Hoping for progress on Cyprus

Let’s move on to Cyprus. Is your country planning any new steps, any proposals on the issue? For 30 years, my country has supported the idea of a negotiated reunification of the island. We and most of the rest of the international community have supported a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation approach for a long time and we continue to do so. We believe that the UN has had and should continue to have the lead in taking this forward. The secretary-general has asked (Cypriot) President (Tassos) Papadopoulos to specify the problems he had with the Annan Plan which were not specified in sufficient detail. We support him on that and we are interested to hear from the president on that. We don’t feel it’s in our place to launch some big new initiative on our own but to the extent that the parties and the secretary-general feel that the time is right and the circumstances are arranged, we will be very supportive as we have been traditionally. There is a great interest in the United States in seeing this issue resolved on a permanent basis. And I think that it’s useful to recall how much progress was made in the last year. And the question, is can we find a solution that both sides can welcome? Because any lasting solution has to be based on consent. Do you think we might see anything before October 3? We’d like to see a solution as soon as possible. And I agree with you, it would be better sooner rather than later. But sometimes deadlines are useful and sometimes not. Is the US thinking of doing anything to ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots? Well, we said so in April of last year following the defeat of the referendum in Cyprus. We said that we praised the Turkish side of the island for its courage in supporting the Annan Plan and we would look into measures to reduce the economic isolation of the north. If you’ve traveled across the Green Line you can see the very stark differences between the north and the south. We think that one of the reasons that Turkish Cypriots supported the Annan Plan was a desire for economic development, and in order to have a perspective for the reunification of the island we have to keep that hope alive. And in the meantime we need to find ways to help reduce their economic isolation. Is anything specific expected before the Turkish-Cypriot elections on February 20? I don’t think there’s anything new from us. There are some things we’ve already done but I don’t think there’s anything new between now and the February elections. But I would have to defer to my colleague in Nicosia, who is closer to that than I am.