Washington, DC.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
The Cyprus problem was the main issue discussed in Washington on Friday during a meeting between Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus Marcos Kyprianou and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Special reference was made to the necessity to handle the issue of the town of Famagusta, which has been fenced off since 1974, as a separate matter. The Cypriot Minister noted that the first measure that could be implemented was for UN experts to be allowed to enter the town and begin studies on future reconstruction. Kyprianou said Clinton would be examining the issue ”very seriously” and that the US ”will do what they can.”
Speaking after the meeting, Kyprianou said he had the opportunity to brief Clinton on the latest developments in the Cyprus problem and the course of negotiations to reach a settlement, and to elaborate on difficulties expected in the next chapters to be discussed.
He also noted the important role Turkey has in efforts to reach a settlement, and pointed out that without the positive stance of Ankara, there can be no positive outcome in the negotiations.
Referring to bilateral relations, Kyprianou said he was satisfied with his discussion with Clinton. ”There are significant prospects to expand relations further,” he said, adding that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus and the US State Department would be in contact to promote relations.
Replying to questions about his meeting with EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule in Brussels, Kyprianou said they discussed the issue of direct trade with the Turkish occupied areas and that he expressed Cyprus’ objections to the approval of such a regulation, which ”is against the Council conclusions of April 2004, which refer to the reunification of the economy, while this case leads to the exact opposite result.”
A State Department official said after the meeting that Clinton reaffirmed US support for the ongoing Cypriot-led efforts to reach a settlement under the auspices of the UN Secretary General’s Good Offices Mission under the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer.
”President Obama has made clear our support for a just and lasting settlement that reunifies the island into a bizonal and bicommunal federation. The Secretary expressed her support for the efforts of both sides to build on the current momentum and achieve a solution as soon as possible, which will require courage on all sides,” the official added.
According to the official, Clinton and Kyprianou discussed closer cooperation and coordination in bilateral relations.
”Cyprus remains a valued partner in counterterrorism and non-proliferation efforts and we would like to find ways to deepen that cooperation. They also discussed global challenges, including efforts to ensure that Iran complies with its international obligations,” the official concluded.
Speaking before the meeting, Clinton said ”we are delighted to welcome the Foreign Minister to Washington again, and to have this opportunity to discuss matters of great concern to us bilaterally as well as to receive an update about the progress in the discussions going on concerning Cyprus.”
”Certainly, there is a great deal of support for the UN-sponsored mediation, and we are hopeful that we can see progress,” she added.
In his remarks before the meeting, Kyprianou said ”the Secretary of State is doing a great job in the very difficult role she has with all these international problems, so it is always a pleasure and privilege to be here.”
He added that ”the Cyprus issue, of course, is at the top of the agenda, but also on how we can take even further the very excellent bilateral relations.”
”Cyprus is small by comparison to the United States. It is small compared to most states. But I believe that we can offer a lot to the US and to our relationship,” he concluded.
Kyprianou had a meeting on Thursday with the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Nita Lowey whom he briefed about the latest developments in the Cyprus problem. On her part Lowey informed Kyprianou on issues of her competency and request made to finance the works to open Limnitis crossing point in Cyprus that will facilitate movement between the island’s northern Turkish occupied areas and the southern government controlled part of the country.
Lowey was also informed about the efforts made by the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus and pledged to work for their financing with US funds.
Kyprianou and Lowey also discussed issues concerning the ways of allocating UNOPS funds.
Kyprianou also had a meeting with a delegation of the US-Jewish Lobby, whom he briefed on the Cyprus question. He also met with Chairman of the Congress Subcommittee on Europe Gene Shaheen.
Minister of Foreign Affairs met on Wednesday at the US Congress with the Chairman and members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the US House of Representatives. He also spoke at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington, addressing an audience of analysts, academics, diplomats and journalists on the recent developments in the Cyprus problem.
In his speech, Kyprianou noted that the United States and the international community could contribute to efforts for a Cyprus settlement, by encouraging Turkey, which is the key to a solution, to play a positive role in a solution.
He also referred to the issue of Famagusta, which has been fenced-off since 1974, as well as the initiatives of the President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetri Christofia for experts to enter the town and begin reconstruction studies.
Speaking on Voice of America, Kyprianou said that during his meeting with the Chairman and members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs he referred to the latest developments in the Cyprus problem, as well as the positions of the government.