New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
It is high time for a Cyprus-US meeting at the highest possible level, as recognition of our strategic partnership, the Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulides said on Saturday, addressing the Convention of the Federation of Cypriot American Organisations in New York.
Christodoulides, who was representing at the convention President Nicos Anastasiades, added that such a meeting will serve as a catalyst to further enhancing the Cyprus – U.S. cooperation, as a message of the United States’ commitment to regional security in the Eastern Mediterranean and to a solution of the Cyprus problem, which will have a catalytic effect not only for Cyprus but also for regional stability.
The Government Spokesman conveyed to the delegates President Anastasiades’ gratitude for the invaluable work they carry out in the United States, working tirelessly and promoting the vision of a reunified Cyprus.
“Rest assured that the Cyprus Government, and the Cypriot people, are deeply grateful for your selfless commitment to our common cause, to our vision for Cyprus”, he said.
Speaking about the developments on the Cyprus talks, he said the negotiations for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, despite the undeniable efforts of our side and President Anastasiades, are at a standstill following the unjustified, pre-determined decision of Mr. Akinci to withdraw from the negotiations.
“President Anastasiades presented the state of play to the UN Secretary General during a very creative meeting this week, where the state of play was discussed in a realistic, honest manner. The Secretary General is genuinely interested, receptive to the concerns of our side, and committed to support the process forward in a way that fully respects that this is a leader-led negotiations under UN auspices. “
He expressed hope that the dinner that is expected to take place at the beginning of April between President Anastasiades and Mr. Akinci, will pave the way for the return of the Mr. Akinci to the negotiating table. But, he pointed out, “we are also realistic on how much can change prior to the referendum in Turkey. “
“We expect that a decision by Mr. Akinci to return to the negotiating table will be substantial and meaningful, and that given that no developments are expected before the referendum in Turkey, post referendum the Turkish side will submit proposals in the negotiations that will be in line with the established framework, and in line with EU law values and principles. In essence what matters is not only that negotiations resume but also, even more important, is that problematic positions such as the ones the Turkish side has been putting on the table and recently, which do not allow any progress, will seize to be presented”, he added.
Christodoulieds underlined that over the last 23 months our side has engaged constructively, and in good faith in the negotiations. President Anastasiades has demonstrated immense commitment and creativity in an effort to achieve progress results, “always remaining faithful and focused on the goal of a solution that responds to the legitimate concerns of the Cypriot people, a solution that just and viable, to the interests of Cypriots and only, free of guarantees and troops.”
He said that the negotiations yielded results in four of the six negotiating chapters (Governance and Power Sharing, EU, Economy, and some aspects of the Property chapter), however, despite the progress achieved, divergences have remained on important parameters of these chapters.
He explained the reasons our accepted the negotiations to be moved to Mont Pelerin, Switzerland and the two rounds of negotiations that followed, and despite the progress achieved in one of the three main criteria for territorial readjustments, the lack of progress in the other two criteria prevented the submission of maps, as was the initial agreement of 26 October.
“On December 1, and in order to maintain the momentum in the negotiations and prevent a collapse of the process, President Anastasiades, despite the political cost involved, decided to intensify the negotiations in Cyprus, continuing from the point at which they stopped at Mont Pelerin, and for this new phase of intense negotiations to culminate in negotiations in Geneva between 8-11 January 2017.”
The aim of the new round of negotiations in Geneva – Christodoulides explained – was first, to reach convergences in internal aspects of the Cyprus problem, and submit maps on 11 January and second, to subsequently hold a Conference on Cyprus on the international aspects of the Cyprus problem, and in particular on the chapters of Security and Guaranties.
The Government Spokesman underlined that Turkey insisted on its position for maintaining a system of security and guarantees in reunified Cyprus, despite the fact that Greece made it clear that it does not wish to be a guarantor power, the UK has stated that it does not claim of role as guarantor power, and is at the disposal of both sides for any role it can undertake, on which both sides agree, while the EU, and in particular Vice President and High Representative Frederica Mogherini, has publicly stated that the best guarantee for Cyprus, an EU member state, is membership itself.
In addition, during the Conference in Geneva, Turkey raised a new, arbitrary demand as a precondition to continuing discussions on security and guarantees, namely for Turkish nationals to be granted the four fundamental EU freedoms (freedom of movement of capital, goods, services and persons) in reunited Cyprus.
“One thing is clear, Christodoulides told the edlegates. Ahead of Geneva, where for the first timeTurkey was put in a situation where it had to discuss the critical chapters of security and guarantees, And Turkey realized that its position on guarantees is not acceptable to any other party. As a result it decided to put forward the unacceptable demand on the granting of the 4 EU freedoms, on the assumption that in this way it could retain control over Cyprus post-solution.”
Because of the Turkish stance, not only the negotiations that followed the Conference in Geneva in Cyprus yielded no results, but to the contrary, “we witnessed a progressively more intransigent stance from the Turkish side.” “Unfortunately our assessment – that ahead of the referendum in Turkey Mr. Erdogan would use the Cyprus problem to sway the nationalist vote – proved to be true”, he said.
Christodoulides stressed that it needs to be understood that it is of great interest of the United States – but also at international level, Israel, Egypt and the EU – that a solution to the Cyprus problem does not turn Cyprus into a proxy of Turkey.
“For the good of regional stability, Cyprus must remain an independent foreign policy actor, committed to democratic values and supporting moderate actors in the Middle East region”, he added.
ECONOMY – ENERGY
A big part of the Government’s Spokesman presentation was about the economy and the positive developments during the past four years.
“Cyprus has returned to the international markets, and has gained access to lending with interest rates, which are now at historically low levels as a result of the continuous upgrading of the economy by international rating agencies, following 22 consecutive downgrades in previous years. This stems from the restructuring and full capitalization of the banking sector, and from the implementation of radical structural reforms”, Christodoulieds said.
He added that now that the phase of healing of the economy is near completion, we are focusing on creating a ‘Cyprus dream’ – making Cyprus a place of opportunity for business, investment and growth.
“As you are well aware, the Government is working on attracting foreign investment, which is one of the key drivers of economic growth. It is part of the reason that President Anastasiades visited the United States this past week, to attend together with 3 Ministers the Cyprus Investment Forum”.
He explained that the goal is to highlight Cyprus as an efficient and reliable business hub, and an ideal –stable and reliable – investment gateway into Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
“In this framework, Cyprus is constantly working to forge new partnerships and enhance our existing ties, with key regional and international markets. For instance, we are at present actively targeting countries in the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the USA, Canada, China and India, for the promotion of Cypriot products and services”.
He invited all to convincingly spread the message that the financial and business services sector of Cyprus retains significant comparative advantages, most important of which is perhaps the world class expertise which has been attained over the years.
He also mentioned the developments in the energy sector, including the government’s initiatives for regional cooperation, that have brought together countries such as Israel, Greece, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, who share the same vision of transforming the Eastern Mediterranean into an energy hub, a region of stability and prosperity and the gateway of the EU to energy security.
“Our message to our neighbors, the EU and our partners here, across the Atlantic, has been consistent and clear: energy can and should be a catalyst for conflict resolution and regional cooperation. Energy infrastructure is a specific sector that can serve as the object of regional cooperation. The enhanced exploration activity must be supported by strategic and long-term planning for and creation of energy infrastructure. Therefore, the countries of the region need to act collectively, fast and efficiently.”
He said the government is very encouraged by the interest and commitment that all of the participants in the third licensing round have shown in Cyprus and in itsd hydrocarbons potential.
“We have successfully concluded negotiations with oil and gas companies for Production Sharing Contracts/Exploration Licenses for three Blocks. The presence of energy giants such as ExxonMobil, ENI-KOGAS, Total, Noble, Qatar Petroleum speaks volumes on the huge potential in the field of energy, for Cyprus but also for the wider region.”
He explained the various plans that are into consideration to transport the natural gas, including the EastMed pipeline, which he called “a manifestation of our efforts to create energy infrastructure though regional cooperation”.
“In this project three Member States, the European Commission and Israel can work together to physically connect the Eastern Mediterranean to Continental Europe.”
Finally he said the government is very encouraged by the wish expressed by both ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum to explore the possibility of investing in an LNG plant in Cyprus.
The delegates listened to the reports of the President of the Federation Kyriakos Papastylianou, the President of PSEKA Philip Christopher, the representative of HALC Nikos Katsimbras and the member associations and the Youth.
Greetings at the Conventions were offered by the Chairman of the Diaspora Committee of the Greek Parliament Alexandros Triantafyllidis, the Permanent Representatives of Cyprus and Greece to the U.S. Ambassadors Kornelios Korneliou and Ekaterini Boura, the Consul Generals of Cyprus and Greeec Vassilios Philippou and Dr. Constantinos Koutras