November 25, 2017

PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT CHRISTOFIAS AT THE UN HEADQUARTERS- Q and A

Q: Mr. President it is well known to everybody that Cyprus has asked €6 billion as a loan from Russia. Today you met with the Foreign Minister of Russia. Can you tell us if you discussed this issue and can you tell us if you have any answer from Moscow today?

President: Here Michalis, we are at the headquarters of the United Nations taking part in the work of the General Assembly. I have had the opportunity, as I already mentioned in my statement, to thank warmly the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, my dear friend Lavrov, for his consistent for many years, support to Cyprus as Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation and now as Minister of Foreign Affairs. This item was not on the agenda. So, excuse me if I could not say anything to you. Maybe when we will return back home we shall have the opportunity and news to announce to you.

Q: Mr. President, welcome back. It’s good to have you here. Thank you for your time with us. I have actually a few questions if you don’t mind. One of them is that are you ready at some point to let the UN to fill in the gaps if the impasse continues in Cyprus? Are you ready to tell the UN asking them, ok here is the paper, you can fill in this and you know, give up some of the rights if the Turkish Cypriots do the same? Just to have a solution maybe quicker than in 10 years wherever the timeframe. And my second question is about this Turkish soccer team, Fenerbahce , which is going to have a game in Cyprus and they are a little nervous because of what happened with the basketball team previously when they played in Greece or Cyprus. Can you guarantee the security of the team when they are there and what would you like to say to the players of the Fenerbahce?

President: Let me begin with football. We are all funs of teams, in Turkey, in Cyprus and I might say that there many Turkish Cypriots funs of Greek Cypriot teams, OMONIA and  AEL, the team which is playing with Fenerbahce and I look forward really to have a football game, exclusively sport football game. As you know for me it is a matter of principle to follow the rules of the World Federation and of course let me say the rules of civilized people. So we shall welcome Fenerbahce and let the best win. And of course we are going to do our utmost to secure the security of the team and of the players. And please don’t exaggerate some events of the past. I will handle this problem. I was closely connected with Mehmet Ali Talat as you know and we are still friends, and we shall continue being friends and I hope co fighters for the reunification of our homeland. I am clear, absolutely clear. This is sport and we have to respect sports generally and let’s have a peaceful competition between the teams.

Then on your first question if you mean arbitration, of course I’m not ready to accept arbitration. We have a bitter experience from the past and we didn’t move forward. What we need is a consistent stand by the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mr. Eroglu accepting and honoring the convergences we achieved with his predecessor and of course the commitments we’ve made in front of the Secretary-General with Mr. Eroglu, several times in our meetings. It’s of course another opportunity to think very much about the Secretary-General’s personal interest, warm interest for the solution of this problem. And I have had the opportunity really to express my gratitude to the Secretary-General and I’m sure that he is interested to continue his mission. Unfortunately my counter partner is not ready; he says this, frankly and openly. He says that until the presidential elections in the Republic of Cyprus, the negotiations are going for vacation. This is something that makes me sad as you understand. I promised the people of Cyprus from the very beginning that I’m going to do my utmost in order to have, to achieve the goal for the reunification of the island. To put an end to occupation, to colonization and to things that make all Cypriots unhappy. And I mean the Turkish Cypriot compatriots as well. I’m sure that they are not happy because we face the colonization, we face this abnormal situation and we still leave in conditions of division of our beloved country. As you know I’m a political person who frankly, sincerely states that the Turkish Cypriots are equal citizens to the Greek Cypriots in the Republic of Cyprus. They are not citizens of second class. I have fought for the restoration of the rights of the Turkish Cypriots. But this does not mean that we are going to take away or to violate the rights of the other community which happened to be the biggest community. Political equality as described by the Secretary-General of the United Nations is adopted by Security Council and I was and I am ready until the last moment of my term to implement the United Nations Resolutions and of course this provision of  political equality. With Mr. Talat we have achieved, let me say important convergences in several, many crucial aspects of the problem and I was expecting that Mr. Eroglu would have kept the promise he gave in front of the UN Secretary-General. He didn’t and he doesn’t. So this is the case now. To have Mr. Eroglu change his attitude and honor  his own promise to the Secretary-General. And of course I expect from the Turkish leadership to show understanding, to become softer, because they have become so cynical and tough that I cannot accept this kind of vision and behavior.

Q: You are thinking the Security Council but I wanted to ask you, in July there were two abstentions which is rare, Azerbaijan and Pakistan and I wanted to know what you thought of those votes and also Mr. Eroglu has said he is going to speak with the UN Secretary General on Saturday and he is going to say something about gas exploration and creating an escrow fund that he said can finance a settlement and I wanted to know what you think of that proposal?

President: If you follow me and my speeches and statements I am sure you are aware that from the most important podium of the world, the podium of the General Assembly, last year and this year, we have expressed our absolute readiness to share together with the Turkish Cypriots this present of nature, gas and maybe oil. So I am ready. But I am ready of course with a precondition that we shall reunify together our country, our homeland. And within the framework of the united Cyprus we have already agreed during the negotiations how the two communities, the two regions of the Federation we are going to share income. Mr. Eroglu is making such statements but he is not ready to negotiate and this is a contradiction.

Q: Two questions: First of all you took over the Presidency of the EU. How are you going to save the Euro? And my second question is about Turkey and Cyprus. The Turkish people are wonderful and you are wonderful and your people are wonderful- excuse my ignorance I’m German-why you fight each other all the time?

President:  Oh my God! I must say that I never fought against anybody. I have fought against injustice and I am a fighter against injustice irrespective from where it comes be it from colonial ruling or other situations. I have fought and I am a consistent fighter against nationalism and chauvinism irrespective of who follows such behavior, Greek-Cypriots or Turkish-Cypriots, Greeks or Turks. I make this clear! So we are a wonderful people of course both and I think that the people is usually and naturally innocent victims of clashes, of disputes, of abnormal situations. Naturally the guilty are some leadership. We face occupation. The EU- once you are German- has as a principle the respect to international law, respect to the sovereignty of countries. Cyprus is a small state, it is a sovereign state, but where is the full sovereignty of Cyprus when we have part of the island, 37% of the island under the occupation of the Turkish troops?  I don’t blame the Turkish people, this why I said before about sport and the welcoming of  Fenerbahce and the followers and the fans. But I think we must not escape from the substance.  And the substance is the occupation of part of a sovereign state by a powerful neighbor. So I call upon once again, answering to your question, the Turkish leadership to calm and sit down and think about the real interests of the people of Turkey because they create obstacles themselves for the accession of Turkey into the EU. This is unfair for the Turkish people who want the entrance of Turkey to the EU. We have to defend our homeland and the rights of Cyprus, the sovereignty of Cyprus. We don’t have any other choice. So I am sad to say this but I think that the ball is on the part of Turkey and not on our part. I have taken responsibilities, initiatives which were painful for me personally. I was under attack from many sides because of these initiatives. I insist that I was correct. The Cyprus issue could be solved only by peaceful means, with negotiations under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General according to the UN resolutions, a bizonal, bicomunal federation. The Greek Cypriots consider this, and I don’t blame them, as a painful compromise by the late President Makarios; the evolution of the unitary state to a bizonal, bicomunal, federal state, is something very new in Cyprus and  a necessity after the invasion and the occupation. So the problem is the invasion and the occupation. I was and I am ready until the last moment of my term to move forward. This is why I call upon Turkey; I call upon Mr. Eroglu to move forward.

Q: Mr. President you are the 6th President of the Republic and you are leaving without solving the problem. Some of your predecessors were described as ultra-realists, some hardliners, some moderates but the result was the same. No solution.  So what else has to be done in order to have a solution in Cyprus? You said the problem is Turkey but how the UN or anybody else can change Turkey?

President:  As you know the UN is a result of the balance of power world wide.  If we have a strong UN it means we respect the Charter of the UN, we respect international law and the principles on which the UN is based. If we don’t and the UN does not have the ability not to impose but to at least convince the member states to move forward towards peace , towards respect of international law , the security and sovereignty of states, then we have a problem. Right now, as you understand, we have big problems in the world. The Cyprus problem is not the only problem. There are more hot spots in our neighborhood, the tragedy in Syria, the Arab uprising, in northern Africa, Africa, diseases, poverty. There are great problems and abnormality all over the world. So we fight to strengthen the UN’s role based on principles. We are a small country and I am someone who serves his country and perhaps lucky now to preside the European Council but it seems that this is not enough. We need a collective normality in the world. So I am patient and I will not give up and my successor I am sure will do the same. We need good will from both sides, from the interested parties and first of all from Turkey. I think that the key for a solution first of all is in Ankara.

Q: Mr. President Greek Cyprus is right now President of the EU and also Turkey right now has a relationship with the EU which is worse than last year. What do you say about this position sir?

President: Excuse me I will correct you a little bit. It is the Republic of Cyprus and not Greek Cyprus. There is no Greek and Turkish Cyprus. There is one Cyprus. It is the Republic of Cyprus and part of it is free and another part is under occupation. Excuse me but I have to make this statement. I have made proposals as I said before which I consider very fruitful, one of those proposals had to do with the ghost city of Varosha of Famagusta. The Turkish Cypriots ask for direct trade with the EU and with the rest of the world. I took this seriously into account and I proposed the opening of the port of Famagusta under the auspices of the European Union because the Republic of Cyprus as a whole is member of the EU including Turkish Cypriots and the occupied area, to give the possibility to our compatriots to have trade with the EU and the rest of the world. Then I asked Turkey which according to the SC Resolution 550(1984) is responsible for the ghost city of Famagusta, to open the city; to restore the city which means thousands of jobs for both, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and have ordinary human beings have contacts between them, the working people from both communities. This would be miracle according to my vision and my philosophy. So the opening of the city and the restoration of the city would take some years, 2-3 years because it is in ruins. So I said because I want a win-win situation, the Republic of Cyprus is ready to defreeze chapters for the European accession of Turkey. There is no response until now. I reiterated and repeated it several times. And this saddens me.  This will give an impetus, a push for overall agreement because I am sure that the Turkish Cypriot people of Famagusta are in favor of this. They know what great benefits this would give them. Unfortunately I am still waiting. I am waiting, being patient and optimistic at the same time. So this is my position regarding this aspect of the problem