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Foreign Minister Droutsas’s interview in the Cypriot daily Haravgi, with journalist M. Fragou (excerpts)

Monday, 24 January 2011

Journalist: Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou sent messages concerning resolution of the Cyprus issue and good neighbourliness from Erzurum. Are those directly involved lending an ear to these messages? Are they aware of Athens’s intentions?

Mr. Droutsas: What is of primary importance to us is the firmness and sincerity that characterizes our pursuits. And I think that the Prime Minister’s speech at the Erzurum conference left no doubts on that score. It is true that we are pursuing the improvement of our relations with Turkey. We don’t believe we are condemned by history to live eternally in hostility. And I won’t hide the fact that the other side has also sent some messages in response. The Turkish Prime Minister, at least, states at every opportunity his desire to lead his country into a new relationship of peace and stability with Greece. We have to go from words to deeds. And the moment of truth for Turkey is drawing near. The sincerity of its intentions will be tested via its actions on the Cyprus issue: What will Turkey do when, due to its failure to meet the obligations it has undertaken to Cyprus, it has run out of chapters to negotiate? The current policy leads to an impasse.

Journalist: What is the broader assessment of these proposals, as a reply to Ankara’s communication tactics?

Mr. Droutsas: Since 2004, we have heard the same thing again and again from Turkey: The Turkish Cypriots who accepted the Annan plan are being “punished” with isolation, and the Greek Cypriots who rejected the plan were rewarded with accession to the EU. This has been the crux of Turkey’s message all these years. There is no point in Turkey’s continuing to hide behind the referenda and treat the Cyprus issue as a communication game. The time has come for a solution.

Meanwhile, President Christofias’s proposals don’t have a PR nature. They concern the substance of the Cyprus issue and the acceleration of the resolution process, but without artificial timeframes that work against the negotiations and the quality of the solution that will come from the negotiations. The Republic of Cyprus has gained a loud and trusted voice. It has standing on the international stage. The Cyprus issue is not going to be solved through short-lived PR. The Cyprus issue requires real political will, and President Christofias has shown that he has it. It remains for the Turkish side to do the same.

And something else: The Cyprus problem is an issue of invasion and occupation. We remind all of our collocutors of this. If Turkey wants to be credible in its intentions and the desire it expresses for the fast solution of the Cyprus issue, the first thing it needs to do is withdraw its occupation forces from Cyprus. This is in Turkey’s hands alone. It can do it, and I once again call upon the Turkish leadership to step up to its responsibilities. And Turkey’s argument that its military forces are needed to guarantee the security of the Turkish Cypriots is spurious.

The Republic of Cyprus is a full member of the European Union, which is a family that believes in and is founded on specific principles, and that Turkey wants to join. So there is no better and more credible guarantor for the security and rights of all the residents of Cyprus than the EU.

Journalist: The meeting between the UN Secretary General, the President of the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot leader is coming up. What do you expect from that meeting?

Mr. Droutsas:
The Turkish Cypriot stance thus far doesn’t allow for great expectations. We are just a few days away from the meeting, and the Turkish Cypriot proposals that have come to light are reminiscent of a mindset of partitioning.

But for the negotiations to move ahead substantially, there is no other path than the one President Christofias is following: Dedication to the goal of an agreed solution that is based on the Security Council resolutions and implementation of the Community acquis.

To date, Mr. Eroglu has behaved like a Denktash in the making. The situation in occupied Cyprus is bad. The Turkish Cypriots are suffocating under the pressure of the settlers. Human rights and religious freedoms are being trampled. Mr. Eroglu and Turkey are responsible. The question is whether they want to do anything about it.