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Foreign Minister N. Kotzias speech to the Hellenic Parliament on the developments in the Cyprus issue (11 June 2017)
N. KOTZIAS: Thank you, Mr. President. You know that, in my Parliamentary presence, I am a man of few words, as a Foreign Minister should be. Yet, since the subject is what it is, allow me to say a few things.
First of all, I want to thank the political parties for the stance they maintained during the negotiations, allowing the Greek negotiating team to work without insecurity or doubts about how the majority of Greeks saw the negotiations. I want to thank all of them officially from this podium.
I also want to say that this morning we have the UN Secretary-General's first draft to the Security Council. It is the draft he has submitted. In this, he makes three interesting observations. First, he says that the Geneva Conference marked an historic and decisive stage in the talks. That is, he doesn't make the assessment that it failed or won't continue, and he believes it was the first time that the two communities and the three guarantor powers met to discuss the chapters of security and guarantees. It's paragraph 4 of the draft to the Security Council.
In the same paragraph, he says that the fact that the issue of guarantees was highlighted in these negotiations constitutes a big step , and in paragraph 42 he underscores that the UN remains at the disposal of the sides – all of us who participated – in the context of its role to further facilitate the process for the Cyprus problem. So, he offers us an open road to continue and strive for a correct and right solution to the Cyprus problem.
Second, and I will submit this for entry into the minutes, paragraph 21 of the latest EU Summit Meeting is dedicated exclusively to the Cyprus problem, following a discussion prompted by the President of Cyprus and the Prime Minister of Greece in the European Council. I submit this because there was a question concerning why the Prime Minister did not deal with this issue. It is in writing, in paragraph 21 of the Conclusions.
We also ensured that the European Union be present as an observer, for the first time, at this five-sided conference, and, third, we had its express will and opinion, during the bilateral meetings, that in no case will the European Union accept rights of intervention on its territory, in a member state, as Turkey pursued and demanded. That's what I have to say regarding the two clarifying documents.
I will now share my thoughts with you. The lesson I learned, because we all continue to learn, is that a well-planned and persistent negotiation, in strong cooperation with the Cypriot government – and we have often stressed, as Mr. Anastasiades repeated yesterday in his press conference, how strong and firm this cooperation was – enables us to promote an agenda different from the one in past negotiations on the Cyprus issue.
Also, that when you have documented written and oral positions and you promote and pursue them, it is easier for your view to be understood. From this perspective, on the two treaties, of London and Zurich, which concern Greece because it co-signed them, we proposed, regarding the Treaty of Guarantee, an implementation and a monitoring mechanism to oversee the withdrawal of the Turkish troops, and this proposal was elaborated personally – with the proposals of Cyprus and Greece – by the UN Secretary-General, and it was the proposal he presented on Thursday through Friday night, in the final negotiation, where he was caught unawares by Turkey's hypocrisy and doublespeak.
That is, because the Turkish side, in the meetings it had with the UN Secretary-General, promised to accept compromise solutions. And when the UN Secretary-General, in the early-morning hours, at 2 in the morning, faced with Turkey's refusal to submit in writing the proposals it had presented to him, undertook to set them down himself in a paragraph, Turkey denied having had such a discussion with the Secretary-General. It withdrew any compromise proposal and obliged the UN Secretary-General to state, on the spot, that the Conference had ended, because Turkey "said one thing to me and is saying something else here, and I take upon myself the burden of having misunderstood Turkey's proposals."
As a result, , when there are very clear statements from the Secretary-General, I do not consider it courteous that these be called into doubt in the Hellenic Parliament.
Moreover, with regard to the Treaty of Alliance, which has two additional protocols, I remind you that this Treaty provided for the presence of 950 and 650 Greek and Turkish troops respectively, for shared headquarters, and placed under rotating command. Cyprus the first year, Greece the second, Turkey the third.
And when the Turks were asked what they meant by Treaty of Alliance with precisely this content, they were not in a position even to agree with their own demand for maintaining this Treaty. That is because they didn't have a precise picture of what it meant. The UN adopted – and this, again, was thanks to our negotiating tactic – our proposal for a friendship pact that would sustain the cultural, economic and educational relations among the three countries – Greece, Turkey, Cyprus – but at the same time would eliminate any potential for anyone's intervention and any such military aspect that would facilitate such a situation.
I want to note, second, that this policy of ours, these proposals of ours, enjoyed, at times, the support of the overwhelming majority at the conference. The British were compelled to adopt them, the UN and the EU supported them, and it is the first time the Turks found themselves isolated at negotiations on the Cyprus issue.
And I think that is a major step. Because, thanks to this major step, the fact that Cyprus must become a normal state, without foreign troops or guarantees, became part of the Cyprus issue agenda.
And I must say, with satisfaction, that this wording we introduced – that Cyprus must be a normal state – was accepted and adopted by the UN Secretary-General. That is, we don't have to carry out a variety of interpretations here or listen to the specific well-meaning individuals who have another kind of relationship with the channels concerning Cyprus and who met in the evening with a specific person from the UN, against the will of the Secretary-General. We have to follow precisely what the Secretary-General said. That the Turkish troops must leave, that the rights of intervention must cease, that there has to be a friendship pact. And he himself proposed a monitoring mechanism for all of this.
And this is significant, because in the negotiations the Turks were forced, by our persistence, to explain why they wanted all these things. For hours, Mr. Cavusoglu said, "I have explained it all to the Secretary-General." I asked Mr. Cavusoglu why he wanted the right of intervention. And in the end he said, "I'll tell you why I want it. So that Turkey can intervene whenever it wants to and whenever necessary." Intervene how? Militarily. These are revelations.
And it is also a revelation that, when President Anastasiades persisted in asking the Turkish Foreign Minister to tell him why, in the end, he was as flexible as he described -and whether he simply wants an agreement that says that, regarding the Turkish army, Turkey will be flexible as concerns the guarantee rights, Turkey will be flexible as concerns interventions-, that's what President Anastasiades said to him – Cavusoglu was forced to admit that Turkey does not want to take its troops out of Cyprus, doesn't want to relinquish its so-called rights of intervention, and that these must be preserved for 15 years, and after that, a review should be carried out regarding how ready things were for Turkey to leave or not.
In other words, he wanted to preserve all of these interests and all of these rights in the new state of affairs in Cyprus. We didn't want to put the blame on anyone. We went there because we wanted to resolve the Cyprus problem. And the proof that we wanted to resolve the Cyprus problem is that we had prepared and submitted to all of our partners specific proposals on all the issues, and with the support of corresponding proposals from Cyprus.
But we went to the Cyprus negotiations with a principle, a principle that it appears not all of the political parties agree with de facto. What is this principle? That the internal affairs of Cyprus, the internal dimension of the Cyprus problem does not concern Greece. Because Greece is only a guarantor power, beyond emotional and historical ties. Notwithstanding the fact that all of us became politicized, in my generation, thanks and due to the Cyprus problem.
Greece does not have the right to intervene in Cyprus's internal affairs. And whenever it tried to do so in the past, it paid dearly. Cyprus, the Cypriot people and Hellenism as a whole paid dearly. As a result, it is not our country's job to evaluate the negotiations on the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem. And we argued this persistently, because we were endeavouring to keep Turkey far from the internal aspect.To have everyone accept what the UN wanted and achieved: that the internal aspect of the Cyprus problem is the subject of negotiations between the two communities, in which one party was simultaneously the leader of the Republic of Cyprus.
We didn't get involved in the internal aspect. And if the Greek government is criticized for any agreements that some consider good and others not, regarding the internal aspect of the Cyprus problem, I see that they are not criticizing the policy we followed on the issues of guarantees and security. They are not criticizing the way we included the European Union at the negotiating table or the fact that the UN, for the first time, officially stated, from the lips of the Secretary-General, that a third country cannot have rights of intervention in Cyprus. And this is a major step.
The era when they accused us of not wanting a solution has passed. As has the era when it was considered a given that the Turkish side would maintain these "rights". We are now in the era when no one, except the Turks, considers it self-evident that someone can maintain troops in a third country, against the will of that third country and can intervene in that third country.
That is why – in order to achieve what we achieved, the upgrading of these issues, freeing the Greek Cypriots from blame and the blame game played against them in the past – we faced all of the pending issues jointly with the Republic of Cyprus. It is crystal clear that the Cyprus problem did not end with the conference in Switzerland.
It is crystal clear that the problems are there and are awaiting solution. But the position of Cyprus and Greece is stronger from what it was before the Switzerland Conference. As is the agenda of the Cyprus issue.
It has now been accepted that the core of the problem is what had been forgotten: guarantees and security. Will we see Turkish provocations? Probably. Do not think the Turks are invincible . Look at how easy it was for the jihadists to destroy a large part of the Turkish military machine within Syria itself, and look at the major problems the Turkish military machine faces there.
I neither underestimate nor overestimate anyone. One has to shape one's alliances, adopt the required strategy. We need to have close cooperation with Cyprus. This is why, next Monday, following the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, the Greek delegation that was in Switzerland – fewer people, of course – will travel to Cyprus so that we can discuss how we should pursue the solution of the Cyprus problem. How we will capitalise on the current new potential, as well as face any problems arising. To discuss the customs union and the European policy on Turkey, and to chart a common course together with the Republic of Cyprus.
We will discuss how we will capitalise on the new potential we have for public diplomacy and our endeavour to hold high-level contacts everywhere in the world, so as to explain what really happened and enhance the international forces that want a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem.
That is, a solution without occupation forces, without treaties of third-party guarantees, with the Cypriot people deciding for themselves. And when I say the Cypriot people deciding for themselves, I mean the two communities and the three minorities. During the two and a half years of the negotiations, Greece defended the right of the Turkish Cypriot community to feel as much as possible that its future lay on the island, in Cyprus. Because the Turkish Cypriots, too, felt the boot of the Turkish army, and half of them were forced to flee abroad.
We aim to consolidate the sense of security for all Cypriots. But we also want to restore the rights of the three small minorities, which is our duty.
And I make a reminder. In the future, in Cyprus – as I said to the Secretary-General– there may be citizens who just want to be called Cypriots. We have seen similar legal cases in Bosnia. We need to be careful here, as well, because the democracy in Cyprus must be a democracy of communities, but also a democracy of citizens who have their own individual interests. Thank you very much.