New York.- By Apostolis Zoupaniotis
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mathew Bryza expressed hope that the international community can built on the momentum created by the recent visit to Cyprus of UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari.
Speaking to Greek and Turks journalists at the National Press Centre in Washington, on Friday, about the results of his visit to Cyprus, Bryza said he did not bring any “specific plan or set of ideas, other than what’s been tossed around in the international community a lot lately, recently particularly in Brussels but also in EU member state capitals”.
He pointed out it is hard to imagine that there are any specific ideas or building blocks of a settlement that are truly new, adding ”what’s different is how we assemble those pieces and take advantage of the moment at hand”.
Bryza expressed hope that ”we can build on this momentum and be quite creative and find a way to assemble many elements that have been on the table for quite some time into a workable package to move the process forward”.
Replying to a question where the Annan Plan stands today, Bryza said ”the basic ideas that became known as the Annan Plan reflect wisdom and hard work and a spirit of fairness, so we don’t want to lose that which is mutually agreed”.
”So we ought to take what’s agreed and then find what’s wrong with what’s not agreed and proceed forward”, he said adding ”it’s time to move forward beginning with the Annan Plan as the basis of discussions”.
Bryza said he would rather not even use the term ”Annan Plan” because as Gambari’s visit showed the process has moved in such a way, the two sides have agreed to begin technical talks and they are forming committees to do so.
”And they’re exchanging their ideas now on what they should discuss first in terms of the so-called substantive issues. And it’s those substantive issues that are a subset of the Annan Plan”, he added.
Replying to a question regarding Turkey’s obligation to the EU to open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels and planes, Bryza said ”it’s important to make sure that, in encouraging Turkey to fulfill that obligation, we not back Turkey into a political corner such that it actually de facto becomes difficult to fulfill that obligation”.
”So what we need to do is find a way to get from the situation where we are today, where that vision of Foreign Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gul is not acceptable to the Greek-Cypriots, to the Republic of Cyprus and build in interim steps that are acceptable to both parties to get us like climbing up a ladder, to get us to a position in which that comprehensive proposal of Foreign Minister Gul is realizable, or to get us to a point where the Turkish side agrees to meet the Republic of Cyprus halfway the ports issue”, he said.
Turkey has to adapt the Ankara Agreement and extend its customs union to include all ten new EU member states, including the Republic of Cyprus, which Ankara does not recognize.
To date, Turkey has refused to open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels and aircraft, in spite of repeated appeals and warnings from Brussels.
Replying to a question by CNA, if there is any timetable, he said it is not for him to set a timetable.
”It’s the Secretary-General of the UN that has to be convinced, A, to renew his good offices mission; and B, to find a way to keep the parties negotiating, moving forward, and not simply letting this positive momentum kind of sink into the sand like water in the desert”, he noted.
He also added that President Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are committed by the end of the month to agree on their list of substantive issues.
Asked if he is to visit Cyprus again, he replied that his is not the mediator of the process expressing hope his return depends on the pace at which the parties come together and fulfill the obligations that they committed to, which is, again, to start up the work of the technical committees and to finalize their list of substantive issues, which they’re supposed to do by the end of the month.
Asked to comment on the assistance given by the Republic of Cyprus in the evacuation of Americans from Lebanon, Bryza said the cooperation with the Republic of Cyprus has been great.
”The cooperation with the government of the Republic of Cyprus was and remains excellent. It is terrible that we have to work together on an issue like this at all. I mean, it’s a tragedy in so many ways. But the good-news story is that we are able to revitalize an aspect of cooperation — bilateral cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Cyprus, thanks largely to the government of the Republic of Cyprus’s very constructive attitude”, he said.