NEWS

Molyviatis does not believe in ‘last chances’ for Cyprus

Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis talked to Kathimerini recently about what is likely to happen if the Greek Cypriots reject the UN secretary-general’s plan for the island in a referendum scheduled for April 24, and after the Cypriot Republic officially becomes a member of the European Union on May 1. The minister also confirmed the Karamanlis government’s desire to work toward an improvement in Greek-Turkish relations and said the Athens-Ankara dialogue on the Aegean continental shelf resumes this coming week. As for the «day after» in Cyprus, Molyviatis does not think it likely that the «state» created by the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus will be recognized by the European Union member states, but does not rule out the possibility of greater support for Turkish Cypriots both by the EU and the US. However, he does not think there are any «last chances» and foresees an eventual resumption of talks to resolve the Cyprus issue, perhaps even within the EU. Molyviatis said that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s stance regarding the April 24 referendum in Cyprus «managed to make a square out of a circle» and said he did not expect any negative knock-on effects for Greece, whether from the US or the EU. It appears certain that the Greek Cypriots will vote «no» in next Saturday’s referendum. A week later the Cypriot Republic will formally join the EU. What do these events signify? I think Cyprus’s accession to the EU is a landmark in the island’s history, a change in Cyprus’s strategic horizon. We have been working with all countries’ political forces to bring about this national achievement, which was begun by the Mitsotakis government and brought about under the Simitis government. We have to acknowledge the recognition due to the Simitis government for its achievement, but it was not alone. The main recognition should go to the Cypriot people and their leaders, who within just a few years managed to rise from being the poorest country in the region in 1960, to a country worthy of joining the club of the richest countries in the world. Naturally, in the case of a «no» vote – that is, if no solution is found to the Cyprus problem – the entire Cypriot Republic joins the European Union, but the implementation of the acquis communautaire is postponed in the northern sector. The European Union resolution on the issue specifically states that the acquis communautaire will not be implemented in any sector not controlled by the Cypriot government. On that basis, could one say that the chances of a division within the EU are extremely limited, if not non-existent? I hesitate to analyze the issue in detail here, because it could be construed as encouraging one side or the other in the referendum. If one says that the negative effects of a «no» vote would be negligible, it is as if one is encouraging people to vote «no.» I do not think it is my duty to take a stand. However, I can mention certain real examples, without making a critical evaluation of the effects of a «yes» or a «no.» I would like to clarify that point. I agree that if one considers the northern sector of Cyprus to be European Union territory, at least formally, even if the acquis communautaire is not for the moment being implemented, then it will not be easily recognized as a separate state. First of all, there is no question of it being recognized by all 25 EU member states. Something has been said about Azerbaijan and other countries. I think the US representative has also dropped a hint on this issue. I do not know how they themselves see it and how the states that might recognize the northern sector of Cyprus as a separate state will work out their relations with the European Union. I think it would be somewhat difficult; they would have problems in their relations with the European Union. US Secretary of State Colin Powell has promised aid to the Turkish Cypriots. What does he mean by «aid,» exactly? I would be the last person to want to try to interpret Mr Powell’s statements, but I think the general message being sent out, by the European Union as well, is that if the «no» prevails, they will want to give special treatment to the Turkish Cypriots, that is at least with economic aid. Are you referring to the likelihood of lifting the embargo? If that is how you want to interpret it, but I think the general trend is that in the event of a «no» there will be a change in the way Turkish Cypriots are treated, with more support being given. The Cypriot Republic has also begun a program of support for the Turkish Cypriots. Yes, there is a real desire on the part of the Greek Cypriots for a closer rapprochement with the Turkish Cypriots. You saw the communication when the restrictions were lifted. There is indeed an increasing tendency on the part of Greek Cypriots toward rapprochement and economic support for Turkish Cypriots. If this happens, could it reduce the possibility of indirect economic aid by foreign countries to Turkish Cypriots? The problem is not economic or other support for Turkish Cypriots in itself, but the way this aid is given and the question that arises is that it will bypass the Cypriot Republic and go directly to the Turkish Cypriots. It has been said, perhaps not without some basis, that international interest will wane if the Cypriot people reject the UN plan. Do you think this is so or will interest increase after May 1, given that Turkey will have to recognize the Cypriot Republic? I personally do not want to believe in last chances. Life goes on, life always provides possibilities and opportunities. So I think that the need will arise once again to look for a solution to the Cyprus problem, perhaps not the day after a rejection of the Annan plan, but during the course of events, for after all a solution would benefit everyone – the European Union, the US and Turkey itself. Are you of the impression that such a revival of the dialogue will once again be on the basis of the Annan plan? That is something I cannot foretell, as I do not know what conditions will exist afterward or whether a continued effort will be on the basis of the Annan plan or some other framework. Within the framework of the European Union? Possibly. I can rule nothing out.