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’The UN did not give a true picture of the number of settlers’

It was hoped that the prospect of Cyprus’s entry to the European Union would contribute to a solution. Now there are those who are talking about the possibility of only one part of the island acceding. Others say that this is why we should go ahead and adopt the Annan plan as it is, to avoid such an outcome. Was the prospect of Europe correct in your view? Definitely. I could add that there was no better one. Having said that, a major battle was waged and I believe that a political advantage was achieved in having the whole of Cyprus join the European Union, but to postpone the implementation of the acquis communautaire for as long as the government is not able to implement it due to the presence of Turkish troops in the occupied territory. A safety valve, as it were. Meanwhile we have a very difficult road ahead in negotiating the arrangements to be in force if there is no solution by May 1, 2004. In your opinion, could Turkey’s future in Europe influence its stance on the Cyprus issue at this stage? From the outset I had let it be known – and this was a political stance – that I do not believe Turkey is willing to make any concessions on Cyprus in view of its own accession process to the EU. For no one believes that Turkey will join the EU next year, or in five, 10 or 15 years’ time. So, according to one school of thought, that of the Turkish generals to be precise, the argument is in the nature of «why should we give away something in Cyprus today in exchange for something which we might or might not get within the next decade?» Therefore, for Turkey, the crucial issue is not accession to the EU, but the moment when Turkey will enter into talks with the EU to determine the date at which its own accession negotiations will begin. I have often discussed the issue within the framework of the EU. Recently, European Commissioner [for enlargement] Gunther Verheugen publicly stated that it would be difficult for Turkey to set a date for the beginning of negotiations if it did not help find a solution to the Cyprus issue. So the entire issue rests on the basis of what it will be possible for Cyprus to do as a member of the European Union, and I believe that the prospect of Cyprus’s accession can of course act as a catalyst for Turkey’s stance. Nevertheless, the Commander of Turkey’s Armed Forces General Hilmi Ozkok and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan do not appear to be convinced and they are claiming that Turkey’s and Cyprus’s future in Europe are not connected. This is the formal position. It is true – and I have often reiterated this – that the Partnership Agreement which Turkey has contracted with the EU does not include the Cyprus issue among the conditions Turkey must comply with. The Cyprus issue is only referred to in the chapter on «general political debate,» and not among the «prerequisites.» Indeed it is referred to in a relatively neutral phrase, to the effect that «Turkey is expected to help the UN secretary-general in his efforts.» So although it might not be a legal requirement, and [Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah] Gul is correct in saying that it isn’t, it is a still political issue that will certainly be evaluated by many countries, who have used phrases such as «No date can be set for the beginning of accession negotiations unless the Cyprus issue is resolved,» or the phrase used by the European Commission, «If there is no progress in the Cyprus issue, that might prove to be an obstacle to setting a date,» and so on, according to the country concerned. I have heard statements by certain heads of EU member states and in fact the leader of one of the larger countries – I am not at liberty to mention its name – told me that «without a solution to the Cyprus issue, Turkey cannot accede (to the EU), nor can it begin accession talks.» So politically, the Cyprus issue is another factor in setting a date for Turkey’s accession negotiations. These are the proclamations. However, I can’t say if they will ever become decisions. You mean that if we assume that Turkey is given a date, this will automatically make it change its entire military doctrine in the region? I admit that I am simply making an assumption, as I don’t know enough to form a clear view. I will simply put the question in reverse. I hope that Turkey will understand that there are «green pastures» elsewhere. In other words, it should consider that its broader interests might be better served by a more positive stance on the Cyprus issue if it wants to strengthen its position with Europe. But I hope that it is not yet clear if there really are two schools of thought in Turkey, that is the one held by Erdogan and the other by the military, and if there actually are, then which of the two will prevail. Personally I believe – without being able to prove it, of course – that there are not two schools of thought and that Erdogan has identified – at least as far as Cyprus is concerned – with the military’s view. Perhaps that is the price he has had to pay for the military’s cooperation on other issues. Let’s move to the elections in the occupied territory, expected to be followed by an initiative by the Americans. Do you think there will be enough time after the middle of December for a serious debate on the Annan proposal in order to arrive at a solution that is, above all, functional? There is the time, if there is the political will in Ankara. Personally I do not see that there is, on Turkey’s part. As for the time frame, let us once again take things in reverse. From the day that we reach agreement, we need 30 days, as provided for in the Annan proposal, to put the proposal to a referendum. So the referendum will need to be held on April 1, for May 1 is Cyprus’s date for joining the EU. In addition, some time is needed to ensure support from the citizenry through the referendum. A more negative development would be if the Turkish Cypriots approved it and we rejected it. So let’s go back to mid-March as the deadline. What I have said to everyone is that Greece and Cyprus have struggled to separate EU accession from a solution to the Cyprus issue. That is what happened in Helsinki, however it happened. Why should I now turn around and make a connection with May 1? That is why I keep claiming that we are ready to sit down and talk whenever you ask us to, meaning that talks will have to be completed by March 1. This is the time frame you mean. Denktash’s stance There is also the time factor created by the elections in the occupied area. Of course. According to the Turkish Cypriots’ electoral law, after the result is announced their Parliament will have to meet within 10 days and a government formed within 30 days for a vote of confidence. Of course these procedures could be speeded up. The second factor is that the elections are parliamentary, and it is not yet clear whether Rauf Denktash will withdraw, be removed or convinced to resign as an interlocutor. So everyone can draw their own conclusions as to whether there is enough time to get to the substance, in the event that the UN secretary-general calls for intercommunal talks or whether, if these do take place, there is enough time to reach agreement. The Annan plan calls for a partnership between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Yet Turkish Cypriots form only 9-10 percent of the island’s population. Therefore any solution means that any agreement would essentially involve the settlers (from mainland Turkey). How will you deal with this problem? You are absolutely correct. The question of the settlers is one of the unresolved issues in the Annan proposal, and which has been handed down from the previous government. Both Glafcos Cleridis and all the other parties have raised this issue. From the day the Annan proposal was submitted on November 11, 2002, this issue has been discussed repeatedly at the talks between Clerides, [UN Special Cyprus Envoy Alvaro] de Soto and Denktash. I admit that the UN’s clarifications on the issue did not present the true picture, or else what they told us was not correct. That is, we were saying that the provisions in the Annan proposal provided for 45,000 settlers – men, women and children. Some of us, myself included, estimated that there would be 65,000, if not more, settlers. There was much debate on this issue. Let it suffice to say that our services have had great difficulty in working out the numbers according to the Annan proposal. Recently the Swiss constitutional expert Didier Pfirter, who contributed to drafting the chapter in the Annan proposal regarding the settlers, gave a lecture in Istanbul, and he was questioned on the issue. He asked why the Turks were worried about the possibility of the settlers leaving or being removed. He also added various figures and then said that no settler who did not want to leave Cyprus would have to do so. There are 119,000 settlers. At any rate, I continually refer to this issue now. Only in relation to the Annan proposal? Not only, but also in relation to the elections in the occupied territory. Many people are wondering why we do not think it useful for «observers» to come and monitor these elections. The question is not whether or not observers should come. That is not what bothers me. What does bother me is the recognition of an illegal situation. For example, the illegality has not arisen just now, but has existed since the previous «electoral lists» were drawn up when thousands of settlers were registered. Will the observers be able to check who has the right to vote and which settlers are registered voters? I have not been given a clear answer to this. I tell them that for me the crucial issue is whether settlers will be voting in the referendum on the Annan proposal. They voted in the «municipal» elections, they will be voting in the so-called parliamentary elections, which will result in the election of the interlocutor. So won’t they be given even more legitimacy with regard to voting for the Annan proposal? That is why I have raised the issue. Denktash has taken a clear stand on the Annan proposal. He said that he wants two states, two nations. Something that Erdogan has repeated. The Greek side says that this is not functional and stops there. Could this plan still function, even if changes and improvements are made? I am not saying whether the Annan proposal is functional. What I am saying that that the solution should be more functional and viable.