The President of the Republic of Cyprus Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos concluded his high level contacts in New York earlier this evening and as we speak he is flying back to Nicosia. Just minutes before leaving for the John F. Kennedy International Airport the Cypriot leader received VOA TV at his private quarters, in the city’s historic Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where he assessed for our listeners and viewers the progress made on the Cyprus issue over the last few days in “the city that never sleeps”.
President Papadopoulos had a very busy schedule and from all indications he accomplished a great in a very short period of time. He expressed the views of Cyprus at two major events at the United Nations headquarters, which were attended by hundreds of world leaders, including many heads of state and heads of government.
The Cypriot leader spoke at a special U.N. conference on the Climate Change Challenge, promising that “Cyprus stands ready to join the efforts of the international community to ensure that the quality of life we enjoy now is passed on to future generations.” He later addressed the 62nd Session of the U.N. General Assembly, where he expressed the conviction that “the creation (in Cyprus) of a unified, democratic, inclusive and forward looking society fully assuming its place in the European Union is within reach” and outlined his vision “to inherit to the future generations the legacy of friendship, co-operation and good neighborliness.”
President Papadopoulos also met with the U.N. Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon and with representatives of the U.N. Security Council, including the Council’s five permanent members. Additionally he had a series of other bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
Following these contacts President Papadopoulos told us: “The general impression I have is that the only way forward today is by implementing the Gambari agreement without any changes and without any prerequisites.” The U.N.-brokered Gambari agreement was concluded and signed by the two communities in Cyprus on 8 July 2006 and has been complimented by letters exchanged between the leaders of the two Cypriot communities and the Under Secretary General for Political Affairs of the United Nations on 15 November 2006.
We then focused our discussion on the relations between the United States and Cyprus, particularly following the meeting President Papadopoulos had on Wednesday evening at his hotel with U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Mr. Nicholas Burns. President Papadopoulos said: “The relations between Cyprus and the U.S. have always been pretty good. In 2004 the two countries had different views with regard to the so-called Annan Plan. The United States considered the plan as an opportunity (for a Cyprus settlement), while the Greek Cypriot people rejected it through a referendum, for they believed it would have not led to the reunification of the country, on the contrary it would have perpetuated the divisive conditions that exist on Cyprus since the Turkish invasion and occupation (of part of the island).”
President Papadopoulos believes that things are now changing. As he put it: “For sometime now I have been witnessing an effort being made by both countries, the U.S. and Cyprus, for a closer bilateral relationship. There are many more areas we could cooperate and Mr. Burns assured me of the United States willingness to strengthen our relations on several issues, on several bilateral activities. I want to say that my meeting with Mr. Burns was very good, very productive and we have agreed to meet again, so that we can continue are discussions.”
Our meeting with the Cypriot leader took place as the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives approved in Washington a resolution expressing strong support for the implementation of the July 8, 2006 agreement between President Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat relating to the reunification of Cyprus. The resolution views the July 8 2006 agreement “as the way forward to prepare for new comprehensive negotiations leading to the reunification of Cyprus within a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation as set out in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”
President Papadopoulos welcomed the initiative of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In his words: “I believe this is a very important initiative which carries the potential of a very successful outcome. We need to thank Congressman Gus Bilirakis from Florida and the other members of Congress from both major parties (Mrs. Carolyn Maloney from New York, Mr. Zack Space from Ohio and Mr. John Sarbanes from Maryland) for signing and co-sponsoring the measure, which has just been adopted unanimously by the Foreign Affairs Committee. The action is very important for it expresses support for the Gambari process but is also equally important because it urges the U.S. to help with the immediate implementation of the July 8 2006 agreement in its entirety and without deviation from that process. I hope that the U.S. administration will respond positively to the call made by the Congressional Committee. Again, I take the opportunity to thank all those who contributed to the adoption of this important Congressional resolution.”
These were the last words President Papadopoulos spoke on our camera. The time for our interview was up. His luggage had already been taken to the door. His limo was waiting outside. His trip to the airport needed to begin in minutes, if he was to make the flight to Nicosia. We thanked President Papadopoulos for taking the time to brief us and gave him our best wishes for a just and lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue.