Greek Ambassador to Washington George Savvaides was last week in New York, for meetings with Archbishop Dimitrios, academics and members of the Greek community, the Greek American Press and important foundations, like Onnasis Cultural Center. He also held a private meeting with GreekNews’ publisher, Apostolos Zoupaniotis.
Speaking to New York University students, at the Vernon Center for International Affairs, he called them to witness the Athens 2004 Olympic Games at first hand, something, which he said, would be a ”unique experience” for them.
In a speech on the theme ”The orientations of Greek foreign policy”, Ambassador Savvaides said, “the Eastern Mediterranean is an area of historic importance for Greece’s Foreign Policy. There are two issues that require our continuing attention there: the Cyprus issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Both produce tension and instability not only between and among their main players but also to their contiguous geostrategic periphery. As such they continue to adversely affect Mediterranean and European security.”
Speaking on the Cyprus problem, he explained the effects of Cyprus accession to the European Union.
“The integration will take place irrespective of the resolution of the political problem and the artificial division of the Republic of Cyprus due to Turkey’s invasion of the island in 1974, with its military forces still occupying 37% of its territory. Cyprus’ European integration along with the similar one of Malta constitutes an important milestone for the EU too, which in December last year decided on a twofold expansion towards the East and the South. But at the same time Cyprus’ integration constitutes the first and single move of visionary dimensions concerning a possible exit from the impasse of an unacceptable status-quo emanating from years of ethnic strife, foreign military intervention and the events of 1974 which caused endless suffering, division and forced displacement and separation of people and families. We are happy to have seen the US supporting the EU integration course of Cyprus considering it as also supportive of achieving the resolution of its long-standing political problem”.
Ambassador Savvaides condemned the intransigent stand of the Turkish Cypriot leader Raou Denktash, who demands for two states in Cyprus loosely linked in the form of a confederation. “The solution, Mr Savvaides said, must conform to the U.N.S.C. resolutions, which provide for a bi-communal and bi-zonal Cypriot federation with a single legal personality and with the human rights of all its people both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot guaranteed. It is also understood that the arrangement should be in compliance with the European acquis, a fact which will require certain amendments to the Annan plan, following Cyprus’ integration in the EU. This, of course, presupposes the acceptance of the plan by the Turkish Cypriots as a basis for a solution”.
The Ambassador of Greece warned Turkey that missing the opportunity to resolve the Cyprus problem before the 1st of May, 2004, when Cyprus will officially become a member of the European Union, would certainly have adverse repercussions on Ankara’s bid to start accession negotiations with the EU in 2005 because everybody knows that Turkey holds the key for the resolution of the Cyprus problem.
“It is hardly possible, he explained, for Turkey to successfully pursue her own European agenda and press for a concrete date to start her accession negotiations leading to her future integration in the EU, if she continues blocking any progress in Cyprus and in fact occupying a substantial part of the territory of an EU member state by military force”.
And he expressed hope that “for a combination of reasons pertaining not just to Cyprus but also to Turkey’s European aspirations and for broader reasons regarding the future of Greek-Turkish relations, Turkey will sooner or later support an honorable Cyprus settlement; we sincerely hope sooner.”
Responding to a question, he predicted that 2004 will be a crucial year for Cyprus.
“The date that the ten new members will accede into the EU is already set. It is the 1st of May of 2004. The month when the European Council will debate first and then will decide the Turkish negotiating debate, is also set but the outcome is unknown. And as you possibly are aware there are strong voices within the EU, that in any case are not very enthusiastic about Turkey being provided the date for accession negotiations at the end of 2004. But I said very clearly during my presentation that if Turkey does not show any cooperative mood, any cooperative stand during the years of 2004 until December and this will translate into Cyprus being integrated in May of 2004 divided and then will have an impasse on the resolution of the political problem with Turkey’s military forces partly occupying the territory of another state, this is going to be a great hurdle for Turkey to convince not Greece or Cyprus (Cyprus is going also to vote for Turkey to start accession negotiations at the end2004) but other countries in the Union. There are countries; there are circles that would use that situation to effectively block a positive decision for Turkey at the end of 2004.
Because even now if Greece supports the European prospect of Turkey and in fact is helping Turkey bilaterally with practical steps to prepare for a future European integration, if the Cyprus problem remains unresolved by the end of 2004 and this can be attributed to the position of Turkey then with other Europeans blocking effectively Turkish European aspirations, will be extremely awkward and difficult for Greece to agree on it. This is a scenario that it is not likable and we say this to the Turks not only privately but openly that they should use the time that it is left until the end of 2004, make their best efforts, bring Mr. Denktash to some sort of political logic and find a compromised solution but within the basic parameters of the UN SC resolutions by May of 2004 so as to permit Cyprus to join the EU united, in a federal form, but united. Or if this does not happen for Turkish reasons, to permit the resolution of the problem before the end of 2004”