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IBNA/Interview Kasoulides: The withdrawal of Turkish troops necessary for a Cyprus solution

IBNA/Interview Kasoulides: The withdrawal of Turkish troops necessary for a Cyprus solution
"The abolition of the guarantees and the withdrawal of the Turkish army is what makes sense to solve the Cyprus problem. How can a solution be called a solution if the Turkish army has not left Cyprus and with the invasive rights intact? This isn’t a solution", Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kaoulides stated in an interview to IBNA during the 2nd Rhodes Conference on Security and Stability.

Read the full interview below

Minister, this is the 2nd time you participate in the Rhodes Conference on Security and Stability. You tabled three significant initiatives during your speech yesterday that you will launch as part of the Conference. Can you further elaborate on these?

Since the spirit of the Rhodes Conference is not simply to address the issue of security and stability as a response to negative actions, but it seeks to achieve positive efforts, for example in the dialogue between young Arabs and young Europeans so we can see how they approach things in response to the radicalization issue, we have undertaken the initiative to ask the Cypriot Youth Organization – a semi-governmental organization that oversees all youth organizations in Cyprus – to organize a convention and invite all the respective organizations of the country’s participating in the Conference of Rhodes. In Nicosia we will engage in dialogue and say things their way. As the ministry, we will support them and assist them.

The second initiative refers to blue growth. The sea unites us. It has united us since the ancient times and blue growth is the way to bring our countries closer together. I discovered that a Cypriot University’s school of maritime studies, along with another Cypriot university and the maritime academy of Egypt are in partnership. Therefore, I invited all parties interested in participating in this context and thus solve many issues regarding the sea and what it can offer our peoples. The third initiative is the Search and Rescue Center which is highly developed in Cyprus. It does not concern itself with military issues only but it also deals with coastal catastrophes, environmental issues and others that could be a bridge for cooperation between all the countries participating in the Conference of Rhodes.

 

Cyprus, together with Greece, continues to create partnerships with countries in the East Med, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. How fruitful have these been in terms of creating the sense of security and cooperation between the countries and thus cause tensions to subside?

I believe the trilateral cooperation both with Israel and Egypt has progressed significantly and in depth on matters concerning the cooperation both in the field of security - where we see cooperation between the security services of the three countries that bear fruit and we have thwarted terrorist attacks in Cyprus thanks to this cooperation – and in energy.

Here too results are already showing, although there is a promising future for this cooperation. It has also expanded to other fields and this is very pleasing. If it were not effective, we would not see so many summits. For Heads of State or Government to be interested in such meetings means they are worth their while and valuable time. The next meeting will be between Israel, Greece and Cyprus in Thessaloniki and I hope that by the end of the year we will have a trilateral summit between Jordan, Greece and Cyprus too.

Cooperation is expanding. What are your plans for upcoming contacts and relations?

We have opened the Lebanon-Greece-Cyprus and the Palestinian-Authority – Greece – Cyprus chapters. These will proceed. I think we have covered a wide are in terms of the Eastern Mediterranean and I hope we have the appetitive [for more], so we’ll see.

 

It has already been announced that in June the extraction of gas, and possibly oil, will commence. On the other hand, many objections are being raised by Turkey because they claim to have rights in the region. How are you dealing with this and what will the Cypriot government do about it?

First of all, on the how: We do not have a navy or aviation and on our side there will be no tension or even conflict. Turkey will impose its presence in the EEZ through the power of its weapons. The drilling expected to be carried out – we are still at the exploration phase, no the exploitation phase – will be at plot 11 by Total. I do not believe that Turkey will go so far as to harass the company itself or prevent it from proceeding with drilling. They will circulate in the area as they did 2 years ago and perhaps proceed with some other provocative actions. The issue is how to tackle the risks of international peace and security. It is a matter for which we consult with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and we will continue to do so.

Now, plot 11, according to Turkey, does not belong to Cyprus. It belongs to Egypt. So what does it care? Turkey separates the Eastern Med in two halves. The north is Turkey and the south is Egypt. And it says Cyprus has no continental shelf because it is an island. It says the same about the Greek island of Kastelorizo. Without respecting the proportions. Anyway. In this case, plot 11, according to Turkey, belongs to Egypt. Egypt has no complaints. What does Turkey care? These are the Turkish contradictions.

Talks on the Cyprus issue have stalled, in terms of the spirit of Geneva, while election in Norway mean Espen Barth Eide will probably be a candidate so he will leave the negotiation process. What were the reasons the talks froze and what do you hope can happen?

After Geneva, the internal chapters – which we were told to try to bring close to an agreement until we went to Geneva – did not progress almost at all. The Turkish-Cypriot side did not change any of its positions. The president doesn’t rule out going to Geneva. But to go there must be hope of the deadlock breaking; on our side we need to see what will happen with the issue of security, how this will be solved. We must examine the territorial issue, see where we are headed so that we know how to handle the issues that have stalled. If we feel we are getting satisfactory answers on safety and territorial matters, then perhaps we could see the other chapters that have stalled with a view to compromise. And we will solve the issue.

Eide’s role, after the latest statements of president Anastasiadis, was seen as negative. Will his departure free the powers that want a solution under the conditions set by the resolutions of the UN?

Please don’t expect me to talk about the UN representative departing. We never raised such an issue. We maintain the right to criticize the points where Mr. Eide – especially in his statements – takes a wrong position or attitudes that we do not like. It is our right to criticize him and that is what we are doing. Now, Mr. Eide is leaving at some point in the summer because he is a candidate in the Norway election, regardless of how efforts for the Cypriot issue are progressing or not.

What is the Cypriot government’s red line in the negotiations, the issue of guarantees and security?

The abolition of the guarantees and the withdrawal of the Turkish army is what makes sense to solve the Cyprus problem. How can a solution be called a solution if the Turkish army has not left Cyprus and with the invasive rights intact? This isn’t a solution./IBNA

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