NEW YORK.- By Apostolis Zoupaniotis
Greek American leaders take their case to Washington DC trying to minimize the effects of the rejection of the Annan plan by the Greek Cypriot Community, at the April 24 referendum. Last week, a Greek American delegation, led by World Hellenes Abroad President, Andrew A. Athens, PSEKA President, Philip Christopher, Cyprus Federation President, Peter Papanicolaou and Andrew Manatos, of the Coordinationd Effort of Hellenes and Nicos Mouyiaris, executive Vice President of the Pancyprian Association, met with Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman.
The discussion was very candid, and regardless the bitter feeling of US officials directly involved with the negotiations (like Ambassador Thomas Weston, who is to retire soon, to take an academic job at the Georgetown University and Ambassador Klosson), there is a will at the Department of State to keep the door open for a solution.
The Greek American leadership will have another chance, this week, to meet some of the highest-level administration officials, as well as over 30 key U.S. Senators and Members of Congress who serve on the pertinent committees and subcommittees and others who play a major role in the formulation of U.S. policy toward and aid to Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, at the 15th Annual PSEKA / SAE Cyprus Conference, May 12-14, 2004. On May 13, CIA Director George Tenet will be honored at the conferences banquet.
PSEKA’s President, Philip Christopher, spoke to Greek News about the upcoming conference, as well as the meeting with Grossman. He said that Grossman told them that the US Government wants to know what exactly are the changes Cyprus Government wants to be made, before they reconsider the possibility of new talks. At the same time, he finds no reason for Papadopoulos not to meet President Bush, when the Cypriot President arrives in the United States, in June. But no such request was made yet.
On the upcoming PSEKA conference, Christopher pointed out it takes place at a critical moment.
“If you remember, there were many people that were criticizing us because we had put the PSEKA conference after the referendum, and I was the one for saying from the beginning that the work of PSEKA and the work of the community, will come after the referendum. I totally expected that the referendum would’ve been in a No vote, and we knew the consequences. Now Turkey with Livingston as their PR person and with their contacts through Livingston and others who just introduced this legislation in the subcommittee of the foreign relations committee. Our work now is to stop that resolution from coming out of the subcommittee. We will be introducing our own resolution, which basically reminding people that the division of Cyprus was not as a result of the Annan Plan.
The division of Cyprus was a result of an illegal invasion and a continued occupation that the rejection of the Annan Plan was not a rejection to the reunification of the island, but a rejection of one undemocratic plan that was not viable.
We have a lot of work to do; what I call on the community right now is to forget who was pro-yes and who was pro-no, and to put behind the past . We have a new struggle; the struggle now is an outfield battle, because from a victim that we’ve always put ourselves in 1974, we are looked upon now as being the rejectionists of the reunification, and to many congressmen and senators that don’t understand the history of this thing, the only thing that they understand was that the Turkish Cypriots voted for peace, and the Greek Cypriots voted “no”. So we have a lot of work to do”.
“The purpose was to remind Mr. Grossman that we visited him two times before and both times we told him that we do not see the referendum being a “yes”. Even though, they refused to believe us, I think now they understand.
We told them that the plan itself lacked certain democratic principles; it did not provide enough security and there was no way the Greek Cypriot’s would accept this kind of a plan. In addition, unlike Kuwait, where Iraq was forced to pay for the reparation and compensation, Turkey in this particular instance, would pay them for nothing. For the first reason was security, the second was economics.
Grossman made an issue by taking out reports from the American embassy in Cyprus, complaining about intervention in the democratic process of the election and certain reports that came in, that TV stations did not play Colin Powell’s speech or that different civil servants would lose their pension or whatever.
We told him that the vote overwhelming against the plan, making all these complains immaterial. The election was not 55%, it was 76% and we as American citizens and what the State Department should be looking at, is why did it fail. Even though you have prominent politicians like Clerides, like Vassiliou, and Simitis and Papandreou, who have formed a party, that in regardless where you stood, to be blaming the president of the Republic or the government of Cyprus for the No vote is nonsense.
What we have to look is at the real reasons.
Then we got into discussion as to what are the steps that the state department is looking for, and he expanded that perhaps a model like Taiwan is something that they’re looking for, which is not an official recognition, but in reality it is recognition, because the Turkish Cypriot is….
But my question to him was, “Well what is the incentive then for them to have a reunified island afterwards if they get all these incentives ahead of time.”
His response was, “Well it was not of the incentive of the Turkish Cypriots, it was always Turkey that would bring the European Union.” He complained that the American government always wanted to couple Turkey’s accession with the solution of the Cyprus problem. But, when the Europeans told the Turks, “That on December, we would give you a date without getting concessions on the Cyprus problem”, then that became an issue.
The discussion lasted an hour, I think it was a friendly discussion. We told them that emotions have to be put aside. People like Tom Weston, and Klosson and Miller, and all the people have been involved in this for many years, should not be looking at the No vote as a personal failure and in Cyprus, those that were pro-yes should not be looking at it as a personal failure, that we should all come together and see, well how do we satisfy these people, because these people voted “no” not because they did not want to be part of it, but because that’s the way they saw it, and what are the issues? The issues that have to be addressed is security, the economic issues as to how people get compensated and for Turkey to be involved in the compensation and the reparations, after all, it is their invasion that created this problem in the first place”.
LEFT AN OPEN DOOR
Q: But they don’t have any intention to start another initiative, right?
A: He left the door open by saying, “Should the Cyprus government come and say, well if you make these four, five changes, we feel at that point we can get a “yes” vote.” He says we have to look at it, and we have to look at it and see because, after all, our position is, you know, the election was democratic and people have spoken, but we will look at it.
Q: But at the same time by offering a Taiwan model, he’s going to legitimize the product of an invasion and an illegal occupation for 30 years.
A: His answer to that was, although he does not want to punish the Greek Cypriots, he cannot leave the Turkish Cypriots isolated. He says to a certain degree, they following the European lead on this thing; the Europeans are taking the lead on this issue and the Europeans are pushing very hard for the Turkish Cypriots not to remain isolated. He felt that the incentive is for Turkey, who wants to get into the European Union, to move forward and to make any concessions. He says, Talat is not the one who was going to make concessions or who has Denktash against him or whatever. The people that have to make those concessions, he said well then you have the military of Turkey that has to be satisfied.
Q: If I go back to the early nineties when we had a much stronger situation where the U.S. government had to recognize what we call now F.Y.R.O.M., because they had strong beliefs for stability we had in the white house and we can call and intervene now we seem hopeless and trying to break from the outside.
A: If you take that attitude and you are hopeless then we should all stop working. So if we are going to be working then we have to be optimistic. And we have to be optimistic that we are going to build the bridges. Right now of course everyone is sort of looking at us, not welcoming our presence let’s say. We are still having our friends in the United States Congress, we are still having our friends in the United States Senate. I expect that our friends will work hard, it’s a matter of an education process that we will be doing.
In the PSEKA Conference as you know Marc Grossman will be one of the speakers although he had said he would not come after I’ve told him today that he naturally not to be looked upon as very negative he says ok I didn’t think of it that way I will attend the panel discussion, we will have representatives from the Administration, we will still see members of the National Security. It may be a cold situation in the beginning because many of these individuals they see it as their own personal career
Q: But we also have valid complains about them, I mean they interfered extremely nasty.
A: During the so-called elections in the north in the past any one that’s complaining that Klosson was campaigning for the yes vote in the Greek Cypriot side , we were reminded during that thing to be anti-Denktash, Klosson took a position and he was anti-Denktash in the north and when the Turkish soldiers were interfering with the election and he says I picked up the phone and I called the Turkish Ambassador, I called the Turkish Prime Minister and complained bitterly, he says you were applauding my efforts then in the north because I was trying to get a fair election and we were reminded that there was nothing unfair in the election in the south, we were pro, we state our policy on this Annan Plan. And we had committed that we would get a yes vote and that we would move forward. He says we respect the decision, and I have to tell you for what it’s worth , I respect Marc Grossman because regardless of, he is a member of this administration and he still works for the Secretary of State Colin Powell so we had a very objective discussion and I’ d like to think that positive results came out of this election where he would see our point of view and our point of view is of course what the Greek Cypriots want. The questions that he has is that if we make 4-5 changes are the Greek Cypriots prepared, what are the points that they want changes.
Q: I guess the US Government must talk to the Cypriot Government in order to find that out.
A: That’s exactly the point. His point is that he is not sure even when we are saying that if you make 4 or 5 changes and we put into a referendum, he is not convinced at this point that the Greek Cypriot side really wants this reunification, that the Greek side may not be ready or is not willing.
Q: Is Papadopoulos going to see them?
A: He said he is still the democratically elected president of the republic , there has been no request at this point from the Cyprus Government to see President Bush but he says if he requests he doesn’t see any reason why he would not accept him.