by Apostolis Zoupaniotis
NEW YORK.- – US State Department Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston has said the so called elections in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus represent the best chance for the expression of the Turkish Cypriots’ will and offers an opportunity which was not there before. He was speaking during a gathering on Monday night of overseas Cypriots organized by the Cyprus Federation of America, the International Coordinating Committee – Justice for Cyprus, the Cyprus-American Chamber of Commerce and Congressman Frank Pallone, held in New York.
Weston who analyzed the Annan Plan on Cyprus said “we are in a situation where after the failure” of the UN talks last March, the Security Council pronounced itself in support of the Secretary General’s response to that.
He said the international community continues to believe that there should be a settlement before the accession of Cyprus to the EU.
“The SG remains committed to restart his good offices mission to reach a settlement, if the necessary political will is demonstrated, not only by the leaders of the two communities, but at the high political level of Greece and Turkey”, Weston said.
To a question what the US is trying to do, Weston replied “to get to a position where all four parties demonstrate the necessary political will called by the Secretary General”.
He emphasized that what is clear is “that this effort has to concentrate on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots”, which translates with Turkey having one government with interest in getting a settlement, and that is related with Turkey’s desire to get into the EU.
With the Turkish Cypriots, he said, it is a situation “where there has been an expression of a political will on the part of a large element of the T/C public” but the question becomes how this political will “translates into political will of the whole Turkish Cypriot community.
Noting that the “elections” in the occupied territory “are of course illegal”; they “represent the best chance for the expression of the T/C will and offers an opportunity which was not there before”.
Regarding the Annan Plan, Weston said it “was designed to deal with a complete division of the island. The new situation with the movement back and forth across the line by over one million people raises the need to re-examine some of the transition provisions that were designed to avoid conflict from people going to the other side”.
Weston said “the Annan plan is not perfect”, but questioned how can changes be made without upsetting that balance. The answer to that, he added, is that there can be changes to the dates and the transition provisions that were designed for different conditions. Beyond that, he said, “anything can be changed by mutual agreement and negotiations”.
He said the sort of changes looked at by the government of Cyprus were relating about things like how Cyprus will function within the EU and how the macro-economics of the island will function, noting that there are Turkish Cypriots who share this view.
Answering questions, Weston said that in his discussions with President Papadopoulos, although he did not get into specific details, his concerns were about the functionability of the Cypriot State. “And that those arguments sound reasonable”, the US diplomat noted.
To a question why the US is at this particular moment so interested in solving the Cyprus problem, Ambassador Weston said although “Cyprus will definitely be a full member by May 2004, if it enters the EU without a settlement, then the effort to get a settlement (after that) will get harder”.
Congressman Frank Pallone talked about his experience from visiting Cyprus, this summer, where he had the opportunity to see the situation on the ground and the effects of the division on the island. Pallone said the majority of the members of the US Congress favor the Greek Cypriot positions, something very important at this critical time.
“It is important for PSEKA and the Greek American community to keep pressing and educate the Congress and the Administration”, he said.
Pallone also characterized the upcoming Turkish Cypriot vote crucial and he revealed that US Ambassador in Nicosia thinks that the proscpects for a solution, after December are very high.
PSEKA President, Philip Christopher, told the audience that after a 29-year-old struggle, Greek American community fights for a viable and functional solution.
“We don’t want Cypriots to be second class EU citizens”, he said.
Cyprus Federation President, Peter Papanicolaou, thanked Congressman Pallone for he does for Cyprus. Characterizing the present time “critical for Cyprus”, he said the key to the solution is in Turkey and he urged the US administration to continue the pressure.
Congressman Pallone was presented by his New Jersey constituents, Savvas Tsivicos and Andreas Comodromos, former presidents of the Cyprus Federation.