NEWS

Good will and flexibility needed on all sides

Do you think Turkey has to recognize Cyprus by October 3? This is a complicated and complex issue. Turkey is certainly going to have to recognize Cyprus before it becomes a member of the European Union, and I think the Greek government has rightly described the extension of the Ankara agreement, which Turkey committed itself to at the last European Council in December, as a good step forward. And I would agree with that assessment. So I think that I would put the issue of the recognition of Cyprus in the context of the overall negotiation which is going to have to take place before Turkey joins the European Union. So you wouldn’t see October 3 as a deadline? I don’t see October 3 as a deadline. What Turkey does have to do, clearly, is meet the obligations which it signed up to in December on the extension of the Ankara agreement. And that is something which I am confident will happen before October 3. In terms of Cyprus, do you see any concrete moves in the next few months there? I think there is some potential for forward movement. I think the Annan plan made quite a lot of progress toward resolving some of the more difficult issues around a just and permanent settlement in Cyprus. Unfortunately, in the end it did not achieve its objective because it was rejected in the referendum in Cyprus. Now, we have to respect that; that was a democratic decision of the people of Cyprus. At the same time, we feel, as I feel do most members of the international community, that the time will come when we need to return to this problem and we need to find a solution in Cyprus which must be to the benefit of both communities on the island. Now will that happen over the next few months? I think a lot of it depends upon the will of the parties to show that they are willing to enter into a negotiation in which there can be the flexibility which can lead to a solution. In our view this has to be based on the Annan plan. It does not mean that there can’t be amendments to it, but the basis of it must be the Annan plan. I think there must be a process that is led by the United Nations, and therefore the UN secretary-general is going to have to be convinced that there is sufficient possibility of reaching a positive solution, to make it worth the time and the effort which would need to go into a solution of that sort. So I think it’s possible. We will need to see over the next few months what signals the parties send as to their willingness to engage seriously and productively in that sort of process. We would certainly be willing to support any moves in that direction. Do you believe that the US trade delegation that began a visit to northern Cyprus on Thursday, which made use of an airport not recognized by the Cypriot government, is something that will help lead toward an eventual settlement or does it harden the Greek-Cypriot attitude that some members of the international community are forgetting the problem of Turkey’s occupation of the island? Is Britain planning anything similar? It is not for me to comment on the visit of the US trade delegation. What I can say is that last April, the European Union committed itself to ending the isolation of Turkish Cypriots. That was a decision of the European Union as a whole. It reflected the view that improvements in the economy in the northern part of the island would support a solution to the Cyprus problem by reducing differences between the economies in the north and south. A recent development has been the United Nations secretary-general’s invitation to the government of Cyprus to set out the changes it would like to see to the Annan plan. I understand from press reports that the government of Cyprus is considering its response. This is a valuable opportunity to help the secretary-general assess the chances of success if he were to launch a further attempt to help the parties resolve the Cyprus issue. Are we waiting only for President Papadopoulos to make his proposals? We must not forget that this is going to require good will and flexibility on all sides, and therefore I don’t point purely at President Papadopoulos in terms of wanting to hear from his side about the intentions of the government of Cyprus. We need to hear from all of the parties about their intentions. Do you feel that President Papadopoulos and his government made clear the reasons that they couldn’t accept the Annan plan? I think that some of the reasons have been made clear. One of the issues which was clearly of concern to the people of Cyprus at the time was the security arrangements surrounding the Annan plan. I think it was a pity that the UN Security Council resolution that was put forward at the time on security was vetoed, because I think that’s something that would have helped create the security framework in which the people of Cyprus might have felt more positive about the referendum. But that’s history now. We have to look forward and find solutions. I think that what we would need is a little more specificity about where the changes would need to come in order to help us to judge how productive a new negotiation might be. But I emphasize this is something which the parties have to express and which, in the end, the UN secretary-general is going to have to take a view on. We will be very happy from the British perspective to support any efforts on those lines. With the Annan plan, Britain was also involved in, among other things, giving territory from the bases. Is that still on the agenda? I think that is still on the agenda. Britain is willing to contribute in any way it can to a settlement. Achievement of a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem firstly brings benefit to both communities on Cyprus, but it also brings benefits to other members of the European Union as well. The Cyprus issue is divisive and is difficult to handle in the European context, and therefore all of us are prepared to make extra efforts to achieve a settlement. So, certainly, when the time comes, Britain will be ready to play its part, as it was in the last settlement. As you said, it’s divisive and difficult to handle in the European context. Have we seen that in the efforts to improve the lot of the Turkish Cypriots? Yes. Where is that heading, and is Britain satisfied with what the Turkish Cypriots are getting? Firstly, let me say that I was very encouraged by the new developments on the Green Line. I think they are a positive step forward in terms of helping exchanges across the Green Line. I think in terms of northern Cyprus, the European Union as a whole has declared that it needs to work to help to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. This is not simply because this is a philanthropic gesture toward the community there, but rather because moves of that sort can help the prospects for an eventual solution. The isolation of any community is not usually conducive to a settlement. It will also make the settlement easier to make lasting if the Turkish Cypriots have had the opportunity to develop their commercial relations. As you said, there are two regulations which have been under discussion in the European Union for some time. I think that the principles of the aid regulation are very well established. I don’t think there is a massive difficulty there. The trade regulation is particularly under discussion. There are different views about how to proceed with it. We would clearly like to see progress on both regulations because we think they would help an eventual settlement in Cyprus. At the moment they are blocked and we would have to see what plans the Luxembourg presidency in particular have for making progress on them. But it’s difficult to predict at the moment exactly where we will go on those regulations.