December 14, 2017

Interview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ioannis Kasoulides, to CNA – 7 June 2013

by Maria Koniotou

Nicosia, June 7 (CNA) – There has been no discussion on a possible return of the Turkish occupied fenced-off town of Famagusta to its legal inhabitants in exchange for allowing direct flights to and from the illegal Tymbou airport, in Cyprus’ northern Turkish occupied areas, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has said.

This issue is not under discussion, he told CNA in an interview, adding that the Greek Cypriot side has never raised such an issue.

“Right now what we have is our proposal on this issue, which we believe will help the talks significantly if Famagusta is returned to its legal citizens. Once other issues come up we will look into them, he added.

The Foreign Minister said that talks on the Cyprus problem will not resume from the beginning, adding that it will be made clear that the Greek Cypriot side is not bound by positions which President Nicos Anastasiades has already said he does not subscribe to them, on the basis of the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

With regard to the situation in Turkey, the Foreign Minister said that the EU must be concerned about the reasons of this unrest in relation to the social level of Turkey as a candidate country for EU membership.

Asked about the credibility of Alexander Downer, UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Cyprus, Kasoulides cautioned against public comments on the matter.

Replying to another question on possible personal interest on his part for the post of EU Cyprus Commissioner, the Minster pointed out that his priority now is to contribute in the best way he can to the success of President Anastasiades’ government.

Kasoulides also said the government rejects the representation of Turkish Cypriots at the European Parliament with an observers’ status.

“We have looked into this issue and we will examine how as many Turkish Cypriots as possible will participate in the European elections through a joint electoral list that will allow them to be elected as well. Theoretically they can. Since there are 95 thousand Turkish Cypriot holders of Republic of Cyprus identities, if they want to participate in the elections they can rightfully elect a member of the European Parliament. Democratic procedures will apply according to the European acquis as in all countries,” the Minister noted.

Asked about his recent visit to Paris, he said it reaffirmed the high level of bilateral relations, ahead of a visit President Anastasiades will pay next week to Paris.

Referring to the contacts in the French capital, Kasoulides said both sides expressed their readiness to further expand and deepen their relations in various fields. At the same time they expressed common positions on issues concerning the economy, policies to improve the Eurozone, boost growth and combat unemployment.

Paris and Nicosia also share views on Syria, the need to enhance the autonomous character of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy, ways to combat international terrorism and create conditions of security and stability in the Southern-Eastern Mediterranean region.

“The French side reaffirmed its position with regard to the respect to every country’s right to exercise its sovereign rights and exploit its natural resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone. At the same time it underlined that it will continue to support, in its capacity as permanent member of the UN Security Council, the Republic of Cyprus on the question of Cyprus,” he added.

Invited to comment on recent statements by US Ambassador in Nicosia that tensions in the region could unhinge America’s close ties with Israel and Turkey while derailing Noble Energy’s gas search and asked if the problem of Cyprus is connected with natural gas exploration, Kasoulides said these statements were crystal clear and sent a message against anyone who would want to create tension during Noble’s activities with regard to the appraisal drilling as Cyprus’ inalienable sovereign right.

“No one expects that we will create tension,” he noted, adding that this statement does not lead to the conclusion that there is an effort to link the Cyprus problem to the issue of natural gas.

Asked about the person who will be the negotiator of the Greek Cypriot side at the talks, since President Anastasiades has said that he will not be the negotiator, Kasoulides

recalled that the National Council will convene on June 15 to decide the role of the negotiator and his links to the Council and at a later stage, the negotiator will be named.

“We have to prepare for the talks in the right way, with the help of advisors and other experts,” he added.

Replying to questions, Kasoulides said the government is not pleased with the increasing number of Greek Cypriots who apply to the so-called commission of immovable property, in occupied Cyprus, nor is it happy about the low compensation paid to most of them.

No property has been restored to its legal owner, he pointed out, adding that it will take a long time to speak of the danger of solving the property issue through this illegal commission.

On the case of the occupied town of Varosha (fence off area of Famagusta), on the east, the Minister said it was too early to discuss confidence building measures with regard to the return of the fenced-off town of Famagusta to its legal citizens.

He described any such possible move (return of Varosha) as a way to bridge the huge gap of confidence that exists between the two sides. He referred to past attempts by Turkey to operate flights to and from Tymbou airport, which did not succeed.

“Right now what we have is our proposal on this issue, which we believe will help the talks significantly if Famagusta is returned to its legal inhabitants. Once other issues come up we will look into them,” he added.

Asked about his forthcoming visit to London, Kasoulides said that he was invited by his British counterpart William Hague to a working lunch on Monday June 17, adding they will hold talks on the Cyprus problem, bilateral relations and European issues.

“I believe that the British must be convinced that their interest should be directed to where it ought to be, in order to help break the deadlock in the Cyprus problem,” he noted.

On possible Turkish Cypriot participation in the European Parliament, the Foreign Minister said “we are against the status of observers but we are in favour of Turkish Cypriot participation in the European elections in Cyprus. During previous European elections very few of them voted but that was their choice. They were offered this possibility, through constitutional changes.”

Asked about the current situation in Turkey, he said this unrest was triggered by various reasons. There is the reaction to the oppressive police behaviour, the protest of many people against measures to introduce Islamic norms in social life in Turkey, with the most recent one being the restrictions on the sale of alcohol.

He said that other people protest against authoritarian government policies, adding that many Alevis feel oppressed.

Kasoulides said that it is very early to draw conclusions as to where this social uprising could lead, adding that the EU must be alarmed by all this.

“I am sure that Prime Minister Erdogan will be obliged to show understanding to this kind of protests,” he added.

Asked if this situation could affect Cyprus, he said that he does not think so, unless it may be used as an external danger with a view to unite and appease the Turkish public.

Asked about natural gas exploitation in the region, Kasoulides said hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean sea will certainly bring together Lebanon, Egypt and Israel, adding that Cyprus will also contribute to this. He noted that all countries have the legal right to reap the benefits of their Exclusive Economic Zones.

Asked about Cyprus’ role with regard to Syria and the Middle East, he said that as an EU member, Cyprus actively participates in the EU Foreign Affairs Council decision making process on such issues. Cyprus has agreements with many states and will also agree with other states to evacuate citizens if necessary.

Noble Energy is launching an appraisal drilling in block 12 of Cyprus’ EEZ. In 2011, initial data from Noble’s exploratory drilling indicated the existence of a natural gas reservoir, also known as “Aphrodite”, ranging from 5 to 8 trillion cubic feet (tcf) with a gross mean of 7 tcf.

Apart from Noble Energy, the Republic of Cyprus has also signed contracts with the ENI/KOGAS consortium for hydrocarbons exploration in blocks 2, 3 and 9, as well as with French TOTAL for blocks 10 and 11 in the EEZ.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. The latest round of negotiations between the two communities (the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots) began in 2008 but was suspended by the Turkish side in July 2012 when Cyprus assumed the six monthly rotating EU presidency.