ATHENS.- By Gregoris Savva, (CNA)
The Olympic cauldron lit the sky of the Olympic Stadium last night to herald the XXVIII Games’ homecoming. A total of 202 national Olympic Committees paraded, including Cyprus, which received a warm welcome in the packed stadium. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and First Lady Fotini flanked by House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias and cabinet ministers, saluted the Cyprus Olympic Team as it entered the stadium, cheered by the thousands of Greeks and Cypriots in front of an estimated global audience of four billion people.
The flag bearer of the 19 member-Cypriot Olympic Team at the Olympic Games opening ceremony was George Achilleos, who participates in the Olympics for the second time in the shooting event (skeet).
Cypriot athletes will compete in six events, namely field and track, swimming, shooting, sailing, judo and tennis.
Cyprus will also participate with five athletes in the Paraolympics to be held next month in the Greek capital.
The first Cypriot athletes to compete were Maria Papadopoulou in the women’s 100 metre butterfly and Kyriacos Demosthenous in the 100 metres breastroke.
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has expressed hope that the European Union will be more actively engaged in a new initiative aimed to reach a solution to the Cyprus problem. Papadopoulos made this statement at Larnaca Airport before flying to to Athens where he will attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony.
Invited to comment on statements by US Secretary of State Colin Powell that the US is waiting for an initiative for the resumption of efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, Papadopoulos noted that “our side is also waiting for an initiative that could be undertaken by the United Nations”, noting that “our hope is a more active involvement of the EU this time.”
About press reports suggesting that the US has applied to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to legalise direct flights to and from Cyprus’ Turkish-occupied areas, President Papadopoulos noted that the press reports were not true and that nothing like that had happened.
He said, however, that there are such concerns, even for speculations and fears expressed, noting that the Cyprus government takes the necessary measures.
As regards the Athens Olympic Games, the Cypriot President noted that “this is a historic event for Hellenism and for all of us,” and expressed certainty that they ”will make all Greeks proud and for this everyone who worked hard so that Greece surprises the whole world deserve congratulations.”
Asked if he will have a meeting with Greek Premier Costas Karamanlis, during his stay in Athens, Papadopoulos replied affirmatively, adding that he had a phone conversation with him yesterday and they said that they will meet.
Invited to say if he shares Mehmet Ali Talat’s (selfstyled premier in occupied Cyprus) view that the period from the end of this month until the beginning of the next month will be crucial, Papadopoulos replied negatively.
Replying to a question regarding EU measures for the Turkish Cypriots, Papadopoulos said ”the government supports measures for the improvement of the Turkish Cypriots’ standard of living.”
He noted that ”the effort being made is to find the best legal way to implement some measures.”
Invited to comment on Powell’s statements that the US is waiting for an initiative for the resumption of Cyprus talks, Papadopoulos noted that ”our side is also waiting for an initiative that can be undertaken by the United Nations”, adding that this time ”we hope for a more active involvement of the EU.”
He added that ”both the UN and the American policy, at least until now is for our side to reconsider the Annan plan and put it before the Cyprus people at a second referendum and the US says that it is possible the concern for security or for securing implementation of the plan to be met through a UN Security Council resolution.
President Papadopoulos said ”this is not satisfactory for us, either for safeguarding implementation or for the security,” noting that ”the changes we want to the plan do not only concern these two factors that are part of the plan, and do not concern functionality and other provisions of the plan.”
Invited to comment on reports saying that the US had applied to the International Civil Aviation Organisation to legalise direct flights to and from Cyprus’ Turkish-occupied areas, Papadopoulos said that ”for quite a long time now the government of the Cyprus Republic has acted and made representations” and there were meetings with ICAO’s President and other members of the organisation.
He added that as a UN organisation ICAO must implement Security Council decisions, and that ”it is not possible to give an operation license to illegal airports.”
Papadopoulos noted that there are also legal problems, as insurance companies will have difficulties in issuing insurance documents for flights to and from illegal airports.
”Information that the US or any US office has applied to the international organisation to get a license are baseless and nothing like that has happened and we know this for sure,” he said. The Cyprus government has declared as illegal all airports and ports in the areas of Cyprus occupied by Turkish troops since 1974.