed the protestors' call for the resignation of Dervis Eroglu, the Turkish Cypriot prime minister, for failing to resolve the crisis. Denktash considers Eroglu, a former protigi, to be his primary political adversary in the north. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit accused the Turkish Cypriot administration of economic mismanagement and suggested that further Turkish support for the region would be closely monitored. Eroglu said the owners and boards of the failed banks would be tried for criminal conduct.
The Turkish Cypriot administration has depended on economic aid from Turkey for its survival since 1974, already receiving $189 million this year. In June, Ankara recommended that the regime undertake austerity measures to invigorate the economy, leading civil servants in northern Cyprus to fear that they will lose benefits under the measures. The measures are expected to go into effect as early as September, accompanied by an additional $232 million in economic aid from Turkey.
Turkish Cypriots Challenge Authority of Turkish Army
An almost-unheard-of disagreement between the Turkish army contingent in northern Cyprus and Turkish Cypriot authorities occurred concerning the issue of control over the region's police and fire brigades. It was the first time that Turkish Cypriots had publicly and directly questioned the absolute authority of the Turkish military in northern Cyprus, where it is in charge of all aspects of the area's security.
The Turkish Cypriot deputy prime minister, Mustafa Akinci, called for transferring management of the two brigades from the control of the Turkish Army to that of the region's interior ministry. Although Turkey recognizes northern Cyprus as an independent state, the Turkish military commander in charge of both the 4,000-member Turkish Cypriot Security Force and the police force, Gen. Ali Nihat Ozeyranli, accused Akinci of treason and divisive policies.
The exchange between Turkish Cypriots and the Turkish Army escalated when the Turkish Cypriot newspaper Avrupa supported Akinci's position. The editor and three of the paper's journalists, among others, were arrested on orders of the Turkish military command and charged with forming an espionage ring on behalf of Greek Cypriots. A Turkish Cypriot court freed them, pending trial.
Political parties, trade unions, and nongovernmental organizations in northern Cyprus responded by organizing a rally that drew 8,000 people to denounce the arrests and demand the replacement of Gen. Ozeyranli and the resignation of Denktash.
Ruling Opens Door to Turkish Cypriot Trade
A July ruling by the EU's Court of Justice legalized Turkish Cypriot exports of citrus fruit to EU countries through Turkey as long as Turkish authorities provide plant safety certificates to accompany the fruit.
EU countries have imported produce from northern Cyprus since 1994 despite a ruling that year by the Court banning the importation of fruit unless health certificates were issued by the Republic of Cyprus. From 1983 to 1994, fruit from northern Cyprus had been shipped to the EU directly or through Turkey carrying the label Turkish Re-public of Northern Cyprus." A 1976 EU directive had indicated that EU member states could not import citrus fruit without safety certificates issued by government authorities in the place of origin. The EU recognizes the Republic of Cyprus as the legitimate government of the entire island.
OECD Warning Forces Stricter Tax Enforcement
Cyprus will introduce measures to meet the requirements of an international campaign against tax evasion led by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The OECD said it would include Cyprus in a list of 35 offshore tax havens unless the measures were taken. The government said it would meet the organization's requirements by 2005.
More than 40,000 offshore companies registered in Cyprus contribute over $237 million yearly to the Cypriot economy. However, the country has been given a poor rating on financial supervision by the Financial Stability Forum, launched by the G7 group of industrialized nations after the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
Abolishing the favorable tax status enjoyed by offshore companies will enhance Cyprus's status as a candidate for EU accession.
July / August 2000
Proximity Talks Reveal Continued Chasms
The third round of proximity talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, under the auspices of the United Nations, was launched July 5 in Geneva amid renewed tension in Cyprus over restrictions placed on the movements of peacekeepers by the Turkish Cypriots and the establishment of a new military checkpoint in the buffer zone by Turkish soldiers.
A Turkish Cypriot document presented during the talks was leaked to the press. It outlined Denktash’s proposals to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan for a confederation of two states in Cyprus. According to the document, the Turkish Cypriot side remained committed to establishing a confederation in Cyprus, a significant departure from the formation of a bicommunal, bizonal federation sought by the Greek Cypriot side on the basis of U.N. Security Council resolutions and high-level agreements signed in the late 1970s by Denktash and the respective Cyprus presidents.
The latest confederal proposal reportedly includes the creation of two sovereign states that would transfer some of their sovereign powers to a weak central government, which would represent Cyprus internationally. The confederal presidency would rotate between the presidents of the two states on an annual basis. Each state would have its own domestic security forces, flags, and state mechanisms, and would have the right to sign bilateral and multilateral accords with other countries. Consensus of the two states would be required in decision-making by the confederal government. The confederal agreement would be reviewed every five years.
The Geneva talks recessed on July 12 and were to resume from July 24 through August 4. Denktash had requested a recess to allow him to return to Cyprus for events in the northern Turkish-occupied region marking the twenty-sixth anniversary of what the Turkish side has dubbed the “Turkish peace operation,” when Turkish forces invaded Cyprus after a Greek-inspired coup. Another round of negotiations is expected to begin in New York on September 12 and continue into early October. Two previous rounds took place in December and February.
July / August 2000
U.N. Peacekeepers Under Turkish Cypriot Restrictions
The Turkish Cypriots imposed restrictions on the operation of the United Nations peacekeeping force (UNFICYP) in the occupied region to protest the U.N.’s decision to drop an addendum, sought by the Turkish Cypriots, from the June report accompanying the resolution to extend UNFICYP’s mandate for another six months.
The Cyprus government had said the addendum would grant indirect recognition to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot entity by suggesting that Turkish Cypriot approval was needed for the force to operate in Cyprus. To date, official U.N. consultations concerning the force have been conducted solely with the Cyprus government in Nicosia.
Nicosia threatened to veto the extension of UNFICYP’s mandate and end the 36-year stay of the 1,240-member force, one of the oldest peacekeeping forces in the world, if the addendum was not dropped. Denktash considered the addendum, which referred to the Turkish Cypriot demand for separate consultations between UNFICYP and “Turkish Cypriot Authorities,” to be a long-overdue U.N. acknowledgment of northern Cyprus as a de facto authority on the island. A similar disagreement broke out when UNFICYP’s mandate was renewed last December. (See Strategic Regional Report, January 2000, Volume 5, Issue 1.) The force’s mandate is routinely renewed every six months.
The Turkish Cypriot restrictions on UNFICYP, as of June 30, require U.N. soldiers to cross the “Green Line” into the occupied area through a single point at the Ledra Palace gate in Nicosia, insure their vehicles with Turkish Cypriot insurance companies, and pay the Turkish Cypriots for the water and electricity they use in camps north of the U.N. buffer zone. Previously, the force was able to enter the buffer zone through a dozen crossing points.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s special representative in Cyprus, Zbigniew Wlosowicz, who is also the chief of UNFICYP, lodged a formal protest with Denktash saying that the restrictions would create obstacles for the smooth operation of the force. Denktash warned that further measures could be taken against UNFICYP if the U.N. does not acknowledge the existence of a Turkish Cypriot state in northern Cyprus.
July / August 2000
Turkish Move into Green Line Sparks U.N., Greek Reaction
Turkish troops advanced 300 yards into the U.N. buffer zone and set up a new checkpoint on a road leading into the village of Strovilia, home to nine Greek Cypriots, in the southeastern section of the 108-mile zone. The move effectively put the village under Turkish control and was aimed at imposing further restrictions on the activities of UNFICYP.
As a result of the checkpoint, peacekeepers’ access to the village was significantly regulated, whereas it had previously been unrestricted. The action was not intended to hamper the movement of the village’s Greek Cypriot inhabitants, who have not been harassed by the troops. Turkish and Turkish Cypriot flags were raised over the checkpoint.
The Cyprus government sent a letter to the U.N. demanding that the situation be reversed to its original status. The issue is being handled for the U.N. by Annan’s special representative in Cyprus and chief of UNFICYP, Zbigniew Wlosowicz, who protested strongly to Turkish Cypriot leaders and asked them to withdraw the troops to their original position. Greece asked Annan to personally deal with the situation.
Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos called for a “freeze” in the dialogue between Greece and Turkey as a protest against the illegal movement of Turkish troops into the buffer zone. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the situation could develop into an obstacle for Turkey’s EU accession course. Denktash criticized the Greek government’s statements, saying that Athens should not interfere in U.N. activities.
July /August 2000
Seond Anti-Crime Treaty with U.S. for Senate Ratification
Two treaties signed with Washington will step up bilateral cooperation in countering criminal activity and prosecuting a wide variety of offenses, including terrorism and other violent crimes, organized crime, drug-trafficking activity, and white collar crime, such as money laundering.
The treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters was signed in December 1999 and was sent to the U.S. Senate for ratification in July. The treaty on extradition went into force in September 1999.The mutual legal assistance treaty provides a framework for cooperative efforts, including transferring persons in custody for testimony, taking testimony, executing searches and seizures, and assisting in proceedings concerning the immobilization and forfeiture of assets, the collection of fines, and restitution.
July / August 2000
Advanced Anti-Tank Missiles to Counter Turkish Presence
A week before the third round of proximity talks was to begin, the Cyprus House of Representatives approved the allocation of $55 million for the purchase of new Franco-German Milan 3 anti-tank missile systems, built by Euromissile.
The Milan 3, considered to be one of the world’s leading anti-tank missiles, is the most significant defense acquisition since Cyprus ordered Russian S-300 anti-aircraft systems in 1997. They were diverted to the Greek island of Crete in December 1998 after Turkey threatened to take military action to prevent their deployment in Cyprus.
Nicosia purchased the systems as part of its continuing program to upgrade its anti-armor capability because of the presence of armor-backed Turkish forces in the north. The French have agreed to train personnel to operate the systems, to be delivered to Cyprus later this year. Cyprus already has Milan 1 missile systems, supplied by France.
July / August 2000
Yugoslav Bank with Milosevic Link Ordered Closed
The Cyprus central bank ordered the closure of an offshore branch of Beogradska Banka, a Yugoslav state bank with close ties to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, on grounds that the bank was insolvent. The central bank froze about $200 million in assets belonging to the branch after a lawsuit was filed by Slovenia. During the 1990s, Milosevic reportedly used the branch to channel foreign currency reserves and money obtained in pyramid investment schemes out of Yugoslavia and into his personal estate.
The closure was lauded in Western capitals, which had criticized existing loopholes for Serbian and Russian money laundering in Cyprus. Nicosia has taken significant steps in recent years to crack down on money laundering.
May / June 2000
Third Round of Talks in July
The third round of talks on the Cyprus issue scheduled for May 23 in New York was postponed after Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides underwent intestinal surgery.
The talks, involving Clerides, 81, and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, 76, have been rescheduled for July 5 to 15 in Geneva to give the Cyprus president time to recover from the surgery. The "proximity talks" format is expected to continue in this round.
The talks have remained deadlocked over the Turkish side's insistence that the illegal Turkish Cypriot entity should be recognized internationally and that a confederal settlement should be reached rather than the federal solution stipulated in U.N. resolutions and high-level agreements in the 1970s between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
May / June 2000
EU Ponders Development Aid for Turkish Cypriots
The European Union is working with the Cyprus government to find ways to channel EU funds to the Turkish Cypriots for development projects in order to overcome economic stagnation in the occupied region, encourage Turkish Cypriots to pursue Cyprus's EU accession course, and persuade them to participate in the country's membership negotiations with the bloc. Nicosia supports the EU initiative as long as there is no implied recognition of the illegal Turkish Cypriot entity.
Clerides has urged Turkish Cypriots to take part in the EU membership negotiations, but they have declined to participate. Turkish Cypriots maintain that, since Nicosia does not represent them, the Cyprus government should revoke its EU membership application.
Denktash, who, in April, was re-elected "president" of the self-styled Turkish Cypriot entity recognized only by Turkey, said Turkish Cypriots are trying to establish direct contact with the European Union, believing that their contacts with the EU should be separate from Cyprus government talks with the bloc. Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, representing the rotating EU presidency, ruled out separate negotiations.
The volume of tourism in the occupied region, where resorts have not been upgraded for 26 years, is less than 10 percent of the 2 million visitors annually to the government-controlled area. Per capita income in the north is about $4,400 compared to more than $14,000 in the south.
March / April 2000
Greek, Turkish Cypriots Prepare for May Proximity Talks
A third round of U.N.-led proximity talks, a format with no direct contact between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, will begin in New York on May 23. The first two rounds were held in December and January.
Long-time Cyprus observers believe there is a better chance for a solution to the Cyprus problem now than there has been for many years due to improved Greek-Turkish relations, the prospect of EU accession for Cyprus and Turkey, and the re-energized involvement of leading industrial powers in seeking a solution.
Western diplomats have been urging that restrictions on movement across the Green Line, dividing the Turkish-occupied region from the government-controlled area, be relaxed in the period leading up to the May talks to improve the political atmosphere for the negotiations.
One measure being proposed is allowing tourists from the south to stay overnight in the Turkish-occupied sector to generate income for the Turkish Cypriot community, which is heavily dependent on Ankara economically. Also under consideration is the easing of restrictions on visits of Greek Cypriots to relatives living in the northeastern Karpasia peninsula, where about 400 Greek Cypriots reside.
Bicommunal contacts, both in the buffer zone and in neutral territory, have increased over the past three months, following a two-year ban on such activities by Turkish Cypriot authorities. They have included meetings of representatives of human rights associations, trade unions, youth groups, and political parties. Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots have also given blood samples in an effort to find bone marrow transplant donors for two children, one from each community in Cyprus, stricken with leukemia.
Heading into the third round of talks, Denktash continues to call for international recognition of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot entity and is urging that the illegal entity be permitted to engage in international trade to improve the living conditions of the region. The Turkish Cypriot entity is not recognized by any country except Turkey.
Clerides called for Turkey to be admitted to the EU, saying that its membership in the bloc alongside Greece and Cyprus would promote peace in the eastern Mediterranean.
March / April 2000
Number of Turkish Cypriots Seeking Residency in Government-Controlled Area Skyrockets
Since the beginning of the years, ome 200 people from the Turkish-occupied region of Cyprus, mostly Turkish Cypriots, have sought residency in the government-controlled area of the country. The number is a sharp increase over the 200 to 400 Turkish Cypriots that moved south across the Green Line in the 25-year period from the aftermath of the Turkish invasion in 1974 until late 1999.
The increase in the number of Turkish Cypriots seeking to live in the government-controlled region is attributed to poor living conditions, low pay, and an increased influx of settlers from Turkey into the occupied region. These Turkish Cypriots generally cross the Green Line at night undetected, bringing no personal belongings with them, since the Turkish Cypriot regime does not allow the inhabitants of the occupied region to move freely to the south. Cyprus government statistics for 1997 showed that 88,000 Turkish Cypriots and 114,000 settlers from Turkey live in the occupied region. Turkish Cypriots comprise only 11.8 percent of the indigenous population of the entire country.
The government said that people coming from the north who are proven to be Turkish Cypriots are citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and are entitled to the same rights as other citizens. Government welfare services provide them with food and lodging when they arrive. The government then helps them find housing in areas of their choice, usually the coastal towns of Paphos and Limassol. The government also assists them in finding jobs and provides schooling in Turkish for their children. Those found to be citizens of Turkey, who have settled in the occupied area and subsequently cross the Green Line, are considered illegal immigrants and are deported to their country of origin.
March / April 2000
Israel Relations Bloom with Milestone Visit
President Clerides’ March visit to Israel marked the first state visit of a Cyprus president to Jerusalemas follow-up to Israeli President Ezer Weizman’s trip to Nicosia in November 1998, the first by an Israeli head of state.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak briefed Clerides on peace efforts concerning Syria and the Palestinians, while Clerides reviewed the Cyprus question. Clerides reiterated Nicosia’s willingness to host the Middle East peace talks and exchanged ideas with Israeli officials regarding possible roles for the Cyprus government in this regard.
Clerides was accompanied by Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, who signed agreements with his Israeli counterpart, David Levy, concerning mutual assistance on customs issues, consultations between the countries’ foreign ministries, and cooperation in the sectors of culture, education, and science. Levy stressed Cyprus’s potential as a bridge between the Middle East and Europe regarding regional economic activity and security.
Weizman gave Clerides a tour of an air base and briefed him on recent developments in Israeli military aircraft technology. Before leaving for Israel, Clerides had stated that, although the military cooperation agreement between Israel and Turkey did not appear to endanger Cyprus, such agreements should not be made because they create blocs in the region instead of promoting peace.
Clerides also met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who urged the Cyprus president to help push the Middle East peace process forward. The Larnaca airport in Cyprus has become the first European airport to which the newly-founded Palestinian Airlines has established direct flights from Gaza.
March / April 2000
Iranian Cooperation on Regional Issues
Cyprus and Iran will expand their cooperation in combating regional drug trafficking. During a visit to Nicosia, Shahpour Emen, the director of the department of the Iranian Ministry of the Interior handling efforts to eradicate drug trafficking, said that Tehran wanted to include Cyprus in its plan to promote the exchange of information between countries in the region to facilitate law enforcement activity against the flow of illegal drugs. Iranian aviation authorities also met with Cypriot officials in Nicosia to discuss techniques to control the illegal transport of drugs.
The two countries also signed a bilateral agreement promoting cooperation in the fields of public health and medical education.
Plans Underway for Third Round of Settlement Talks
The second round of U.N.-led proximity talks from January 31 to February 8 in Geneva between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash ended with each side expressing guarded optimism about its outcome.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Special Advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, said the peace process that began in December was “on track” with a third round of talks scheduled to begin on May 23 in New York. Preliminary discussions are reportedly underway for a fourth round starting in late June. Before the second round began, Annan said he hoped a settlement would be reached by the end of the year.
During the Geneva talks, Clerides said the aim of the negotiations was not to create a new state but to amend the 1960 constitution of the Republic of Cyprus so that the present unitary system is transformed into a federal system in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolutions. He ruled out Denktash’s demand for the establishment of a confederation, saying that such a system would be tantamount to the abolition of the Republic of Cyprus. Clerides reiterated that a settlement must be based on a single sovereignty and international personality, and a single citizenship.
Denktash responded by saying that the peace talks had never aimed at amending the constitution, which he said had already been violated and abrogated by the Greek Cypriots in 1963, when they proposed amendments that were rejected by the Turkish side. He repeated his stance, backed by Turkey, that the goal of the talks must be a confederal settlement, achieved through negotiations between two states on the basis of equality. Denktash has refused to meet Clerides face-to-face unless the Turkish Cypriot entity is recognized internationally.
Analysts said that more substantive negotiations could take place in the May round of talks since it follows the April 15 elections in the Turkish Cypriot community. The key negotiating issues are security, territorial adjustment, the return of refugees and compensation for property, and the division of powers in a reunited Cyprus. Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said he was ready to travel to Ankara to meet with the Turkish leadership if invited, either officially or unofficially, to discuss the Cyprus issue.
Denktash Snubs EU Negotiator
Denktash barred visiting European Union chief negotiator for Cyprus Leopold Maurer from crossing into the Turkish-occupied northern part of the country to meet with Turkish Cypriot politicians. The Cyprus government expressed regret over Denktash’s refusal to allow the meeting to take place, saying it was contrary to the climate created after the EU named Turkey a candidate for membership at the December summit in Helsinki.
Denktash continues to reject Clerides' invitation to appoint Turkish Cypriot representatives to the Cypriot EU negotiating team, a policy he says he will follow until the Turkish Cypriot entity is recognized as a separate state. Denktash maintains that the Cyprus government’s application for EU membership is illegal since it does not represent the Turkish Cypriot community. He announced that the breakaway entity would initiate a series of direct contacts with the European Union during the first six months of 2000 in preparation for EU membership.
Bicommunal Contacts Expand with Religious Site Restoration, Political Meetings
The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities have agreed to cooperate on the restoration of two religious sites in Cyprus, following the approval of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus and Turkish Cypriot Muslim authorities. A U.N. committee dealing with the protection of cultural heritage initiated the project and will supervise the restoration with the support and financing of the U.S.
Greek Cypriots will work on the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, in the southern coastal town of Larnaca. The restoration of the Apostolos Andreas Monastery in the Turkish-occupied sector will be carried out by Turkish Cypriots. The monastery is revered as the site where the apostle St. Andrew is said to have brought forth a spring that is responsible for miraculous cures.
These sites have been the destination of pilgrims crossing the Green Line for limited visits in recent years, although Denktash banned most contact between the two communities after the December 1997 EU summit, when the Cyprus government’s successful bid to become part of the bloc’s next wave of enlargement was announced.
Officials of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot political parties, including parties in Cyprus’s ruling coalition, also held a joint meeting at the United Nations-controlled Ledra Palace Hotel in Nicosia. The next meeting is scheduled for early May. Talks between the parties had previously been held at the hotel on an irregular basis until Denktash’s banning of bicommunal contact. Parties from each side also agreed to expand the bicommunal dialogue by submitting articles for publication in the newspapers of the other community.
Turkey Lists Cyprus Exchange Rate
In what may be the first official Turkish acknowledgement of Cyprus’s currency since 1974, Turkey has included the Cyprus pound in a list of foreign exchange rates. The move was considered politically significant since Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus.
The Cyprus government welcomed the action, regarding it as an indirect sign of the Turkish recognition of Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots hoard Cyprus pounds because they retain their value far better than the inflation-driven Turkish lira.
Most EU Accession Obstacles Removed at Helsinki
Cyprus’s European Union accession efforts were given a major boost when Turkey accepted the EU’s offer for membership candidacy at the bloc’s December summit in Helsinki. Turkey agreed to terms concerning Nicosia’s accession that signal a long-term change in Ankara’s policy toward Cyprus.
Ankara accepted the removal of its de facto veto over Cyprus’s accession, which the European Union affirmed can take place with or without a political settlement to the decades-long Cyprus dispute (see the Helsinki European Council’s conclusions accompanying the offer of candidacy to Turkey, page 14). Until European Union language made it clear that the lack of a settlement alone would not block Nicosia’s accession, Turkey had expected that a divided Cyprus would not be permitted to join the European Union.
The inclusion of a separate section on the terms of Nicosia’s accession in the European Union’s summit conclusions provides new incentives for Ankara to help negotiate a Cyprus settlement. There will be increasing urgency for Ankara to help find a settlement that satisfies the interests of the European Union as Turkey progresses on its own accession path.
There are already indications that a wedge is beginning to divide the Turkish leadership on the issue, with increasing calls in Ankara for constructive long-term steps toward a resolution.
Turkey can no longer assert that its 1974 invasion of Cyprus and 25-year occupation solved the Cyprus issue by ending the country’s intercommunal strife and providing security for the Turkish Cypriot minority.
The Greek Cypriots and their supporters in Athens considered the wording in the conclusions regarding Cyprus’s European Union accession as a victory for their side. However, the statement that the European Council “will take account of all relevant factors” in determining when Cyprus will accede to the European Union provides the bloc with maximum flexibility to decide when to extend the invitation to Nicosia and will put added pressure on the Greek Cypriots to promote a settlement.
When considering all relevant factors, the European Union will determine whether Cyprus negotiated in good faith toward a settlement before approving Nicosia’s membership.
No Expectations of Turkish Compromise in Near Term
In the short-term, Turkey is not expected to compromise on the Cyprus issue. Following their acceptance of EU membership candidacy, both Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said Ankara’s Cyprus policy had not changed. However, U.N. Acting Resident Representative in Cyprus James Holger said in late December that, for the first time, there were elements pointing in the direction of a settlement.
A news blackout was imposed during the December 3-14 New York proximity talks, which were conducted by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and his special advisor on Cyprus, Undersecretary General Alvaro de Soto. The talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash covered the core issues of the Cyprus problem, which are security and the distribution of power, property, and territory in Cyprus.
Following the talks, Denktash disclosed that he had continued to push for international recognition of the Turkish Cypriot entity and the establishment of a confederation of two states in Cyprus. He expressed the hope that Ankara, as a candidate for EU accession, would be in a better position to assist in the accession of a confederated Cyprus to the EU.
Denktash has been pushing for a confederal settlement since August 1998, despite U.N. resolutions calling for a bizonal, bicommunal federal settlement, which is the goal of the Cyprus government and high-level agreements signed in 1977 and 1979 by the government and Denktash.
Denktash attacked the EU for failing to make a political solution in Cyprus a precondition for Nicosia’s EU accession, saying the EU’s decision would solidify the division of the country. Denktash oppposes Nicosia’s application for EU membership, maintaining that the Cyprus government cannot claim to represent the Turkish Cypriot side in applying for accession, and he has insisted that Cyprus should not join the EU while it is still divided. The Turkish Cypriots have refused to send representatives to the EU accession talks, which began in November 1998, despite repeated invitations by the Cyprus government to do so. Denktash has called on the EU to start a separate dialogue with his breakaway entity on Cyprus’s EU accession.
U.N. Balancing Efforts Generate New Controversy
A U.N. document concerning the renewal of the Cyprus peacekeeping force mandate triggered confusion and rancor on the subject of sovereignty in Cyprus.
In a December 15 addendum to his November 29, 1999, biannual report to the United Nations Security Council on the U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan stated that "the Government of Turkey has indicated that it concurs with and supports the position of the Turkish Cypriot party, namely that UNFICYP can operate on both sides of the island only on the basis of the consent of both parties and that the Turkish Cypriot authorities will accordingly request UNFICYP to work with them to develop modalities of UNFICYP's operations in northern Cyprus."
The Turkish Foreign Ministry interpreted the language as U.N. recognition "that there are two equal sides on the island, that these sides have equal authority, and that, from now on, the activities of the U.N. peacekeeping force must be determined separately by the authorities on each side." Both Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots viewed the document as an indication that the U.N. was moving toward the Turkish side's position that the international community should recognize and deal directly with the self-styled Turkish Cypriot entity.
The U.N. denied that the wording of the addendum implied tacit recognition of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot entity, which the U.N. has declared illegal, and reiterated that there had been no change in U.N. policy. The position of the U.N. and the international community is that the internationally recognized government of the Republic of Cyprus is sovereign over the entire island. The U.S. government said that the wording of the addendum referred to a technical issue involving the operation of UNFICYP in the occupied area, which had no policy implication. The U.S. reaffirmed that there was no change in its policy of recognizing the Cyprus government as the only legitimate government on the island.
The Cyprus government protested to the U.N. over the addendum language and asked it to clarify the wording. Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides was assured that, while peacekeeping operations all over the world come into contact with both sides of a dispute, UNFICYP will not take any action that indicates recognition or lends any form of international status to the Turkish Cypriot entity.
The U.N.'s position is that, once the Cyprus government grants permission for UNFICYP to remain in the country, it is not necessary for UNFICYP to conclude a separate agreement on its movements with the Turkish Cypriot authorities. In fact, the U.N.'s position is that any discussions concerning peacekeepers' activities within the occupied region should be conducted with the Turkish forces that are occupying the region. U.N. Security Council resolutions have denounced restrictions on UNFICYP's freedom of movement in the occupied area imposed by the Turkish Cypriot authorities.
The 1,200-member peacekeeping force has been stationed in Cyprus since 1964. Its mandate is routinely renewed every six months. The December 15 U.N. Security Council resolution renewing the mandate was carefully phrased to avoid language that is objectionable to the Turkish Cypriots to facilitate the continuation of U.N.-sponsored proximity talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash that began in New York from December 3 to 14 and will resume on January 31 in Geneva and again in June.
The resolution omitted wording indicating that a Cyprus settlement must be based on a state "with a single sovereigny and international personality and a ingle citizenship," which must comprise a "bicommunal and bizonal federation." But the resolution says that the "government of Cyprus" has agreed that it is necessary to keep UNFICYP in Cyprus, and it reaffirms all "relevant resolutions on Cyprus" which include the omissions mentioned above, as well as U.N. condemnations of the Turkish occupation.
Proximity Talks Offer Hope for Breakthrough
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash accepted U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's invitation to meet at U.N. headquarters in New York on December 3 for proximity talks on resolving the Cyprus problem. Although they will be sitting in two different rooms as Annan and his special advisor on Cyprus, Under Secretary General Alvaro de Soto, meet separately with them, it will be the closest they have been in a negotiating setting since the two met for face-to-face talks in Switzerland in August 1997.
President Clinton is credited with convincing the Turkish Cypriot side to attend the talks, expected to last 15 days. The announcement that they would take place was made by Clinton aboard Air Force One en route to Turkey and Greece, where discussion of the impasse in the Cyprus problem was high on his agenda and was also to be raised at the Istanbul summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which he was attending.
For the last two years, Denktash has said that he would not conduct direct talks with Clerides unless he was first acknowledged as a head of state equal to the Cyprus president, who made it known last summer that he would accept an invitation by Annan for direct talks if it were extended. Clerides is the internationally recognized head of the Cyprus government, while the Turkish Cypriot entity has been condemned as "legally invalid" by the U.N.
Denktash's agreement to take part in proximity talks is attributed to Turkey's desire to make a goodwill gesture on the Cyprus issue in the period leading up to the December 10-11 European Union summit in Helsinki, where Ankara is hoping to be named a candidate for membership in the bloc. Greece has said that its support for Turkey's candidacy would be partly contingent on progress on the Cyprus issue.
Denktash has said, however, that he will continue to push for recognition as the head of state of the self-styled Turkish Cypriot entity and the establishment of a confederation, rather than a bizonal, bicommunal federation, during the proximity talks. These demands, backed by Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, have stalled the peace process since August 1997. Since then, efforts to reach a Cyprus settlement have been limited to shuttle diplomacy within the country between Clerides and Denktash by U.N., U.S., and other international representatives.
The goal of the talks is to prepare for possible direct talks at a later date. Annan's initiative grew out of the urging of the Group of Eight last June for a resumption of talks between the two sides in Cyprus without preconditions.
Slow Progress on Missing Cypriots Issue
DNA tests following the exhumation of remains in over 200 graves in Nicosia earlier this year have resulted in the identification of a 16-year-old boy listed among the 1,614 Greek Cypriots missing since Turkish troops invaded Cyprus in 1974. He was only the second missing Greek Cypriot to be officially identified and confirmed dead since the invasion.
Two years ago, another 16-year-old, believed to be an American of Greek Cypriot ancestry, was identified. A total of 803 Turkish Cypriots are also missing as a result of intercommunal clashes between 1963 and 1974.
The Greek Cypriot side holds Turkey's military action responsible for the fate of most of its missing. Turkey, however, says the missing Greek Cypriots were either killed by other Greek Cypriots during a coup sponsored by the junta then ruling Greece or perished in hostilities after the invasion was launched.
The exhumations and forensic work are being carried out by the international Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights. A 1997 agreement between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to exchange information on the location of graves that could provide information on some of the missing has never been implemented.
October 1999 - November 1999
Washington Launches New Push for Cyprus Breakthrough
President Clinton sent the new Special Presidential Emissary for Cyprus, Alfred Moses, to Nicosia in October to explore ways to move the stalled peace process forward. The move was supported by Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit during September talks with the president in Washington. It was also well received by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Washington hopes that the unprecedented boost in Greek-Turkish relations resulting from mutual assistance following the earthquakes in both countries will break down barriers to resuming direct negotiations between the republic's two communities.
One option under serious consideration by the United States involves establishing "tripartite sovereignty" in Cyprus. The plan envisages the existence of internal Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot states with a common federal entity that would represent Cyprus abroad. The initial reactions of the Cyprus government and the Turkish Cypriot side to the plan have reportedly been cool.
Publicly, the obstacle to direct talks between the two sides continues to be Denktash's refusal to negotiate with Clerides unless the self-styled Turkish Cypriot entity is granted global recognition as a state on a par with the internationally recognized government of the Republic of Cyprus.
In addition, Denktash insists that talks be directed toward forming a confederation of two equal states, rather than the bizonal, bicommunal federation to which he gave his consent in 1977 and 1979 agreements with the Cyprus government and which has been the goal of U.N.-sponsored talks since the late 1970s. Denktash has also called on the Cyprus government to withdraw its European Union membership application on behalf of the entire country.
Washington appears to be leaning more heavily on Ankara than on Denktash for progress in Cyprus. It is preparing to blame the Turkish government more directly in the event that United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan extends an invitation to the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to meet for direct talks and the Turkish Cypriots reject the invitation or cause the talks to collapse.
October 1999 - November 1999
Turkish Side Still Cool to U.N. Initiative
Backed by the Group of Eight nations, which urged the United Nations in June to breathe new life into the peace process, Annan was expected to invite Clerides and Denktash to hold three-week direct talks without preconditions at West Point military academy in October.
However, U.S. officials said hopes for such talks this fall appeared unrealistic unless Denktash drops his demand that the Turkish-occupied sector be recognized as an independent state. Ecevit stated during talks with Clinton that he backed Denktash's assertion that the sector should be recognized as an independent state before direct negotiations resume. Ecevit also opposed holding talks at West Point.
Denktash continues to say that he would decline an invitation to such talks under the present circumstances, while Clerides says that Cyprus would welcome it and would agree to come to the table with no preconditions. Clerides and Denktash last met for direct talks in Switzerland in August 1997. The possibility of continued direct talks was halted after the December 1997 decision at the EU summit in Luxembourg stalling Turkey's candidacy for membership in the bloc.
During their talks, Ecevit and Clinton agreed that there could not be a solution to the Cyprus problem that would return the situation in the country to the one existing 25 years ago before the Turkish occupation began. They also agreed that both communities must be assured of security.
Although Turkish Cypriots were elated by the first announcement, observers noted that the 1977 and 1979 agreements between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots calling for a bizonal, bicommunal federation effectively dashed any designs on a return to the situation before 1974.
The Clinton-Ecevit statement is considered a recitation of a 22-year-old policy agreed to by both communities and supported by the U.S., Greece, and Turkey until recently when Ankara endorsed Denktash's switch from working toward a bizonal, bicommunal federation to a confederation of equal and independent states. Former special presidential emissary for Cyprus Richard Holbrooke criticized the new Turkish position as the catalyst for the collapse of shuttle diplomacy between the two sides in May 1998.
August 1999 - September 1999
Chasm In 1974 Invasion Rememberance
The sharp difference in the ways Nicosia and the Turkish-occupied region of Cyprus commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Turkish invasion of the Republic of Cyprusafter a Greek-inspired coup in 1974, highlighted some of the difficulties ahead in pursuing the reunification of the country on the eve of a new Group of Eight (G-8) peace initiative.
The anniversary in the government-controlled region of Cyprus was a day of mourning, as Greek Cypriot demonstrators protested the occupation and ongoing division of the country. Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides emphasized the need to unify the country through the establishment of a bizonal, bicommunal federationon the basis of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions as well as agreements reached in 1977 and 1979 between the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.
In contrast, the mood was celebratory in the self-styled entity that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash unilaterally declared to be the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" in 1983, recognized only by Turkey and occupied by 35,000 Turkish troops. In this zone, Turkey's 1974 military action was hailed as a peace operation that ended the intercommunal fighting between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, who constitute 18 percent of the population.
Denktash reiterated that he will not return to negotiations seeking resolution of the Cyprus problem unless the Turkish Cypriot regime, considered legally invalid by the U.N., and the government-controlled region of the country are recognized as equal states in a confederation. U.S. officials have publicly insisted that Washington will not recognize a Turkish Cypriot state.
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said greater integration between Turkey and the occupied zone or a continuation of the status quo in Cyprus would be the alternatives if a confederation of two states is not established in Cyprus.
Northern Cyprus has become increasingly isolated and dependent on Turkey. Ankara has invested heavily in building roads and power stations in the region, and it subsidizes wages in the public sector. If major global companies invest in northern Cyprus, they do so via Turkey. Exports from the region, covered by international embargoes, are shipped through Turkey, and direct international flights to northern Cyprus are prohibited.
In 1974, some 200,000 Greek Cypriots fled south to escape the advancing Turkish army, and they remain unable to return to their homes, many of which are inhabited by settlers from Turkey, numbering about 80,000.
August 1999 - September 1999
Turkish Cypriots Cool To Ambitious Settlement Talks
At the urging of the G-8U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is expected to launch a new peace initiative this fall by inviting Clerides and Denktash to resume negotiations. The G-8 initiative, possibly the most ambitious proposal for pushing the peace process forward to date, calls on the two to negotiate without preconditions to reach a solution to the division of Cyprus on the basis of United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for a bizonal, bicommunal federation; to place all issues on the table; and to negotiate until a settlement is reached.
Clerides has said that he will accept the invitation to conduct talks without preconditions, while Denktash has said that he will decline the invitation unless he is recognized as a head of state and Nicosia cancels its application to become an EU member.
Richard Holbrooke, who has served as the U.S. Special Presidential Emissary for Cyprus, is expected to be succeeded by Alfred Moses, who was the U.S. ambassador to Romania from 1994 to 1997.
August 1999 - September 1999
Early Release For Jailed Israeli Operatives
The Cyprus government released two Israeli intelligence agents just five months after they had begun serving three-year prison terms for approaching a restricted military area in Cyprus without authorization and for possessing banned listening equipment. The prosecution had dropped charges of espionage in exchange for guilty pleas on these lesser charges.
President Clerides said their continued detention would no longer serve the national interest. The release was seen as a conciliatory gesture toward the election of Israel's new prime minister, Ehud Barak. The move was criticized by opposition parties, who accused the government of giving in to Israeli pressure.
At the time of the trial, Israel had said the men were part of an anti-terrorist operation and were not spying against Cyprus. The agents were apprehended near an army camp at a time when Cyprus was expected to deploy Russian S-300 missiles in the area. The missiles have since been installed on the Greek island of Crete.
The arrests of the two agents in November 1998 strained relations between Cyprus and Israel, whose military cooperation with Turkey remains of concern to the Cyprus government. Cyprus has long enjoyed good relations with Israel and many Arab nations in the region.
August 1999 - September 1999
Greece Provides Short-Range Defensive System
Cyprus is to receive Russian TOR-M1 short-range missile systems from Greece in exchange for the long-range S-300 missiles the Cyprus government arranged to have installed on Crete last December. The TOR-M1 missiles have a range of 7 miles. Cyprus already has Italian-made, short-range Aspide missiles, with an 11-mile range.
In 1997, the Cyprus government ordered the S-300s, with a 90-mile range, from Russia for deployment in the southwestern part of Cyprus. The Greek government agreed to deploy them on Crete after Cyprus cancelled the delivery order under Turkey's threat to take military action to prevent their deployment on Cypriot soil.
June 1999 - July 1999
G-8 Pushes Autumn Negotiations
At the urging of the leaders of the seven most industrialized nations and Russia (G-8) in June, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan will invite Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to talks this fall to restart the stalled Cyprus peace process.
In a statement at the G-8 summit in Cologne, the nations called on Clerides and Denktash to negotiate without preconditions to reach a solution to the division of Cyprus on the basis of the relevant U.N. resolutions, calling for a bizonal, bicommunal federation with a single international identity, and the 1960 treaties establishing the Republic of Cyprus. In addition, the G-8 leaders urged that all issues be placed on the table and that negotiations continue until a settlement is reached.
Talks have been suspended since August 1997. Denktash has refused to return to the negotiating table unless Nicosia’s application for EU accession is withdrawn. He has also sought recognition of the self-styled Turkish Cypriot entity in the occupied zone and the internationally recognized government of the Republic of Cyprus as equal states in a confederation, a position supported by Turkey.
The G-8 countries made it clear that they were not attempting to displace the role the U.N. had been playing in seeking a settlement to the Cyprus problem. Their aim was to strengthen U.N. efforts to bring Clerides and Denktash together by bringing renewed momentum and urgency to the peace process.
The nations said both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots had legitimate concerns that could and must be addressed, and only comprehensive negotiations covering all relevant issues could move the peace process forward.
The Cyprus government welcomed the G-8 statement and said it was ready to enter talks without preconditions with the Turkish Cypriot community. Denktash said he would not attend the talks unless he is recognized as a head of state. Turkey has warned against any externally imposed solution to the Cyprus issue, saying it could lead to ethnic conflict in the island republic such as that which occurred in Bosnia.
After the 1997 talks collapsed, the U.S. publicly blamed the Turkish side for effectively rejecting two high-level agreements between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities establishing parameters for a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
June 1999 - July 1999
U.S. Charges Illegal Greek, Turkish Weapons Deployment
A U.S. investigation that began in May 1998 concluded that Greece and Turkey transferred U.S.-supplied weaponry to their respective allies in Cyprus in contravention of a 1987 U.S. law.
The State Department in June announced that the two countries had withdrawn the weaponry from Cyprus at the request of the United States, but it declined to provide details on the types of weapons illegally transferred to the country, which remain classified.
Official sources indicate that Ankara had illegally deployed more than 200 U.S.-supplied tanks, 400 armored personnel carriers, and other equipment in the Turkish-occupied region in northern Cyprus, while Athens reportedly deployed 60 U.S. tanks in the government-controlled area of the republic.
June 1999 - July 1999
Beijing Ties Boosted With Official Visit
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Zhu Rong Ji on a six-day June visit to China expected to boost political, trade, and economic relations over a six-year period as follow up to a 1983 agreement. Clerides was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, Commerce, Industry, and Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis, and Finance Minister Takis Clerides, as well as a delegation of businessmen from the shipping, catering, construction, tourism, and legal sectors.
Nicosia is encouraging China to invest in Cyprus and has suggested joint ventures that capitalize on Beijing’s expertise in technology. Closer ties are expected in shipping, banking, and offshore companies as Cyprus promotes its position as a commercial, financial, and services center in the eastern Mediterranean.
Cyprus is also promoting its modern telecommunications infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, tax incentives, and customs union agreement with the EU, which abolishes trade barriers.
Trade relations between Nicosia and Beijing began in 1981. In 1998, Cyprus imported goods from China worth about $82 million and exported products to China worth $82,000. The countries established diplomatic relations in September 1971, while Cyprus opened its first diplomatic mission in China in 1989.
April 1999 - May 1999
Strong Opposition To NATO Airstrikes
The government of Cyprus, a non-NATO country, has expressed its disapproval of the alliance’s airstrikes in Yugoslavia, while condemning the ethnic cleansing taking place in Kosovo. Nicosia has called for a halt to the bombing and a resumption of political efforts to resolve the crisis peacefully.
With Cyprus remaining reliant on the United Nations Security Council to help solve its decades-old problems, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides called on the U.N. to become more actively involved in resolving the Kosovo crisis. Nicosia supports the right of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo to autonomy within the present Yugoslav borders, stressing that the inviolability of these borders and the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia must be upheld. The government has contributed a total of $100,000 in humanitarian relief for Kosovar refugees to the International Red Cross and the U.N.
Cyprus and Yugoslavia have close ties stemming from their shared roots in Orthodox Christianity and as co-founders of the non-aligned movement during the Cold War period. The Cyprus Embassy in London is representing Yugoslav consular interests in Britain.
April 1999 - May 1999
Greek Cypriots Charge NATO With Double Standard
Security was stepped up outside the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia as daily anti-NATO demonstrations were held for several weeks after the airstrikes were launched. Greek Cypriots perceive a double standard in the West’s response on behalf of the Kosovar Albanians because no such effort was made on their behalf after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 resulted in 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees and the ongoing division of the country. Despite the public outcry against the airstrikes, the government’s criticism of the bombing has been relatively muted as Cyprus looks toward the countries of the EU that will vote on Cyprus’s accession to the bloc within the next decade.
April 1999 - May 1999
Oil Embargo Will Be Enforced
President Glafcos Clerides in early May stated that he would enforce a European Union oil embargo against Yugoslavia, despite a resolution adopted by the House of Representatives calling on the government to reverse its earlier decision to adhere to the embargo. The resolution said the EU’s April decision to impose the embargo was illegal because it did not have the authorization of the U.N. Security Council.
The EU requested that the 11 candidates for accession to the bloc align themselves with its decision not to sell or supply fuel to Yugoslavia. Nicosia said its enforcement of the embargo and other EU sanctions against Belgrade would contribute to the bloc’s effort to achieve a Common Foreign and Security Policy. Cyprus does not produce or sell oil, but it has the fifth-largest shipping register in the world.
April 1999 - May 1999
Turkish Cypriot Leader Proposes Kosovar Refugee Transfer
The Cyprus government lodged a protest in April with the U.N. General Secretariat over Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s proposal to illegally settle up to 5,000 Kosovar refugees in the town of Varosha, a suburb of Famagusta, in the Turkish-occupied region of Cyprus. A 1984 U.N. Security Council resolution states that any attempt to settle Varosha by people other than its original inhabitants would be inadmissible, and it calls for the transfer of the area to U.N. administration. Varosha has been a ghost town since 1974, when its mostly Greek Cypriot inhabitants fled from advancing Turkish forces.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Julia Taft stated that the U.S. would do everything possible to prevent Denktash from carrying out his proposal, given the refusal of Washington and the international community to recognize the self-styled Turkish Cypriot entity. The British government said any attempts by the Turkish Cypriot side to illegally settle Varosha would harm prospects for a Cyprus settlement.
April 1999 - May 1999
P.O.W. Release Efforts Collapse
Speaker of the Cypriot House of Representatives Spyros Kyprianou went to Belgrade in early April to meet with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and attempt to secure the release of three U.S. soldiers captured by Yugoslav forces on March 31 along the F.Y.R. Macedonia-Yugoslav border. He was unable to gain the freedom of the soldiers, who were serving in a NATO contingent deployed in F.Y.R. Macedonia when they were seized.
The men were released by Milosevic in early May following an appeal to the Yugoslav president by the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, who went to the Yugoslav capital to plea for an end to their captivity. Behind-the-scenes negotiations in Vienna among a U.S. congressional delegation, members of the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, and a close advisor of Milosevic reportedly assisted Jackson in winning the release of the Americans. After the men were freed, the Yugoslav government expressed its appreciation to Kyprianou for his efforts.
Kyprianou, who was acting president of Cyprus when he went to Belgrade, during President Glafcos Clerides’ absence from the country, said his trip to the city on a Greek air force transport plane was a personal humanitarian mission that had been coordinated by Yugoslavia’s ambassador to Cyprus. The Cyprus government said it supported Kyprianou’s effort but did not consider it to be a government mission.
Although NATO denied Kyprianou’s request that it impose a 24-hour ceasefire while he was in Belgrade, the alliance guaranteed him safe passage in and out of Belgrade. Kyprianou later blamed the continued airstrikes for hampering the success of his mission. Kyprianou, who was president of Cyprus from 1978 to 1988 and developed close ties with Yugoslav leaders, has vocally condemned NATO’s air campaign in Yugoslavia.
April 1999 - May 1999
Industrialized Powers Push New Peace Initiative
The United States is considering a proposal to enlist the involvement of the Group of Eight (G8)the seven most industrialized nations and Russia, in efforts this fall to restart stalled peace talks in Cyprus. If the proposal is realized, it will constitute the first new major initiative in years to address the stalemate between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides in Cyprus. Marking the 25th anniversary of the division of the country, it would send a strong signal to Turkey, which the U.S. publicly faults for the lack of progress on the Cyprus issue.
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in May rejected the proposal, stating that an initiative involving the G8 would encourage the Cyprus government’s bid to join the European Union. In addition to the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Russia, the G8 includes four EU members, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy. Turkey has distanced itself from the EU since December 1997, when Ankara was not included in the bloc’s list of imminent candidate countries.
U.N.-sponsored talks between the two communities in Cyprus have collapsed over Denktash’s refusal to conduct negotiations unless Nicosia withdraws its bid to join the EU, and the internationally recognized government of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot self-styled entity are given equal status.
February 1999 - March 1999
Investigation Launched Into Ocalan Passport
Cypriot Attorney General Alecos Markides rapidly investigated reports that Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan was carrying a Cypriot diplomatic passport when he was captured by Turkish agents in Nairobi in February. (See Turkey section, Ocalan Capture Dominates Kurdish Debate.) Markides concluded that a non-diplomatic passport carrying the number on the document in Ocalan’s possession was issued by authorities to a Greek Cypriot journalist in 1995.
The attorney general said the owner of the passport declined to answer the questions of Cypriot authorities concerning the passport, a right accorded to Cypriot citizens under the country’s laws. He also said the passport had not been reported lost or stolen. Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides stated that the Cyprus government had launched a parallel investigation to determine if a Cypriot citizen had given the passport illegally to someone connected with Ocalan.
February 1999 - March 1999
Ocalan Aides Denied Entry
Three female Ocalan aides who were provided safe passage out of Kenya by Greek officials were refused entry into Cyprus in March. One of them had been granted political asylum in Greece. The Cyprus government said the decision was influenced by concern for their safety and by national interests, interpreted to mean the avoidance of controversy that could escalate tensions between Nicosia and Ankara. One of the women had reportedly been living in Cyprus as the local representative of the National Liberation Front of Kurdistan (ERNK), the political arm of the PKK. Turkey has accused Cyprus of providing military training to the PKK, which Nicosia has adamantly denied.
February 1999 - March 1999
Israeli Spies Jailed, Charges Reduced
Spying charges were dropped in February against two Israeli citizens arrested last fall near a sensitive military area in Cyprus. Citing lack of evidence to uphold the initial charges, the court sentenced them to three years in prison after they pleaded guilty to approaching a restricted military area without authorization and to possessing banned listening equipment. It is believed that the outcome of the trial was the result of a plea bargain arrangement after Nicosia’s Western partners interceded to emphasize the importance of maintaining the good relations that have long existed between Cyprus and Israel.
During the Israelis’ trial, which began in late January in Nicosia, their lawyers said the men were members of an elite Israeli anti-terrorist squad who had come to Cyprus to meet with other intelligence agents concerning possible terrorist plans against Israel. The lawyers said the Israelis were not acting against the interests of the Cyprus government. Cypriot Attorney General Alecos Markides said the Israeli government, members of the U.S. Congress, and European officials had confirmed the lawyers’ statement.
Police arrested the Israelis in November 1998 when listening devices were found in their rental apartment in the southern coastal village of Zygi, near Larnaca, just a few days after a state visit to Nicosia by Israeli President Ezer Weizman. The case strained relations between Cyprus and Israel, whose military cooperation with Turkey remains of concern to the Cyprus government.
February 1999 - March 1999
Key Requirements For EU Accession Fulfilled
Cyprus is taking measures to accelerate privatization and lower the country’s fiscal deficit, which are key to membership in the European Union. Reduction of the fiscal deficit, which stood at 5.4 percent of gross domestic product last year, is the only requirement for European economic and monetary union (EMU) that has not been met. Draft legislation has been approved that would end a ceiling on interest rates in effect since the 1940s, a significant step toward harmonizing the country’s finance sector with that of the EU. The year 2002 is the date set for the country to bring its practices in line with those of the EU.
The government has proposed legislation that would convert the state-controlled Cyprus Telecommunications Authority into a joint stock company. Cyprus has asked for a one-year transitional period, until the end of 2003, for full liberalization of its telecommunications system. The EU has urged Nicosia to liberalize the system as quickly as possible.
The team negotiating Cyprus’s EU accession has established a website on the Internet to keep Turkish Cypriots informed of developments in the accession process. The website (www.cyprus-eu.org.cy) is in Greek, Turkish, and English. A government proposal to Turkish Cypriots to nominate representatives to join the team negotiating accession has been turned down by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
February 1999 - March 1999
Major Greek Role In Facilitating EU Accession Process
The Greek government has announced that Greece and Cyprus will draft a memorandum of cooperation concerning preparations for Cyprus’s accession to the European Union. The two countries have already begun working closely on a regular basis to overcome problems that have to be dealt with before Cyprus becomes an EU member. The Greek government also said Athens and Nicosia would welcome an EU initiative on the Cyprus problem since the bloc can play an important role in resolving the issue. Cyprus’s accession to the European Union remains one of Greece’s foreign policy priorities.
February 1999 - March 1999
Turkish Side Proposes Property Claims Commission
In letters to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Secretary General of the Council of Europe Daniel Tarschys in February, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash proposed the formation of a commission to deal with property exchanges and compensation issues concerning land remaining inaccessible to both Greek and Turkish Cypriots as a result of the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of the country. It would be composed of members of both communities. Ankara backed Denktash’s proposal by presenting the idea at a Council of Europe meeting the same month. The Cyprus government rejected the proposal.
Last June, Turkey was ordered by the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe’s judicial body, to pay a Greek Cypriot woman about $640,000 by October 1998 for the loss of her property in the Turkish-occupied territory.
Turkey has not complied with the court’s ruling, asserting that property issues are related to the process of resolving the Cyprus problem and should be addressed in negotiations for a political settlement. A monthly interest rate has been accruing on the amount owed since October. Turkey risks expulsion from the Council of Europe if it does not make the payment.
February 1999 - March 1999
Renewed Calm After Air Defense Missiles Cancelled
In a late December move that was welcomed by the international community but criticized at home, President Glafcos Clerides cancelled plans to deploy Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles on Cypriot soil. He said Greece had agreed to accept the missiles for possible interim deployment on the island of Crete about 330 miles west of Cyprus. Since January 1997, when the missiles were ordered, Cyprus has asserted its sovereign right to self-defense, especially against a Turkish military presence of about 35,000 troops occupying 37 percent of Cypriot territory. Turkey, which maintains air supremacy over Cyprus, has insisted that the weapons, if deployed in Cyprus, would threaten Turkish security by exposing its fighter planes to potential S-300 attack in Turkish airspace within the missile’s 90-mile range. Deployment of the missiles on Crete, about 120 miles from the closest section of Turkish coastline, ensures that they will not be used against Turkey and Turkish-occupied Cyprus.The cancellation of the missile deployment in Cyprus was expected to cool tension between Athens and Ankara, which had threatened to use force to prevent their deployment. If Ankara had carried out its threat, Greece would have been obligated to act militarily under a 1993 joint defense doctrine with Cyprus. The Cypriot president announced his decision one week after the U.N. Security Council passed two resolutions urging a reduction of arms and forces, the renunciation of the threat of using force or the use of force, and the resumption of peace negotiations in Cyprus. Clerides said he had been influenced by renewed pledges from the international community, including President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, to work toward a Cyprus settlement by promoting implementation of the resolutions.
February 1999 - March 1999
Greece Reverses Missile Support In Pushing Cancellation
Clerides' decision not to deploy the S-300 missiles in Cyprus was preceded by intense consultation with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and leading Greek ministers, who reportedly pressed Nicosia to shift the missiles to Crete, a move that had also been proposed by the U.S. and European countries. Athens and Nicosia were concerned that their deployment in Cyprus could trigger conflict and derail Cyprus's accession to the EU, one of Greece's most important foreign policy priorities. The decision to order S-300s was reached jointly by the governments in Athens and Nicosia. With the establishment of the joint defense doctrine under the administration of former Greek prime minister Andreas Papandreou, the governments began exploring ways to enhance the air defense of Cyprus, a country with no air force. Throughout 1997, Greece was staunchly supportive of the deployment of S-300s. As the summer 1998 delivery date drew near, however, disagreement over the issue among Greek government officials became public. By the end of the year, Greece successfully persuaded Clerides to cancel the delivery.
February 1999 - March 1999
Turkey Welcomes Calm, Russia Welcomes Profit
Despite Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem's statement that sending the S-300 missiles to Crete was unacceptable, authoritative sources noted that the Turkish General Staff was pleased that a potential military crisis with NATO ally Greece had been averted. Western military sources said it remained unclear whether the missiles would actually become operational in Crete, or whether they would be warehoused or even sold to another country.With its initial sale of the missiles to Cyprus, Russia was criticized for injecting a destabilizing weapons system into NATO's backyard and stoking Greek-Turkish tensions. By the time the cancellation was announced, the Russians had indicated that they considered the missile transaction to be purely commercial, providing them with some $500 million in desperately needed foreign currency. Before the contract was signed with Russia, the Cyprus government indicated that it was interested in purchasing U.S.-made Patriot missiles, but U.S. policy prohibits the transfer of new or recently-built U.S. weapons systems to Cyprus. The Cypriots then turned to Russia for the S-300s, despite the fact that Washington had warned Greece and Cyprus in late 1996 that it would oppose the purchase as an aggravating factor obstructing U.S. efforts to achieve a political settlement in Cyprus.
February 1999 - March 1999
U.N. Resolutions Seen As Effort To Jump-Start Negotiations
A week before Clerides announced his decision not to deploy the S-300 missiles in Cyprus, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolutions 1217 and 1218 urging the country's Greek and Turkish communities to commit to defusing tension in the region by reducing arms and troops, preventing the threat of using force or the use of force, and resuming the peace process. The Security Council expressed concern over the levels of military forces and armaments in Cyprus, the rate at which they were being expanded and upgraded, and the lack of progress toward a reduction in the number of foreign troops in the country. The resolutions called on the two sides to work toward a reduction in foreign troops as a prelude to the eventual demilitarization of the republic in the context of a comprehensive political settlement. Turkey maintains about 35,000 troops in the occupied territory, while Cyprus has a 10,000 national guard assisted by 900 Greek officers.
February 1999 - March 1999
Shorter-Range Missiles Sought To Boost Air Defense
The cancellation of plans to deploy S-300s in Cyprus has prompted Italy to consider reopening negotiations with Nicosia for the delivery of Aspide short-range surface-to-air missiles to the island republic. Italy suspended the missile deal in early 1998 over concern that the delivery would add to the tension generated by the anticipated installation of the S-300s. Italian officials also feared that the Aspides, with a range of 9 miles, would be deployed to defend the S-300s from possible attack by NATO ally Turkey. Italy initially supplied Cyprus with Aspide missiles under a contract signed in 1991. In October 1997, Cyprus signed a second contract with an Italian arms company to upgrade the system and increase the number of launchers and missiles. The Cyprus government has also reportedly given serious consideration to purchasing Russian-made Tor Ml missiles, with a range of about 7 miles. Defense analysts believe the Tor Mls would meet the air defense needs of the Cypriot National Guard's armored and mechanized units more effectively than the Aspides because of their enhanced mobility.
February 1999 - March 1999
New Hopes For Shuttle Diplomacy
U.N. Deputy Special Representative for Cyprus Ann Hercus announced in mid-December under a media blackout that progress had been made in two months of shuttle diplomacy between the Turkish Cypriot leadership and the Cyprus government aimed at defusing tension and persuading Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to return to the negotiating table after a stalemate of more than a year. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said the talks had been focusing on establishing mutual agreements to reject the threat of using force or the use of force, to reduce the number of troops and weapons in the country, and to accept a set of measures outlined by the 1,263-member U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFI- CYP), which would reduce tension along the Green Line that separates the Turkish-occupied zone from the rest of the country. Parallel efforts by the U.S. at reviving direct talks between President Glafcos Clerides and Denktash continued as U.S. Special Presidential Emissary for Cyprus Richard Holbrooke and State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Miller met with officials in Athens in mid-December. Although the passage of U.N. Resolutions 1217 and 1218 and the Cyprus government's cancellation of the S-300 missile deployment raised hopes that concrete steps could be taken toward reviving the peace process, analysts believed there would be little progress while Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's caretaker government ruled Turkey up until the scheduled April 1999 elections. Shortly after the cancellation was announced, Denktash reiterated his call for a confederation of two equal states in Cyprus, despite the fact that Resolution 1217 urged the two sides to work toward establishment of a bizonal, bicommunal federation as stipulated in previous U.N. resolutions and in agreements between the two communities.
February 1999 - March 1999
Businessmen Push Cooperation Between Communities
Accelerated cooperation outside the political arena between Greek and Turkish Cypriots was the focus of a mid-December meeting in Istanbul attended by 40 Turkish Cypriot, Greek Cypriot, Greek, and Turkish businessmen. Ambassadors Holbrooke and Miller, who have been conducting negotiations to revive the peace process in Cyprus, attended the two-day meeting organized by Columbia University's International Conflict Resolution Program and the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo. The gathering was the third in a series of meetings, beginning in November 1997, to further economic, cultural, and educational ties between the two Cypriot communities as a way of defusing politically-fueled tensions and increasing the free movement of people, goods, and services between them. The participants agreed to work toward introducing the teaching of Greek and Turkish as second languages in secondary schools, restoring historical monuments, and establishing better means of communication between the two communities. Expanded electronic and e-mail databases and improved telephone systems are needed since all mail sent from one side to the other must go through Turkey or Greece and is therefore delayed. In addition, the group agreed that the communities should co-manage any system that emerges to solve the problem of insufficient fresh water in the country. The construction of a water pipeline from Turkey's Mediterranean coast to northern Cyprus was considered a possibility.
October 1998 - November 1998
U.N. Renews Effort To Break Deadlock In Peace Talks
With U.S. backing, U.N. Deputy Special Representative for Cyprus Ann Hercus began a new round of shuttle diplomacy in October in an attempt to revive reunification negotiations. The talks deadlocked in May when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash called for recognition of the Turkish-occupied zone as a state and the withdrawal of Cyprus’s application for accession to the European Union as preconditions for talks. The negotiating process has been further hindered by Denktash’s August call for a confederation of two equal states in Cyprus, in which his illegal breakaway entity would be given a status equal to that of the internationally recognized government of Cyprus.
Meeting with President Glafcos Clerides and Denktash separately under a media blackout, Hercus was attempting to find common ground between the two sides to promote the resumption of direct talks for the establishment of a bizonal, bicommunal federation in accordance with United Nations resolutions. Clerides and Denktash have not met face-to-face since the summer of 1997 under United Nations sponsorship. Hercus’s initiative was launched at a time of increasing tension in Cyprus over the government’s planned deployment of Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles, which are not expected to arrive in the republic before the end of the year.
October 1998 - November 1998
Substantive Negotiations For EU Accession Begin
The European Union opened substantive membership talks with Cyprus in November without the participation of the Turkish Cypriots. Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash had rejected the March invitation of President Glafcos Clerides to join the delegation, asserting that the Cyprus government did not have the authority to submit an EU membership application on behalf of the Cypriot people as a whole and ruling out the possibility of Cyprus’s accession before Turkey joins the bloc.
Both EU Commissioner for External Relations Hans van den Broek and Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides urged the Turkish Cypriots to join the talks, and Clerides stressed that European Union membership would benefit both the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities. Kasoulides said the Cyprus government would keep the Turkish Cypriots informed of the progress of the EU accession negotiations via the internet and radio broadcasts if they continued to be absent at the talks. Both European Union and Cypriot officials said they hoped that the negotiations for a political settlement to the Cyprus issue would be revived as a result of the accession talks.
Cyprus has made significant progress in adopting the rules and regulations required for accession, especially in the context of the EU-Cyprus customs union. However, substantial efforts still need to be undertaken in the liberalization of the internal market and the offshore and financial sectors. Cyprus has said that it will need a transitional period of one year to fully open its telecommunications market to competition if the European Union completes its present preparations for expansion by 2002. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia will join Cyprus in the next round of European Union expansion.
October 1998 - November 1998
First Israeli President's Visit Strengthens Ties
During a state visit to Nicosia in early November, Israeli President Ezer Weizman attempted to dispel the Cyprus government’s concern that Israel’s military cooperation with Turkey was a threat to the security of Cyprus. In talks with President Glafcos Clerides, Weizman said there was nothing in the 1996 Israeli-Turkish agreement, covering the reciprocal training of air force pilots and the upgrading of Turkish fighter jets by the Israeli defense industry, that could precipitate Israel’s involvement if Turkey were to attack Cyprus.
Weizman’s visit to Nicosia, the first by an Israeli president, signaled an intensification of relations between Cyprus and Israel. Weizman proposed closer cooperation in the fields of medical science and agriculture, including the development of irrigation systems. But he said that Israel had no plans to facilitate the process of resolving the Cyprus issue or engage in military cooperation with the country. In October, Cypriot Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism Nicos Rolandis and a group of Cypriot entrepreneurs attended a business summit in Israel designed to attract foreign investment and promote trade. During his visit, the minister signed an agreement with the Israeli government to step up bilateral trade and explore the possibility of joint ventures in information technology.
October 1998 - November 1998
Israeli Nationals Charged With Espionage
A few days after Ezer Weizman’s November visit to Nicosia, Cypriot authorities arrested two Israeli nationals and charged them with spying on military installations in the vicinity of Zygi, a village about 20 miles west of the southern coastal resort of Larnaca. Police found sophisticated listening equipment and maps with marks on military sites in an apartment in the village rented by the two men.
The Cypriot justice ministry said no evidence was found to link the activities of the men to the government of Israel. An Israeli foreign ministry statement said the two had not been spying on Cyprus or gathering information for Turkey, which occupies 37 percent of the country. However, the Israeli government has declined to say publicly whether or not the men were agents of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, or comment on Israeli news reports claiming that they were guarding a secret meeting of Mossad agents when they were arrested. Cypriot police said the men had made a prior visit to Cyprus in mid-October during a joint Cypriot-Greek military exercise, raising suspicions that they were gathering information about the exercise. Although Israelis and Arabs are known to regularly conduct intelligence activities in Cyprus, ongoing mistrust between Nicosia and Ankara, coupled with Ankara’s close military ties with Israel, have prompted speculation over Israel’s intentions.
October 1998 - November 1998
New Naval Base Readied For Construction
Defense Minister Yiannakis Omirou announced in October that the Cyprus government had begun preliminary work for the construction of a naval base, apparently for use by Greek naval vessels under the provisions of a 1993 defense doctrine between Athens and Nicosia. Omirou did not specify where the base would be located, but Western military sources have indicated that it will probably be constructed near the southern coastal town of Zygi. He said the government was also examining plans to station Greek fighter planes permanently at the air base near the southwestern town of Paphos, which was completed under the defense doctrine earlier this year, but no firm decision had been made.
Greek planes used the base during the joint Cypriot-Greek military exercise conducted in October. In June, the landing of Greek planes at the base at the invitation of the Cyprus government, within the framework of the doctrine, was criticized by Turkey and prompted the landing of Turkish warplanes at a base in Turkish-occupied Cyprus, a move considered illegal by Nicosia.
October 1998 - November 1998
Military Exercise With Greece For Joint Defense
Greek forces aboard military aircraft and ships joined some 10,000 Greek Cypriot troops and reservists in conducting the six-day Nikiforos ‘98 military exercise in October in Cyprus, within the framework of the Athens-Nicosia joint defense doctrine. Cypriot Defense Minister Yiannakis Omirou said this year’s exercise, the fourth joint maneuver to be conducted, served to test the capabilities of the Paphos air base and the new armaments acquired by the Cypriot National Guard. The exercise included a search-and-rescue mission off the coast of Paphos and parachute jumps. Omirou reiterated that the government’s upgrading of its defense systems would continue until progress had been made on reuniting the country as a bizonal, bicommunal federation through U.N.-backed negotiations.
In response to the joint Cypriot-Greek maneuver, Turkey staged a six-day exercise in November with the Turkish Cypriots in the occupied zone and in the open seas northeast of Cyprus, involving Turkish navy ships and fighter jets.
October 1998 - November 1998
Egyptian Assistance On Turkish Relations, Regional Cooperation
During a visit to Cairo in November, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides asked Egypt to exert influence on Turkey to promote progress in resolving the Cyprus problem. Kasoulides met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa to discuss the Cyprus problem, Cyprus’s accession to the EU, cooperation between Turkey and Israel, and Egyptian involvement in defusing tension between Syria and Turkey the previous month. The two delegations also expressed a desire to intensify joint efforts to combat terrorism and signed agreements for investment protection and cooperation between the stock exchanges of both countries, which will expand bilateral economic activity. In October, Cypriot Justice and Public Order Minister Nicos Koshis also held talks in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart, Farouk Sayf An-Nasr, to further cooperation in the fight against organized crime and the extradition of fugitives.
In addition, ships from Cyprus and Egypt joined Israeli vessels to carry out an exercise aimed at upgrading the ability of the three countries to prevent pollution resulting from naval accidents in the eastern Mediterranean. The November exercise, off the coast of Larnaca, was held in the context of an agreement signed by the three countries to promote preservation of the region’s maritime environment.
August 1998 - September 1998
Russian Navy Prepares To Deliver Missiles
An aircraft carrier battle group of the Russian Navy is scheduled to transport the Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles ordered by the Cypriot government to Cyprus this fall. The decision to finalize the delivery was made during July talks in Moscow between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. During the talks, Clerides expressed concern over Turkish threats to use military force to prevent the transfer of the missiles to the air base near the southwestern Cypriot town of Paphos. In late August, President Clinton reiterated that the U.S. continues to discourage any such threats by Turkey.
Clerides continues to state that the missiles would be unnecessary and the contract would be cancelled if progress were made toward the reunification of Cyprus, if Turkey took steps toward demilitarization of the country, or if an internationally enforced no-fly zone were established over the republic for Greek and Turkish combat aircraft as part of a process leading to gradual disarmament, an option Greece supports. During an August visit to Ankara, State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Miller attempted to secure an agreement from the Turkish government for a voluntary, self-policed moratorium on flights of warplanes over Cyprus in return for cancellation of the missile order. Ankara rejected the proposal. Greece and Cyprus have made it clear that implementation of an unenforced moratorium that could be unilaterally violated would be inadequate and unacceptable.
August 1998 - September 1998
Defense Plans Impact Wider Region
The U.S. suggested during the summer that the Cypriot government purchase shorter-range missiles as a substitute for the S-300s, which have a range of about 100 miles, to allay Ankara’s concern that Cyprus could strike Turkish planes over Turkey. Instead, Cyprus is reportedly considering the purchase of shorter-range Russian SA-15 missiles to be used solely to defend the S-300s from possible Turkish attacks. Initial Cypriot plans to acquire shorter-range Italian Aspide missiles to defend the S-300s were thwarted by Italy’s apparent refusal to provide weapons to Cyprus that could be used to shoot down fighter jets of NATO ally Turkey.
Turkish pilots have reportedly received training at a testing range in Israel in the evasion of surface-to-air missiles that are similar to the S-300s. Both Turkey and Israel denied reports that the training involved air strikes against missiles of this type.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said in July that the radar system that guides the S-300s covers the entire eastern Mediterranean and would therefore compromise NATO security by providing details of Turkish and NATO military activities, including those at Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey, to Russia and Cyprus, which are not members of the alliance. Although the Russian military confirmed in August that 84 members of the Cypriot National Guard had concluded training in the operation of the S-300s in Russia, it is believed that the missiles’ electronic systems will initially be operated by Russian officers.
August 1998 - September 1998
Turkish Cypriot Confederation Plan Shatters U.N. Framework
In his continuing attempt to gain international recognition of the Turkish-occupied region of Cyprus as a state, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in August proposed that the illegal entity become one of two equal sovereign states forming a Cyprus confederation. Under this plan, the self-styled Turkish Cypriot regime and what is now the internationally recognized government of the Republic of Cyprus would essentially become protectorates of Turkey and Greece, respectively, under special relationships to be established with each motherland.
The proposal is a radical departure from U.N. Security Council resolutions and high-level agreements between the leaders of the two communities, which call for a bizonal, bicommunal federation between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities with a strong central government. These resolutions and agreements have been the basis for international efforts to end the country’s division since the late 1970s. The Cypriot and Greek governments denounced Denktash’s proposal as an attempt to legitimize the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of 37 percent of the republic and codify the resulting partition of the country. The U.S., which spearheads efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue, categorically rejected the proposal as a basis for negotiations.
Denktash announced the proposal in the presence of Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, who was visiting the occupied zone. In 1983, the Turkish Cypriots unilaterally declared a breakaway “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” declared illegal by the U.N. and recognized only by Ankara to this day. In March, Denktash said he would not return to the negotiating table until his regime was recognized as a sovereign state and the Cypriot application for European Union membership was withdrawn.
U.S. Special Presidential Emissary for Cyprus Richard Holbrooke blamed Denktash’s demands, which were contrary to the established basis for negotiations, for derailing peace talks this year and stalling progress toward a political settlement.
August 1998 - September 1998
Integration of Occupied Zone Into Turkish Economy Proceeds
Turkish President Suleyman Demirel said in July that the close economic ties between Turkey and the Turkish-occupied region of Cyprus would expand, resulting in the full integration of the region into Turkey’s economy, unless Cyprus withdraws its application for membership in the European Union. He said Ankara would treat the region, which uses a version of the Turkish lira and is under an EU embargo, as an economic province of Turkey. For example, Turkish Cypriot and Turkish farmers would receive similar credit terms at Turkey’s state banks. In addition, excess agricultural production in the occupied region would be bought by Ankara.
Since accession talks between the EU and Cyprus began the end of March, a Turkish-Turkish Cypriot council has met twice to work out the details of economic integration, including establishing a joint economic zone based on the free circulation of goods, services, and capital, and encouraging Turkish investment in the region. To accelerate economic development in the area, Turkey has launched a $160 million project to meet the occupied region’s water needs, including the restoration of irrigation systems.
August 1998 - September 1998
Turkey Penalized For Property Rights Violations
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in July that Turkey must pay about $600,000 in damages to a Greek Cypriot woman for depriving her of rights to land she owned in the northern coastal town of Kyrenia before the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation forced her to leave the area. The ruling by the judicial body of the Council of Europe (CoE), ending a case that opened in 1989, was the first time an international legal body has ordered Turkey to pay damages for human rights violations resulting from its occupation of Cyprus. The CoE expects the funds to be paid by the end of October. Turkey is a member of the CoE and could face sanctions or expulsion if it refuses to pay the requested amount.
Both the Turkish government and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said the ruling was inapplicable since the case should have been taken up with the Turkish Cypriot administration, which is responsible for administrative authority in the occupied region. Hundreds of similar cases are pending before the Court, generating fear in Ankara of waves of new lawsuits, enormous fines, and new diplomatic disputes with European countries.
More than 200,000 Cypriots fled their homes during the 1974 invasion, and U.N. resolutions call for the return of all refugees to their homes. The residences of Greek Cypriots in the Turkish-occupied area have been confiscated by the Turkish Cypriot administration and are now occupied by Turkish Cypriots or settlers from Turkey. Outside the occupied area, the Cypriot government has kept most of the Turkish Cypriot-owned homes vacant and holds the titles to them, as proof of ownership, in the event that the owners are able to return to claim their property. The Cypriot government has called for the free movement of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots to visit their homes and maintain their property rights.