by Apostolis Zoupaniotis
The Annan plan for a Cyprus settlement, the fact that there has been a great increase in interaction between the two communities on the island, plus the political field in Cyprus’ Turkish occupied north are developments that are pushing in the right direction, US Ambassador in Nicosia Michael Klosson said here Monday addressing a gathering organised by the Cyprus Federation of America and the International Coordinating Committee – Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA).
Klosson noted that the UN Secretary General’s peace plan ”is a very comprehensive plan that can be further improved, but there’s an enormous amount of good work that has gone into it, and it’s on the table in a way that previous UN proposals had been less fleshed out. This is a plan that after some further discussion and negotiation could be put to a vote,” he added.
Referring to Europe the US Ambassador said ”it has been a catalyst to the extent that we’ve seen progress in recent years and remains a catalyst.”
Klosson said that what the US and others are trying to do is encourage the parties to make a commitment ”so that we can get these negotiations under way.”
”I think what you can say is that the solution is certainly possible by May 1st but it’s going to take commitment on the part of the political leaders in order to make that happen. So that’s what we are trying to encourage from the political leaders both on and off the island. It is a complicated issue to get that necessary political commitment,” the US diplomat noted.
He also said that if one looks back on the UN talks ”a couple of things become clear: one is that no solution can be imposed and the UN framework does not impose a solution, it’s probably the most democratic framework there is because at the end of the day a solution only comes about if a majority of people both on the Turkish-Cypriot side and on the Greek-Cypriot side vote in favor of that solution.”
”But I think it’s pretty clear that neither side can force a solution on the other. In fact if you think about it, I don’t think that kind of solution would be terribly good and I would question how sustainable it would be,” he added.
Klosson said the second point is that the longer the problem goes on unresolved, the more costly it becomes.
”It’s very clear the kind of costs Turkish Cypriots are bearing because of a non-solution,” he noted and said that Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has been increasingly identifying some of the difficulties that he and Greek Cypriots will face if a divided Cyprus goes into the European Union.
”He’s been talking and other Greek Cypriot leaders have been talking about the danger that what is now a buffer zone could take on a more formal character. This is something that they very much don’t want to see. If you are in the European Union as a member and this becomes an additional complication that you would like to avoid,” Klosson said.
He defined as the third point that of property, noting that he spent a lot of the Fall in the north talking with all kinds of Turkish Cypriots across the spectrum and what he was picking up was a sense ”that if there’s no real prospect then it may well be, as some of the kids already have done, they go away to school and sometimes don’t come back, but what I was hearing in some ways was that some of the parents would also then want to leave.”
”As they are considered citizens of the Republic of Cyprus they would then come south and take advantage and use the Greek Cypriot courts, the Republic of Cyprus courts to try to get at least compensation for their property,” Klosson added and noted that ”this again is an issue recognised by a number of the Greek Cypriot political leaders.”
”So there are complications if the Cyprus solution, if the Cyprus problem does not get resolved, even with Cyprus as a member of the EU,” the US Ambassador warned.
Referring to the recent so-called elections in Cyprus’ Turkish occupied areas, Klosson noted that ”the established parties that campaigned against the UN plan lost between a third and half their support” while ”the pro-solution parties which were favoring the UN plan increased their vote count by about 70% and doubled their number of seats in their assembly.”
”This was very much a vote for a solution, what really drove it home for me was the fact that in some of the areas which were going to return to Greek Cypriot administration, even in some of those areas such as Morphou, the majority voted in favor of solution knowing they would have to move,” he said and noted ”that’s a vote of hope over the kind of fear, the themes of fear that we saw during the election campaign.”
Klosson explained that they had a lot ”of reliable reports about politically motivated hirings and firings by the government, reports of vote buying and voter intimidation, pressure on the media, manipulation of citizenship rules and voter administration rules.”
Replying questions by his audience who criticised the American stance towards the Cyprus problem, Klosson said that he did not claim that the Annan plan is just or democratic, but is the result of negotiations and its acceptance or rejections will depend only by the two sides.