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President hopes Turkey’s stance will allow for a Cyprus solution to the benefit of everyone

April 2, 2019 at 8:58pm
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President Nicos Anastasiades has told CNA that he hopes that during political consultations on the international aspect of the Cyprus problem between Turkey and Greece in Athens on April 12, Turkey’s attitude would create the conditions for a solution to be reached to the benefit of everyone.

President Anastasiades was replying to questions in the context of during an interview he gave to the Cyprus News Agency.

Asked whether the date the UN Secretary General’s envoy Jane Holl Lute will visit Cyprus has been set President Anastasiades said that he had a telephone conversation a few days ago with Lute and “this evening we will have a new conversation.”

He further expressed hope that Lute’s visit  “will take place in the coming days.”

Asked whether agreement was within reach on the “terms of reference” which could lead to the resumption of talks President Anastasiades said that he “cannot predict how close or far away we are if the Turkish side and the Turkish Cypriots insist on their positions, on political equality.”

“For one side to insist to have the final word on all decisions means abolishing political equality and putting in place a system on the basis of which that side will determine what decisions will be taken”, he noted.

He continued pointing out that he shares Turkish Cypriot concerns on the possibility of the Greek Cypriot side taking advantage of its power.

Political equality, he stressed, means, among other things, having a positive vote but not on every decision.

“Where there is a possibility for the Greek Cypriot side to abuse its power by imposing decisions which would likely be detrimental to the Turkish Cypriot community there should be a protective shield,” he said adding however that he does not see the reason in having such a provision for every decision to be taken.

At the same time, he reiterated that an effective mechanism for resolving differences should be in place.

President Anastasiades also pointed out that from the moment the Greek Cypriot side maintains a positive position and shows understanding about Turkish Cypriots’ concerns, they should also reciprocate by showing they understand Greek Cypriot concerns over the lack of functionality and the danger of the state collapsing the day after an agreement is reached.

This should be the concern of all of us who care about Cyprus not third parties, he noted, adding that hence the “insistence to become fully independent without guarantees, without intervention rights, without armies,” which would control the will of one community to the detriment of the other.

Replying to a question on the political consultations between Greece and Turkey set to take place on April 12 and what he expects the outcome will be, he said that “we are at an initial stage and no-one can make a safe projection.”

“Let us hope that Turkey’s stance will recognise what the UN Secretary General said in Crans-Montana about the anachronistic system of guarantees and the need to replace it with an effective mechanism with an international participation and generally an attitude on Turkey’s part which will create the conditions to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem to the benefit of everyone,” he noted.

Replying to a question on what steps Nicosia will take if by July – when UNFICYP’s mandate renewal will be discussed again at Security Council level – there has been no resumption of Cyprus talks, he said that “we will not wait until July.”

“First and foremost, our effort is for the dialogue to resume on a healthy basis which will give us a prospect,” he stressed.

A second element, according to President Anastasiades is that “we are acting in such a manner so that it can be understood how dangerous it would be for the peacekeeping force to withdraw” from the island.

He stressed that “we do not use the peacekeeping force in order not to resolve the Cyprus problem,” adding that it is not the Greek Cypriot leadership which has not wished for a solution. But rather that the terms and conditions put forward from the other side which unfortunately have not allowed it to happen.

Asked if Nicosia is ready to counter possible Turkish threats in its exclusive economic zone, the President said that the Cyprus government was making use of all means in their disposal and in accordance to international law. “We are protesting to the EU, the United Nations, we turn to all directions, through our trilateral cooperation schemes” he said. Moreover, he noted that Nicosia chose to engage powerful energy companies from powerful countries in its energy designs, in order to mitigate any possible dangers.

Asked about efforts to upgrade trilateral cooperation with regional countries, the President said that the aim was to strengthen these schemes, in order to avoid a repetition of incidents, like the Turkish blockade of a ship commissioned by ENI to drill in Cyprus’ EEZ last year.

We managed to at least defend our energy designs in offshore blocks that have been licensed and we make sure that all of them are protected in an effective manner vis-à-vis various threats, the President noted.

Asked about consultations to provide naval facilities to France, the President said that similar consultations also take place with Germany, the UK and other EU countries, within the framework of Cyprus’ European obligations. “It is not our intention to turn Cyprus into a base from where to wage war. On the contrary, we want to become, and we turn gradually into a security provider, through the facilities we make available not just for European countries, but other powers as well, such as Russia, America,” he pointed out.

The President went on to say that Cyprus aspires to become “a stabilizing factor contributing to peace in the region” and not a country that increases tension or poses any threat through the use of its territory.

Asked about the creation of permanent facilities for the French navy, the President confirmed that the issue was under discussion.

Moreover, he said that as part of efforts to upgrade relations with all permanent members of the Security Council, one of the objectives was also to arrange a meeting between him and US President Donald Trump.

He also announced that he will visit China later in April, upon the invitation of the country’s President, to attend the “One Belt One Road” conference and will meet with President Xi Jinping and other senior officials.

Asked whether he believes he was paying the political cost over the closure of the Cyprus Cooperative Bank and his public disagreement with the conclusions reached by a Committee of Inquiry, he replied “certainly.”

It was a matter of conscience for me, he noted, whether to simply avoid political cost by accepting the Finance Minister’s resignation or whether to decide to carry the political cost. Had he chosen the first option, he said he would in essence be committing a crime against a person whose responsibility was not as great as the  Committee felt.

President Anastasiades said he has a clean conscience because he did not act contrary to a general sense of justice, not his own as he clarified, but that which was derived from the objective facts recorded in the Inquiry Committee report.

Commenting on recent rulings by an Administrative Court about cuts on public servants since 2012, when the Cypriot economy was on the verge of collapse, President Anastasiades said that apart from appealing the decisions at Supreme Court level the government was studying various steps, adding that he intended to convene a meeting of parliamentary party leaders so that the different options could be discussed collectively.

He also said that he has already had a meeting with Attorney General Costas Clerides and that more would follow, while expressing the opinion that the law of necessity could be invoked.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

Comprising military and civilian personnel from various contributing countries, UNFICYP arrived in Cyprus in March 1964 after intercommunal fighting broke out. The mandate of the force is renewed every six months by the Security Council.

(Cyprus News Agency)