December 14, 2017

Interview by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus Ambassador Sotos Zackheos to the T.V. Show “Inside the United Nations”

“Opportunities are there for both Cyprus and Turkey if there is a normal relationship. The problems the people face are the same and this is a region of the world where people mingled for thousands of years and in which they are destined to coexist. We started our accession process with the EU, Turkey got its own candidature status with the EU and  both Greece and Cyprus support the European orientation of Turkey. We believe that it is in our interest as well as in the interest of the Turkish people that we become part of a wider regional community where we can solve differences around the table, having in mind the wider picture which is the prosperity of course of the people of our countries.” that was stressed by the Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the UN, Ambassador Sotos Zackheos during an interview today with Larry Gell at the television program  “ Inside the United Nations-The Global Issues.”

The ambassador said that in his opinion there is no alternative in the long-term. At the same time he emphasized that the policies of countries are determined to a very large extent by internal politics and of course in Turkey we now have a government which is a coalition government, headed by a Prime Minister who sent the army to Cyprus who is very proud about this act and who believes that after he sent the army the problem was solved and therefore the international community should accept that there is a solution to the problem. He further added that Prime Minister Ecevit  talks about the  “realities” and the realities for him are that  there are two parts and the northern part should be recognized and then we just unite under a confederal solution. This is not a positive development but it is a retrogression, he said.  Mr. Zackheos underlined that the Cyprus Government and the international community have accepted  that Cyprus should be a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. But, he said, we want to have an effective government which will be able to operate normally and effectively within the European Union context and we feel that it is in the interest of the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots to proceed along this road.  It is to the special interest, he added, of the Turkish Cypriots who are less developed  because of the lack of opportunities and the oppressive presence of the Turkish army in the occupied territory and because of the additional problem with the Turkish mainland settlers coming and settling in. The ambassador stressed that almost 1/3 of the Turkish Cypriots have emigrated.

Referring to the continuous downsizing of the Turkish Cypriot community the Ambassador said that this is a sad aspect because the island can support both communities and added that the economic conditions are such that Cyprus can prosper and offer good life to all its citizens. “This idea of the Turkish Cypriots leaving the island worries us because once you bring to the island people that have nothing in common with us, if you bring Turks from mainland Turkey,  then they will not have the same interest like the Turkish Cypriots to try to solve the Cyprus problem. So the political will of the electorate is being affected as well.” he noted.

Commenting on the issue of globalization and the current trend for greater integration the Ambassador said that it is very ironic at a time when the international community is moving towards greater integration to ask to separate the two communities in Cyprus. He further asked  how a community of 100, 000 can prosper as a separate “entity”  if it will not open up and ask to be integrated into a much wider community. He wondered who is going to invest in a market of 100,000 people. That’s why in our proposals in trying to solve the problem we say that the Turkish Cypriots are going to have their own province to manage but at the same time there must be freedom of movement and settlement otherwise they will be left behind and nobody is going to invest-he said and added that- globalization can be a disastrous development if you stay closed and you look back and not ahead of time.

In an another answer, Ambassador Zackheos , underlined that the Cyprus problem is not an internal problem. He indicated that following the termination of the bi-polarity and the collapse of the Soviet Union most of the conflicts were internal but he explained the Cyprus problem started long before the termination of the cold war and that the Turkish invasion took place in 1974. “The problem is not internal, and not centered around Greek Cypriots fighting Turkish Cypriots or vice versa” he said and in explaining the reasons of the problem he said “we have a great regional power, Turkey with their own geostrategic  considerations who is interfering and occupies our land.”

Speaking about Cyprus’ interests in the United Nations Mr. Zackheos noted that the main preoccupation of the Cyprus Ambassador is the Cyprus problem.  However he said Cyprus is interested in all issues and he specified that great importance is attached to human rights issues, to a much fairer international system by focusing attention on the financing for Development Conference, to social issues, to the whole globalization issue and how we can turn globalization to the mutual advantage over the globe. We must be realistic-he said- but we must also have a vision of where we want to take the world.

Asked if Cyprus is a member of the Alliance of Small Island States in the United Nations Mr. Zackheos  responded positively and added that Cyprus is very active in that group. He reminded that only last January Cyprus hosted a very big meeting of AOSIS where 40 out of its 43 members took part and during which very sensitive issues were discussed. The main issue of concern to some of the small islands-he said- is the issue of the climatic change and the rise of the sea level but he added the energy issue was also discussed at the meeting. The Ambassador said that in Nicosia the small island states at the expert level discussed all those interrelated issues and have come up with joint positions and recommendations and conclusions which the Cyprus delegation is distributing to the United Nations and to the European Union so that they know the concerns of the small island states.

Responding to another question about the role of non-governmental organizations and of the private sector in resolving international problems,  the Ambassador stressed that the international non-governmental organizations are there to play a very significant role by focusing the attention of the general public to very important issues like the international criminal court , the anti-personnel mines, the whole challenge of the globalization issues. They are active also in the fight against poverty in the world. Cyprus-he said- has many NGOs and we encourage more volunteer work. We have also found that there is a role to be played by the private sector, he said and added that, if we can really bring these international corporations with their financial power in close cooperation with the international organization to try to face a problem and avoid the conflict of interest it will be a worthwhile cause that everybody needs to support.

Speaking on his own experience as the Chairman of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country he said that he has been in touch with organizations here in the United States. “I have tried together with the American Heart Association to have a program of assistance to the developing countries. We have identified ten countries and we launched a program of assistance where American doctor volunteers will be sent to countries to help with heart disease prevention and I am very happy that the first phase with Grenada has been launched together with the Government and the university of Grenada” he said. In concluding he upheld that if one can make use of the private sector and the moral values that a lot of individuals in the private sector bring about, then this would be to the benefit of humanity.