Members of Congress Raise their Concerns to Kofi Annan and Collin Powel
UNITED NATIONS.- Members of US Congress from New York AND New Jersey responding to the concerns their Greek American constituents, met on Friday with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, at the UN Headquarters to convey him the message that a Cyprus solution in order to be viable, must be workable.
U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chairman of the Hellenic Caucus, along with Donald Payne (D-NJ), Robert Andrews (D-NJ) and Frank Pallone, (D-NJ) voiced their concerns about several provisions now included in the Secretary General’s plan that they believe will negatively impact the Greek-Cypriot community and could make it extremely difficult to govern the island nation.
That was the last of a series of efforts orchestrated by the Hellenic Caucus with the encouragement of Greek American Community leaders.
On Thursday, 45 members of Congress co-signed with Congressman Michael Bilirakis letters to US Secretary of State Collin Powel and UN Secretary Genera Kofi Annan.
“My colleagues and I felt that those involved with the revisions and discussions of the Annan plan, whether directly or indirectly, needed to be aware of the issues whose resolutions could mean a positive outcome for both communities in Cyprus,” said Bilirakis.
There were five major points of concern mentioned in the letters:
On Thursday, two closed hearing were held in the US House of Representatives, following requests from members of Congress. US Department of State Special Coordinator, Amb Thomaw Weston testified in one, while Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman briefed the members in the other.
According to well informed sources, Grossman told members, concerned about certain aspects of the Annan plan that more changes will come.
MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
After meeting with Kofi Annan, members of Congress told GreekNews and our editor Apostolos Zoupaniotis, that the Secretary General supports the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Cyprus.
“He wants to limit the amount of Turkish troops down from 40,000 to six thousand and he would like to see all the troops leave Cyprus and that the UN presence continue so that there not be security problems”, said NJ Democrat Frank Pallone.
According to Pallone, Mr Annan said that “there will be two enclaves and it will be a government that needs to work. Ultimately it will be a united country and people can move freely back and forth and also to own property throughout the island”.
He also said that all the members of Congress were very emphatic that there need to be changes if this is going to be a real government that works.
“However the people involved in the negotiations are reluctant to talk about what those changes would be. They are part of the negotiations. But they all understood and so did the SG that they are going to be additional changes to the Annan plan, that the existing plan needs work before it is finalized”
Hellenic Caucus chairperson, Carolyn Maloney told GreekNews of the series of meetings took place last week.
“Εarlier we met with the Cypriot Ambassador and Special Envoy Weston, today we met with the Under-Secretary of State Dept Marc Grossman and we are concerned about the talks. We are all hopeful that peace and justice and settlement will go forward.
Mr. Annan confirmed that Cyprus will be going into the EU on May 1st, he is hopeful that (he will go himself to Switzerland soon, to be part of the negotiations, while both the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey will be there) all of the agreements will be made before they get to the stage were he will fill in the gaps, before it goes to the referendum. The referendum is set for April 20th; and he hopes that there will be an agreement before March 29 and that it will go to the voters”.
Carolyn Maloney also raised concerns over property rights.
“Many of my constituents, she said, lost their homes in Famagusta, in Nicosia and other areas and they want the right to go back to their homes. Apparently there will be a commission put in place, and a donor’s conference that will take place to raise money for the compensation for both the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots and then the right of Greek Cypriots to buy property throughout the island. We also raised the very important question about governance, that it should be a strong governance, one that can function well”.
Congressman Bob Andrews said “justice involves fair property rights for all people and it involves the demilitarization of Cyprus so that people can live without Turkish troops in the country. It means a government structure that will work and give Cyprus a real voice in the EU”.
Andrews was encouraged by the fact that the SG has great sensitivity to the people involved in this.
“I think he wants to be a positive force so agreement occurs. Not a person that writes the agreement, and I think that is the proper role for him to play. I am leaving hopeful and optimistic”.
Congressman Donald Payne told us that property rights, the right of return and the right of purchasing property are going to be ironed out in Switzerland.
“We feel that there will be a just solution. Thirty years have passed and the Cypriots, whether they are Greek or Turkish, understand each other, can work with each other, want to be one place. The problem was that outsiders, from Turkey or from Greece, disrupted the way that the Cypriots interact with themselves for many years and so we are hoping that the solutions will be mainly internal. That Cypriots will be the ones who will insure that justice will prevail, but I do believe that there are so many experienced, thoughtful, just people involved that the only outcome can be a just solution”.
Asked to comment on this latest manifestation of the active interest of the U.S. Congress for the efforts to achieve a comprehensive solution to the division of Cyprus, the Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States, Mr. Euripides L. Evriviades, said:
“We deeply appreciate these distinguished members of Congress for expressing their concern on such critical issues currently under discussion. The Annan plan has been accepted by our side as a basis for negotiations and our effort from the outset has been to ensure a comprehensive agreement that will be functional and therefore viable. It is indeed important for all outstanding issues to be resolved satisfactorily at the negotiating table. This will allow the people of Cyprus, in both communities, to be fully aware of what they are asked to vote on, during the referenda on the final agreement. It will also make any approved agreement easier to implement.”