WASHINGTON.- US Secretary of State Colin Powell has urged Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to think about the advantages of a ”yes” vote at the 24th of April referenda on the UN Secretary General’s plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue.
He also reassured that the US, the UN and the EU would ensure the implementation of the Annan plan and make sure that all parties abide by all its elements plan and fully meet their obligations.
Interviewed by Mega TV correspondent Michael Ignatiou, Colin Powell minimized the security concerns of the Greek Cypriots and at the same time he said, 2004 is not 1974.
The interview follows.
MR. IGNATIOU: Mr. Secretary, first of all, thanks for the opportunity. I have some questions about Cyprus. The Greek-Cypriots, many Greek-Cypriots, are afraid that the presence of Turkish troops is a big problem for them. What can you say to them to ensure them that?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as you know, with a “yes” vote from both parties and the implementation of the United Nations plan, there will be a reduction, a very significant reduction, of Turkish troops, down to very modest numbers that are consistent with the 1960 treaty. And I don’t think that they should view this as a threat in any way. It’s almost a symbolic presence, in my judgment. So I think that, on balance, the benefits of the plan so outweigh some of the concerns and disadvantages, as seen from the Greek-Cypriot side, but the benefits are so great that it seems to me it should push them in the direction of a “yes” vote.
MR. IGNATIOU: They say that they don’t want to see again a ’74 invasion, another invasion.
SECRETARY POWELL: I mean, if you take this plan, and you look at it, and you — I think it’s 9,000 pages long; it’s got all kinds of annexes to it — it is supported totally by the Secretary General, the United Nations. It is supported by the international community, the European Union, the United States, of course. We have made it clear to all parties that we expect all parties to comply with the elements of the plan. This is a pretty good security guarantee, and I frankly cannot imagine, in this day and age, and in the year 2004, 5, 6, or 7 or 8 or into the future, with the kind of integration we now have in the world and in Europe, with Cyprus, united, being part of the European Union — it’s hard for me to imagine that that kind of event could take place again like 1974.
MR. IGNATIOU: There are some refugees, that they are not going to go back, according to the plan. Why do you think they have to vote toward yes?
SECRETARY POWELL: Because large numbers will be able to return home, and those who lost property will be compensated to some extent. But you either accept that as a reasonable outcome — a large number returning, compensation for anyone who lost property to some level — what’s the alternative? Just continue to remain divided and continue to stare across this line at your fellow citizens who — a little bit different from you. But, you know, Cyprus should be one place. It should be one island reunited again.
And so, yes, there are concerns that the Greek-Cypriots have about issues such as you just raised. But those problems and those concerns are not going to be solved by a “no” vote. Nobody’s going to come and improve the plan later to fix these concerns.
So as with any very difficult negotiation, you have to balance what you gain and what you don’t gain. And if what you gain is much more than what you don’t gain, or what you would like to have but don’t get, then it seems to me you ought to tilt in the direction of, on balance, I gain more than I don’t gain, and therefore, this is deserving of a “yes” vote.
The international community is there, money is being pledged, the United States pledged $400 million yesterday, $850 million already from the international community. This shows that the international community is coming together behind this plan, behind this settlement. The international community recognizes that this is a golden opportunity, a once in a lifetime, really, a once in a lifetime opportunity, and if we don’t get a “yes” vote now, what happens the day after tomorrow? What happens the day after (inaudible)?
MR. IGNATIOU: That’s my last question that I have. What’s going to happen if the answer — if the vote is no?
SECRETARY POWELL: This is the problem. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen and I don’t want to speculate on what might happen. I just know that if the vote is no on either side or both sides, if the vote is no, then a great opportunity has been lost and we are going back into the unknown. We are going back into the past. We are going back into the past 40 years where the controversy remains, where the bad feelings remain, where the separation remains, where people cannot unite, where we can’t take advantage of the power of a unified Cyprus being in the European Union.
And so I can’t speculate about what might happen. Well, I do know that it will be a tragedy if we don’t seize the opportunity that is before us now — not we, but the Cypriot people, do not seize this opportunity.
MR. IGNATIOU: Mr. Secretary, the biggest player, political player in Cyprus, Mr. Christofias, is expecting to seek an answer from you. He has some questions of security. What can you tell him?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I had a conversation with him, and we are looking at the specific questions he raised. But security isn’t uppermost in my mind, because I think the elements of the plan, and the presence of people on the ground to help implement the plan, and the pressure of the international community watching this and making sure that the elements of the plan are complied with, and the fact that the island, one single island, not separated, but one island together, is part of the large organization called the European Union, it seems to me that provides for security, that provides for stability. And I hope the people understand, just being in the European Union as a united Cyprus gives you an enormous degree of security.
And this is 2004, not 1974, and I think the situation has fundamentally changed. I think both sides have made compromises to get to this plan. They didn’t compromise totally on every principled element so Secretary General Annan had to fill in some of the blanks. He’s filled in those blanks. He’s presented a plan. This is a plan that’s good for the island, good for Europe, good for the world, but especially good for Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots.