US President George Bush has sent a letter to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, noting that 2004 will be an historic year for Cyprus as it will enter the European Union, and stressed to both sides on the island that now is the time for action. In a reply, Simitis notes that precious time has been wasted because of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s intransigence and his unwillingness to enter substantial and constructive negotiations on Cyprus, and because of the lack of will on the part of Ankara to exert the necessary pressure to yield results.
In his letter dated 26 December 2003, the US President says ”the upcoming year will be of great historic importance for Cyprus, as it realises its aspirations to join the EU”, adding that ”the US has long believed that it is important to achieve a just and durable settlement to the Cyprus problem which would benefit both sides on the island, as well as the security interests of Greece and Turkey”.
”We now have a window of opportunity to reach a settlement so that a united Cyprus joins the EU. We must not let that window close”, Bush adds.
The US President makes a reference to last month’s illegal parliamentary elections in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, noting that with these over ”the parties should return to the negotiating table immediately, under mediation by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan”.
Bush says ”the Secretary General has offered to reengage in the settlement process only if all parties express the political will to finalise the Cyprus settlement plan and put it to referenda by a date certain”.
”I urge you to follow this approach immediately, which the Security Council has unanimously endorsed, and ask that you encourage (Cyprus) President (Tassos) Papadopoulos to do the same. I appreciate the continued statements by President Papadopoulos of his intent to return to the negotiating table; now is the time for action”, Bush adds.
He reminds that the US ”strongly supports the negotiations aimed at forging a Cyprus settlement prior to the December 2002 European Council in Copenhagen and at The Hague last Spring”.
”We will remain actively engaged but it will be up to the leaders, in particular those on the island, to reach a comprehensive, lasting settlement. Working together, we can make history that will benefit Greece and Cyprus, as well as Turkey and the entire international community”, President Bush concludes.
In his letter of reply, dated 2 January 2004, Prime Minister Simitis thanks the US President for his interest in Cyprus and notes that ”the forthcoming completion of Cyprus’ accession to the EU undoubtedly creates a new dynamic in the direction of an overall settlement”.
Simitis says that his government has recently welcomed the desire expressed by the majority of the Turkish Cypriots for a solution of the Cyprus problem and in favour of the benefits of accession to the EU, despite the pressure they have faced to support the existing status quo”.
”The EU has repeatedly asked the involved parties and especially Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership to strongly support the UN Secretary General’s efforts to resume negotiations based on his proposals. He has also underlined the need for an overall settlement according the UN Security Council resolutions which will be negotiated based on the analytic proposals of the UN Secretary General”, Simitis adds.
The Greek Prime Minister notes that ”such a arrangement and the accession of a reunited island to the EU will allow all Cypriots to share a future of security and prosperity”.
”As you have rightly indicated, President Papadopoulos has clearly expressed his readiness to return to the negotiating table whenever he (Kofi Annan) believes it is worthwhile”, Simitis adds.
He notes however that ”precious time has been wasted because of the Turkish Cypriot leader’s intransigence and his unwillingness to enter substantial and constructive negotiations and because of the lack of will on the part of Ankara to exert the pressure that is required to yield results”.
”I fully share your view that the this year constitutes an historic opportunity for Cyprus. My government is fully aware of the significance in finding a solution to the island’s problem and the positive repercussions such a development would have on peace and stability in the wider region. We will continue to not spare efforts to achieve this goal”, Simitis says, adding that he gladly ascertains that the US intends to remain ”actively involved in this effort”.