|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by President of Cyprus
President Dimitris Christofias of Cyprus declared today that he was “absolutely ready” for a fair and viable solution to the “Cyprus problem” as soon as possible.
Speaking at a Headquarters press conference this morning, President Christofias said his country’s participation in the Assembly was a “unique opportunity for the promotion of the issue which tortures our country and our people”. Cyprus was faced with an illegal colonization and around 37 per cent of its territory was now under occupation by Turkish troops.
President Christofias said that in meetings with Heads of States and Government this week, he had stressed the need for a solution that would re-unify Cyprus, its people, institutions and economy as soon as possible. Turkish leaders had stated that they would urge a solution until the end of the year, to which he had replied that the Cypriot people wished to have found a solution yesterday, as it was “our people under the torture of this tragedy for so many years”.
He said the Cypriot people wanted a solution based on United Nations resolutions, the high-level agreements between the late President, Archbishop Makarios III, and a former leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, and the principles and values of the European Union. An agreement had been made between the parties to move towards a federation. With regard to political equality, he said Turkish Cypriots would participate substantively in the federation’s institutions. The parties had also discussed the idea of a unified State with a single sovereignty, international personality and citizenship.
Unless that happened, “the federal State of Cyprus would not be functional and the solution would not be viable,” the President said, calling for a balanced solution that would safeguard the human rights and freedoms of all Cypriots, including Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins. To that end, it was imperative that the Turkish leadership reach a final decision.
“ Turkey is the key to the solution to the Cyprus problem,” he said, noting that he and former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat had been working in that direction for the past two years and had achieved some progress in areas such as governance and the economy. Differences remained, however, but if good will prevailed, they could be solved.
He said he was currently negotiating property issues with Dervish Eroglu, the new leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. Property was considered a near-holy matter, deeply-rooted in the souls of the Cypriot people, he said, adding that a solution was needed to allow Greek Cypriots to have the rights to their property restored if they so desired. Conversely, those who did not wish to reclaim such rights would be compensated.
There was also the issue of properties left by Turkish Cypriots in the south. Those properties were under protection of the Government, which the Turkish Cypriots could approach within the framework of a solution to the Cyprus dispute. He said he had proposed linking the property question with that of territorial adjustments to define a wider area that would fall under Greek Cypriot administration. Refugees returning to the area would have the right to return to their properties. However, Mr. Eroglu had rejected the proposed link.
The President said he hoped to push negotiations towards a speedy solution. Hopefully, the Turkish Cypriot leadership would finally accept his proposal, which also included the return of Varosha, an empty city under the control of Turkish troops, to the United Nations, in accordance with Security Council resolution 550 (1984). If the city were returned, more than 30,000 Greek Cypriot inhabitants would be allowed to return to their homes.
President Christofias also called for the restoration of the ancient city of Famagusta, a common cultural heritage of all Cypriots. Turkish Cypriots would be given the opportunity to use the Port of Famagusta for trade, under the auspices of the United Nations. If the Turkish Cypriot leader accepted that proposal, Turkey could gain confidence to open a new chapter of its accession to the European Union, he noted.
Responding to a question about a comment by Alexander Downer, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, President Christofias said Mr. Downer had “no right to be exhausted” with Cyprus. The United Nations had been there for more than 40 years, so Mr. Downer must have patience.
Asked about a deadline for negotiations with the Turkish Cypriot community, he said there was no such pressure. The Secretary-General’s position on the negotiations was clear: no strict timetable and no arbitration. He said the parties were very close to reaching a solution.
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