An interview to George Bistis for the Greek Service of the Voice of America and its affiliate stations in Cyprus, Greece, North America and Australia.
1st satellite transmission of English TV version on 5/8/02 at 13:30 EDT 1st satellite transmission of Greek TV version on 5/8/02 at 13:45 EDT 1st satellite transmission of Greek Radio version on 5/8/02 at 11:45 EDT
Mr. Bistis: It is with great pleasure that we have with us today the U.S. Special Coordinator for Cyprus Ambassador Thomas Weston. Mr. Ambassador welcome to our studio. On Tuesday Cyprus President Glafkos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash resumed their direct talks on the future of the Mediterranean island. You had the opportunity to meet with two protagonists during your recent trip to Cyprus. What can you tell us about your meetings with them?
Mr. Weston: You are right I was in Cyprus over a week ago and did meet with both leaders. That was before the end of the last session but preparatory to the break which you mentioned for the Orthodox holiday and consideration of the whole issue by the Security Council, which took place in New York last week. When I was meeting with the two leaders on the island, to directly answer your question, I think I came away with a better impression of the actual state of the talks -- the need for increased urgency in dealing with them. I also have to say that I came away with the impression that it is very much the hope and the intention of the two leaders to continue these talks with the goal of getting a comprehensive settlement. The problem, of course, is that the comprehensive settlement they respectively envisage is not necessarily compatible.
Mr. Bistis: You mentioned the meeting of the Security Council last week, which took place after your return from Nicosia. During that meeting, the members of the Council expressed regret for the fact that there has been not much progress in these talks in Nicosia and they also made a few other statements of great importance to the area. I was wondering if I can get your reaction to two particular statements – one is the Council’s emphasis on the need for both sides, particularly the Turkish Cypriot side, to cooperate more fully with the Secretary General’s Special Advisor Alvaro De Soto and the other is the Council’s emphasis on the solution that is expected to be found, a solution that, according to the Council, should take into consideration the previous relevant resolutions of the United Nations.
Mr. Weston: Well, I think it was a very important statement. It did not quite regret a lack of progress in the talks themselves. It regretted there had been not more progress since the Council had last examined the issue, which was actually just under a month before. So, I would not interpret the statement as one in which it expressed the view that there had not been progress in the talks going back to their commencement in January. But you are right, it was a very significant statement because it came at a time when we are extremely close to decisions external to the Cyprus issue, which can have an impact on the attempt to find a solution in the long term viability of whatever is the solution that can be found. That is important. The Council treated the matter with urgency and tried to move a little bit forward in identifying areas in which the process can be moved forward by building on progress accomplished, both up to this time and expected progress in the future. It (also) made some very specific suggestions in that regard, which I believe are very important. Most important, I think, is that the Council was informed last Thursday that the Secretary General would be visiting the island and I know the Council welcomed this very strongly and the United States welcomed it even more strongly, (because) we believe that this visit by the Secretary General is very important in accelerating momentum so we can have a good chance of achieving the kind of settlement that I think we want to see -- a settlement that is just and durable, takes into account the legitimate interests of both sides of the island, but needs to achieve all that in the time available. So we are looking forward to that visit in the very near future with the hope, but beyond the hope with the expectation, that it will be effective and accelerate progress in the talks.
Mr. Bistis: So, the Secretary General’s visit is expected to accelerate the talks. However, I am wondering about this because he will be arriving on the 14th of May and he will only spend a couple of days -- two to three days – in Nicosia. The question that I have is how can he tackle such an important problem and be expected to have a solution to that, knowing the 27 years have passed with very many able diplomats trying to accomplish the same thing and this has not happened. So, is it realistic to expect that Mr. Kofi Annan would be able to accomplish that in the short period of time he will stay in Nicosia?
Mr. Weston: Well, I thing that because of some of the things that you pointed out, we can have some pretty positive expectations. The fact that the Cyprus issue has been discussed for so many years has also led to a situation in which, I think, the parameters, if you will, of the just and durable solution are fairly well known. The Secretary General will not be starting from scratch on this issue at all. I think the other factor that is important to keep in mind is that there are external dynamics involved here which increase the incentives to achieve a solution in the shorter timeframe rather than the longer. Those external dynamics have brought us closer and closer to a timetable which fits the Secretary General’s intervention at this particular time. The other thing to keep in mind is that this is quite an unusual phenomenon. I mean the Secretary General of the United Nations is not a frequent visitor to this particular island even though he has taken a very strong interest in the issue as have his predecessors. Just the fact that he is, well, you know, a lot of things go on in the world, which demand the Secretary General’s time and the fact that he is taking the time to go to the island at this particular point in history of the negotiations is significant. I think that he can accomplish a great deal and I (also) think that some of the directions for those accomplishments have been pointed out in the Security Council statement. Now, you raised one other point and that was the issue of full consideration of the Security Council’s resolutions and treaties. That is, of course, the mandate under which the Secretary General and his Special Advisor are operating – that is the language of the Security Council resolution 1250 which is the good offices mission.
Mr. Bistis: Of course, we all know Mr. Ambassador that the major, the most fundamental difference in the opinions between the two sides is their perception of the future of Cyprus, with one side expecting that the future would be a reunited, unified island, a proposed by the Greek Cypriots, while the Turkish Cypriot side is preferring to have a loose union between the two areas. How can these views that are so opposite be reconciled? Is there any way for a middle ground here?
Mr. Weston: Well, I am a bit of a handicap in answering the question because we are all operating under a kind of a ban on discussing the details of the negotiations and your question gets into those details, so forgive me if I have to talk around it a little bit. The fact of the matter is although there are clear differences, probably irreconcilable differences, in the formal state of positions in the two sides about the nature of a post-settlement Cypriot state wwould be, there has been in the talks themselves some indication of certain elements of the nature of that state and differences have been narrowed. In particular, the necessity of Cyprus being able to participate adequately, fully, as a member of the European Union, has real implication of the nature of what a Cypriot state must be. So, even though these formal state of positions are, as you pointed out, very difficult to reconcile, I think there are signs that important elements, to answer this question, are more mendable to agreement. But to get to the heart of your question, the only answer I can give you is there will have to be compromise on this as well as other elements of the negotiations in order to achieve a settlement, because the formal state of positions of the two sides are incompatible.
Mr. Bistis: Mr. Ambassadoir, if you had the opportunity to speak directly to the people of Cyprus, and I am talking of the people on both sides of the Green Line, what would you say to them about their future?
Mr. Weston: I guess, because I spent most of my life working in European Affairs and working with the European Union, working with Germany, in Germany, to overcome the division in that country, have dealt for a long time with cometing versions of history in Europe and in this particular case in Cyprus. What I would like to say is that it is not difficult to see a very, very bright picture of Cyprus’s future. Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, are, very dynamic, intelligent and, I believe, well meaning people, burdened with some terrible events in their history, many of which of course are not of their own making. Cyprus history is very long and has witnessed the involvement of a lot of non-Cypriots in its history. The one thing, to answer your question, I would like to say is that in so far we can urge Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, to concentrate (more)on what is obviously a very bright and beneficial future for all Cypriots, and less on the events and real wrongs of the past, I would have to urge them to do so. I think there is an awful lot at stake here. I think coming up with a settlement, the accession of all of Cyprus to the European Union in the not too distant future would be incredibly positive for all Cypriots. I (also) think that it will be positive for all of Europe and very positive for the United States, whose interests I represent. It is (a goal) within reach, if we can just get past the past.
Mr. Bistis: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much. We wish you all the good luck that you will need for your very important mission to Cyprus. Our guest today has been the United States Special Coordinator for Cyprus, Ambassador Thomas Weston. This is George Bistis. From all of us at the Voice of America