US Ambassador: ‘I personally do not regard the Cyprus issue as essentially a problem of invasion and occupation’

US Ambassador: ‘I personally do not regard the Cyprus issue as essentially a problem of invasion and occupation’

Nicosia, May 28, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

Review Hari Stefanatos

U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus John M. Koenig spoke at an open discussion on Tuesday, organized by the University of Cyprus and US Embassy in Cyprus on “Cyprus at a Crossroads: A diplomat reflects on three decades of engagement with the Eastern Mediterranean”.

The occasion was the retirement of Koenig from the US Department of State, who stated among other things that he personally does not regard the Cyprus issue as a problem of “invasion” and “occupation”,  noting that it`s up to the Cypriots to reclaim the Cyprus Dream.

In reply to a question from the audience, Koenig said that: “I personally do not regard the Cyprus issue as essentially a problem of invasion and occupation. If you don`t like it, I can`t help it. I do not regard that as the core of the Cyprus problem”, adding: “that is a huge problem however and the mechanism exist in order to reconcile the issues and it is the Cyprus settlement negotiations which take place under the aegis of the United Nations. This will address all of the issues related to the Cyprus conflict”.

The US ambassador continued saying that “the Cyprus conflict of course began 51 years ago and in that context of course it took a huge and tragic turn in 1974 and I am not in any way justifying what happened then, but it cannot be reduced to a problem of invasion and occupation. That is in fact to ignore your own history”.

Referring on the difficulties regarding the resolution of the Cyprus issue, Koenig said, “you have many things to deal with apart from Turkey`s presence on this island, the presence of Turkish troops which we do not support or accept, the presence of settlers which we do not condone. These all are issues, however, that need to be addressed in the context of settlement negotiations and we have to take into consideration the views of the Turkish Cypriot community as well”.

“This is what Cyprus solution is all about. This is also what reconciliation is about”, he said.

“I don’t think I have met a Turkish Cypriot – maybe there are a few out there – who actually believes that the Cyprus problem is a problem of invasion and occupation and these are the people you need to make peace with. So you better pay attention to how they see the Cyprus problem as well”, Koenig added.

In his address, Koenig also made a reference to the change in the climate that brought the election of Akinci and the new opportunity that has arisen, saying that “ this is an extraordinary time in Cyprus. Just eleven days ago, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci launched a new round of settlement negotiations under the most hopeful circumstances. Look around Cyprus. Beyond the island`s shores, there is turbulence, discord, danger.  On the island, the past few years also have not been easy ones, on either side. Yet the election on April 26 of Mustafa Akinci and the manifest good will both leaders have shown as they embark on a new round of talks, have galvanized the people of this island and grabbed the attention of policy makers in Washington and other capitals”.

He said that it brings to his mind Barack Obama`s second book published in 2006 “The Audacity of Hope: Reclaiming the American dream”.

“Please don`t miss this chance to bring the communities of this island back together and realize your aspirations for a better future. Every Cypriot has a role to play in this effort. As the American Ambassador, I can assure you the United States will do all we can to support the settlement process”, the US Ambassador said, concluding that “as an American who has spent most of his life living with your successes and setbacks, your hopes and concerns, I promise I will never stop doing what I can to help you realize your vision of a reunited island. But it`s up to you the Cypriots to reclaim the Cyprus dream”.