Interviewer: George Bistis, Chief, VOA Greek Service.
Radio and TV versions aired on Friday, December 7, 2001
Bistis: Our next guest today is the United States Special Coordinator for Cyprus Ambassador Thomas Weston. Mr. Ambassador welcome to our show.
This has been a very eventful week for Cyprus. It started with the first in four years face-to-face meeting between Cypriot President Glafkos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. Then came the announcement by the United Nations envoy Alvaro de Soto that direct talks between the two Cypriot communities would be resumed in mid January. Finally, last night President Clerides visited for the first time in 27 years the Turkish Cypriot sector in order to attended a dinner hosted by Mr. Dentktash. What is your reaction to these events?
Weston: Thank you for your welcome George. It is always a pleasure to be here. My reaction can best be described as very, very pleased. I think I speak for everyone involved in the American government and for the American society more broadly in expressing a great deal of satisfaction in the developments of this week. Toy mentioned them, the initiative taken by Mr. Denktash at this time for a direct conversation was very successful and I think we all appreciate him having taken this initiative in particular because the result has been successful. With respect to the talks, a new process is beginning here of direct talks with a clear intend on the part of the two leaders to work very hard to get a comprehensive settlement in the relatively short time available. You also mentioned the social event last night, the dinner in north Nicosia that only adds to our satisfaction in that it indicates the degree of commitment of the two leaders involved to proceed in a cordial and productive fashion. So we could not be more pleased with these developments.
Bistis: Ambassador Weston, it is reported from Nicosia that the basis for the new talks between Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash is the U.N. resolution 1250 which calls on the two leaders to begin a dialogue with no preconditions, with all the issues on the table and to negotiate in good faith until a comprehensive settlement is reached. Yet, Mr. De Soto’s announcement makes no reference to any U.N. relosultions. Could this mean that the basis of the talks has changed in any away?
Weston: No. I think the easy answer is no. There has been no change in the basis. You say that the announcement does not refer to a resolution per say, it does very specifically say that the two leaders have agreed to the direct talks at the invitation of the Secretary General in the exercise of his good office’s mission. That good office’s mission of course is based on a mandate and we know what that mandate is. So, I think the answer to your question in one word is no.
Bistis: What kind of compromises Mr. Ambassador will each side have to make in order to reach a settlement that has been so elusive in the past?
Weston: I think you pointed out a very important point and that is that both sides will have to compromise if we are to come to a successful conclusion to these talks. It is very clear from the positions taken by the two leaders in the past, from the activity which preceded these talks in the U.N. process, not only in this most recent period since the fall of 99 but more generally going back to decades in the U.N. process, that there are real differences of view on some of the core issues. I think these differences can be bridged. I think that the two leaders are indicating by their very positive commitment to work towards a comprehensive settlement through direct talks also must believe that these differences can be bridged, but they will require compromises on both sides.
Bistis: Ambassador Weston, is it realistic to expect a comprehensive settlement for Cyprus in the relatively short period of time before the European Union accession decision?
Weston: Once again I can give you a very short answer which is yes, but I will have to caveat if the political will is there to do it. I am quite hopeful that the political will is there, but that will, of course, be tested in the talks themselves. But there’s certainly no reason that a settlement cannot be achieved in that period of time. We are not starting at zero here, there’s a great deal of work which has been done in the past which can be drawn on. There’s been a close examination in all of what we call the four core areas necessary to a comprehensive settlement, a lot of work done by both sides, so I think the time is sufficient. It will require, however, political will in the first instance by the two leaders, in the second by the United Nations, in an exercise of its good offices mission, and in a third, by those of us, like the United States, who are determined to fully support that good offices mission and the search for a just and durable settlement.
Bistis: Mr. Ambassador some circles have expressed concern that Greece would block other EU accession bids, like that of the Czech Republic for instance, if the Cyprus issue isn’t resolved in time.
Weston: Well, I think this is based on a fact relating to a session of countries in the European Union which requires ratification by the member states’ parliaments of any ascension treaty. That means any ascension treaty must be ratified by the Greek parliament, and I think the assessment of many observers is that, to find a majority for ratification of an ascension agreement for any other country, will require Cyprus also the seating at the same time. That being said, I think it’s perhaps the wrong issue to focus on. We, of course, as you know support Cypriot ascension to the EU. We believe that it is possible to get a comprehensive settlement in the time available before the ascension of Cyprus in the EU, so I see no reason why that question should arise.
Bistis: What role do you plan to play in supporting the renewed effort towards reaching a just and lasting settlement in Cyprus?
Weston: I think you probably know that I spend a great deal of time travelling and talking and working with not only all the actors in this issue of eastern Mediterranean, but with Europe more broadly and other interested actors around the world on the Cyprus issue. I expect to continue that, if anything I’ll work even harder in view of what I see as a very significant step forward this week. That answers for me, and I think it also answers for the broader complex of individuals in the American government who are working very hard on this Cyprus issue and they include, obviously, not only myself, but our Ambassador in Nicosia, our Ambassador in Athens, our Ambassador in Ankara, and several others scattered around the world. So, I think the answer is a redoubled effort in full support of the good offices mission, of the Secretary General and the efforts of the special advisor Alvaro De Soto will be undertaken.
Bistis: Mr. Ambassador thank you very much for being with us today. Our guest this evening has been the U.S. Special Coordinator for Cyprus Ambassador Thomas Weston. This is George Bistis reporting. From all of us at the Voice of America, good night from Washington.