Press Conference by President Dimitris Christofias of Cyprus

25 September 2009

Press Conference by President Dimitris Christofias of Cyprus

25 September 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by President Dimitris Christofias of Cyprus

President Dimitris Christofias of Cyprus today called on Member States to use their influence in convincing Turkey to withdraw its troops from the island so that he could attend the next session of the General Assembly as a representative of the United Federal Republic of Cyprus.

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference after his address to the General Assembly, President Christofias said he had tried in bilateral meetings to convince Heads of State and Government as well as the Secretary-General that theoretical support was not enough, and that concrete policies should be put in place to transform the divided nation into a federal State, free of nationalism.

The problem was the presence of some 40,000 Turkish troops and thousands of settlers, he said, adding that it was a pity that both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders had previously been unable to create the conditions in which all could enjoy the island’s beauty.  He reiterated his commitment to do the utmost -– together with his “friend and partner”, Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat -– to re-unify the country.

Earlier, the President addressed the issue of climate change, describing it as a threat to life on the planet, but saying he had been heartened by the speeches of President Barack Obama of the United States and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan, two countries that bore more responsibility for polluting over the years than any other.  Calling President Obama’s speech a “breath of fresh air”, he underlined the importance of this week’s Climate Change Summit for the upcoming Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change.

Turning to the economic crisis, he said its roots could be found in the anarchy that had prevailed in the financial markets, and they must be addressed in order to prevent a recurrence in the future.  Meanwhile, the poorest countries were paying the price.

Responding to questions about Cyprus, President Christofias stressed that he and Mr. Talat would not give up their efforts to find a resolution as soon as possible, no matter how many meetings it took.  Cypriots must resolve the situation through negotiations and without external intervention, including arbitration, which hade failed in the past.

He said Turkey should shoulder its responsibility to withdraw its troops and repatriate the settlers, without whom the problem would be resolved.  He said he had made a “courageous” offer to Turkey entailing the acceptance by Cyprus of 15,000 settlers on humanitarian grounds, but without a response from the other side, more concessions would not be possible.

The presence of foreign troops on the island since 1974 was a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus, he continued, saying he wished to see the establishment of federal State based on agreements between the two Cypriot sides and in compliance with United Nations resolutions.  Security Council resolutions –- which Turkey had violated –- did not recognize two States, he pointed out.

President Christofias said the difference with the past was that he wished to resolve the problems with the Turkish Cypriots, whom he respected as citizens of Cyprus, and with whom he wished to share the nation on the basis of equality.  Calling for mutual respect, he said he had proposed a United Federal State of Cyprus with a rotating presidency from either the Turkish Cypriot or Greek Cypriot side, and a President and Vice-President elected by the Cypriot population as a whole.  He said he would continue to strive for rapprochement and confidence-building measures.

As for the statement by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey to the General Assembly, he said he had hoped there might be second thoughts, but he had not seen the necessary respect, only the violation of several Security Council resolutions that had condemned another Member State.

While understanding that Turkish politicians had their old positions, it was time for dialogue and moving forward, he continued, adding that Turkish recognition of Cyprus would be a nice step for a country seeking membership in the European Union.  Cyprus supported that membership for Turkey on condition that it respect Cyprus and restore previous relations.

Asked about possible arbitration, he said the United Nations had not suggested it.  During his meeting with the Secretary-General in 2008, it had been decided that the Organization would play a facilitator’s role.  None of the relevant resolutions provided for arbitration, and efforts in 2004 had failed because the proposed solution had come from outside Cyprus.  A solution must be established by Cypriots for Cypriots, he reiterated.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.