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Cyprus News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-01-05

Cyprus News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus News Agency at <>


  • [01] Cyprus - Events 1998
  • [02] Spokesman - Government

  • 1200:CYPPRESS:01

    [01] Cyprus - Events 1998

    by Myria Antoniadou

    Nicosia, Jan 5 (CNA) -- Efforts by the international community to restart negotiations between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides for a settlement in Cyprus and to convince the government not to deploy a Russian-made S300 defence missile system dominated 1998.

    The delivery of the S300 missiles was postponed a couple of times and only a few days before the end of the year President Glafcos Clerides announced his decision not to deploy the system and to negotiate with Moscow their possible deployment in the southern Greek island of Crete.

    The decision was taken in the light of two resolutions approved by the UN Security Council and statements of support made by world leaders which the government viewed as positive and a new impetus to the peace effort.

    However, throughout the year the Turkish side insisted on its demands for the establishment of a confederation of two states in Cyprus, contrary to UN resolutions stipulating for a bicommunal, bizonal federation, and that the Republic's European Union (EU) accession bid is abandoned.

    Both demands were rejected by the governments of Cyprus and Greece, the UN and the EU.

    In March the Cyprus Republic opened accession talks with the EU, described by the government as "historic".

    Meanwhile, a new UN resident representative was appointed in May and New Zealander Dame Ann Hercus took up her duties in July. In October, Hercus was asked to begin contacts with the two sides aiming at the reduction of tensions and promoting progress towards an overall settlement.

    Tension on the island and defence issues prevailed throughout the year and the government often repeated its willingness to participate in a dialogue which would lead to demilitarisation.

    President Glafcos Clerides was re-elected for a second five-year term in 1998 and managed to form a coalition government with the participation of his party (right-wing DISI), socialist EDEK and the United Democrats.

    EDEK withdrew from the government at the beginning of the new year, following the President's decision not to deploy the S300 missile system on the island.

    For the first time a Greek President officially visited the island in 1998. Costis Stephanopoulos arrived here on June 25 for a four-day state visit, sending the message that Athens stands by Nicosia.


    1998 had been described as the year of the "big push" to efforts for a settlement, but despite visits by foreign government envoys Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash remained firm in his intransigent positions and hopes for a major breakthrough and the resumption of talks fell through.

    Denktash began the year by implementing the decision he had announced in December 1997 that he would suspend most bicommunal events in reaction to an EU reaffirmation that accession talks with Cyprus would begin.

    He then demanded a change in the basis of the negotiations that in the past had been held between himself and the Cyprus President in their capacity as leaders of their respective communities.

    In March, UN Secretary-General's special Cyprus envoy Diego Cordovez visited the island and after meetings here announced that negotiations between the two sides cannot resume because the Turkish Cypriot leader wants to change the basis of the negotiations so that they are carried out between "two states".

    Kofi Annan expressed disappointment with this outcome and said talks should continue on the bicommunal basis followed until today and aiming at a bizonal, bicommunal federation as agreed between the two sides and stipulated in numerous UN resolutions on Cyprus.

    In a letter sent to Annan in April, President Clerides warned that Turkish efforts to change the basis of the negotiating procedure could have unpredictable consequences not only for Cyprus but for peace and stability in the region.

    US Presidential Emissary for Cyprus Richard Holbrooke visited the island in May and after meetings with President Clerides and Denktash said that the conditions set by the Turkish Cypriot leader for recognition of his illegal regime in the Turkish-occupied areas and the withdrawal of Cyprus' application to join the EU "will make progress difficult".

    Denktash then went on to write to the UN chief proclaiming the intercommunal talks as "dead" and demanding that negotiations are held between "two separate states".

    The letter was referred to the Security Council which issued a statement on May 20 reaffirming that UN resolutions stipulating for a bizonal, bicommunal federation should be the basis of a settlement on the island, indirectly rejecting Turkish demands.

    The UN position on this issue was confirmed a month later when the Security Council adopted two resolutions, extending the mandate of the UN peace-keeping force in Cyprus and calling on the leaders of the two communities to restart talks for a solution based on a single state, with its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded.

    Cordovez returned to the island in early July and on his departure he pledged to work out a formula for the resumption of talks.

    On August 31 Denktash called a press conference in the Turkish- occupied areas to announce his proposal for the establishment of a "Cyprus confederation" with "two sovereign and equal states".

    Speaking in the presence of Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, the Turkish Cypriot leader threatened he would not return to the negotiating table if the Greek Cypriot side does not agree.

    The proposal was rejected by Nicosia, Athens, the UN and the Non- Aligned Movement, as it is contrary to UN resolutions on Cyprus and two high level agreements between the two sides for the establishment of a bizonal, bicommunal federation.

    In September, President Clerides and Denktash had separate meetings with the UN chief in New York after which the UN announced that Hercus would begin contacts with both parties aiming at reducing tensions and promoting a process towards a just and lasting settlement.

    Hercus began shuttle talks in October behind closed doors and away from the press.

    Before her departure in December the UN resident representative said a "substantive and substantial" process is underway and that she had reported to the UN chief that she was "genuinely encouraged by the two leaders' positive and constructive approach".

    The government often repeated this year that it participates in the fresh UN effort in all good-will and honesty.

    On November 13 the government announced it will request a debate on the Cyprus question at the UN some time in April or May, after a decision taken at a National Council meeting.

    The Cyprus problem is often dealt with by the Security Council, but has not been the subject of an Assembly debate since 1983.

    Just before the year ended, on December 22, the Council adopted resolution 1217 by which it extended the mandate of the UN Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus and once again called on all states and the parties concerned to refrain from any action which might prejudice the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the country, as well as from any attempt of partition or its unification with another country.

    It also reiterates its "grave concern" with the excessive levels of military forces and armaments here and the rate at which the are being expanded, upgraded and modernised, including by the introduction of sophisticated weaponry.

    In a second resolution (1218) adopted the same day on Kofi Annan's good offices mission, the Council requests the Secretary-General to "work intensively" with the two sides on "a staged process aimed at limiting and then substantially reducing the level of troops and armaments on Cyprus" as well as other measures for the reduction of tensions.

    US President Bill Clinton, British Premier Tony Blair, the EU presidency as well as other governments issued statements of support to resolution 1218 and expressing commitment to work for its implementation.

    The government welcomed the two resolutions. Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said resolution 1218 "creates a new situation" as it focuses on the work done by Hercus "instead of confining itself, as past resolutions have done, to a call on both sides". He said that for the first time it calls upon the two sides to show compliance with the objectives set out.

    With regard to 1217, Kasoulides welcomed the fact that it reaffirms that a settlement must stipulate for the establishment of a bicommunal and bizonal federation.


    After the Turkish side stepped up its intransigence by demanding recognition of the illegal regime in the Turkish-occupied part of the Republic, international efforts began to focus more on the reduction of armaments and tensions on the island, especially in view of the government's intention to deploy the S300 missile system.

    The US, Britain and a number of other governments and the EU spoke out publicly against the deployment of the missiles. Even though they did not dispute the Republic's right to decide on its defences, they believed the missiles would increase tension and would not contribute to ironing out relations between two NATO members, Greece and Turkey.

    Turkey had threatened not to allow the deployment of the missile system on the island.

    The Cyprus government postponed the deployment of the S300 surface-to- air missiles it had ordered in January 1997, until December, to give foreign envoys more time to pursue their efforts for the resumption of peace negotiations.

    It had said that it would reconsider its decision if peace negotiations open and are on a good path or if a dialogue on the reduction of troops and armaments, leading to demilitarisation, gets underway.

    In July Cypriot guardsmen completed their training in Russia on the S300 missile system.

    The same month President Clerides visited Moscow where he met President Boris Yeltsin and on his return stated that the contract for the defence missiles will be carried out.

    The missile saga ended in the last few days of the year, when the President issued a written statement saying he decided not to bring the S300 and to negotiate with the Russian government their possible deployment in the Greek island of Crete.

    His decision was announced after a meeting with the National Council, comprising political party leaders, and after consultations in Athens on the same day with Premier Costas Simitis.

    The President said his decision was taken after assessing the present circumstances and prospects in the Cyprus problem and underlined that now Cyprus expects the implementation of UN resolutions and the fulfillment of promises made by foreign governments.

    His decision was welcomed by the UN, the EU and a number of foreign governments involved in a settlement here.

    Meanwhile, within the framework of a joint defence dogma agreed between Cyprus and Greece in 1993 an air base was built in the eastern coastal town of Paphos, which was handed to the National Guard in January.

    The Defence Ministers of Cyprus and Greece had several meetings this year, reaffirming that efforts to upgrade and strengthen the dogma are continuing.

    A new National Guard chief, Lieutenant-General Dimitris Demou, took up his duties on April 25 of this year.

    Throughout the year Turkey continued to violate the Republic's air space and Nicosia Flight Information Region (FIR) prompting protests by Cyprus to the UN.


    In 1998 substantive steps were made in the Republic's European Union accession course, which were welcomed by the island's political leadership as the most important development in Cyprus in the past years.

    After a number of reconfirmations that Cyprus is eligible for membership the process was officially launched this year.

    In early March, President Glafcos Clerides submitted to the British EU rotating presidency a proposal to the Turkish Cypriot community to "nominate representatives to be included as full members of the Cypriot team which will conduct negotiations" and assured its views "will be discussed freely, seriously and in good faith".

    The President's proposal was welcomed by the EU that described it as "courageous, fair and realistic".

    However, it was turned down by Rauf Denktash who supported that Cyprus cannot join the EU if Turkey is not also a member and that the Republic's application is not valid as it does not express the will of the Turkish Cypriots.

    Echoing his positions, Ankara said the Turkish Cypriots would not be part of accession talks.

    On March 30, the EU launched the accession process with Cyprus and other applicant states during official meetings in Brussels, attended by Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, who described the start of talks as "historic".

    The following day saw the formal launch of the bilateral intergovernmental accession negotiations.

    The EU appointed Austrian Leopold Maurer as the head of its negotiating team for Cyprus' accession on April 1 and two days later the first screening of the EU acquis communautaire took place.

    Commissioner Hans van den Broek, in charge of EU enlargement, said that while there is still some work to be done considerable progress has already been achieved in the adoption of EU legislation by Cyprus.

    Ankara and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash reacted angrily to the start of accession talks and threatened with the further integration of the Turkish-occupied areas to Turkey.

    The EU repeatedly called on Ankara to reconsider its position regarding the opening of accession talks with Cyprus.

    In March, the government announced the appointment of former President George Vassiliou as the Republic's chief EU negotiator. It clarified however that the Foreign Minister will represent the Republic and exercise executive power.

    The report on Cyprus, adopted by the Commission on November 4, says that progress towards accession a progress towards a viable solution to the Cyprus problem will reinforce each other.

    It also notes that Cyprus has made significant progress in adopting the acquis communautaire and it should not face major obstacles in adopting it.

    Substantive talks between the EU and Cyprus got underway in Brussels on November 10 during the second ministerial meeting of the Conference on Accession to the EU.

    Government Spokesman Christos Stylianides said the opening of talks are "a very important event and an important landmark in Cyprus' European course."

    Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, who attended the conference, reassured the EU that the government gives high priority to UN efforts for a settlement in Cyprus and said the invitation to Turkish Cypriots to participate in accession talks still stands.

    One day prior to the start of substantive talks France, Germany and the Netherlands issued a statement saying that a political solution to the division and partial occupation of Cyprus must be found as a matter of urgency, as the only way which would resolve problems that will arise in the country's accession course. The statement was backed by Italy.

    The government reacted by calling on the EU to turn towards Turkey and invite her to conform with UN resolutions on Cyprus and to cooperate with efforts for a settlement.

    Since the start of talks with the EU Cyprus has submitted its positions on several chapters of the acquis communautaire being examined within the framework of the screening process.


    A refugee from the northern coastal town of Kyrenia managed to win a landmark case before the European Court of Human Rights in 1998, by which her right to own her property in the Turkish-occupied areas was recognised and Turkey was asked to pay her compensation.

    In July, the European Court ruled that Turkey must pay refugee Titina Loizidou 300 thousand Cyprus pounds (about 600 thousand US dollars) for depriving her of her ownership rights and access to her property in Kyrenia.

    The Court decision was seen as an important precedent for others among the 200 thousand Greek Cypriots displaced since the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of 37 per cent of the island's territory. Attorney General Alecos Markides said the decision is of "historic importance".

    Ankara dismissed the ruling as "inapplicable" and supported it exercises no authority over the occupied areas.

    Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash described it as "unjust and biased" and supported it would "contribute to injustice and oppression".

    At a meeting in Strasbourg on September 15 the permanent representatives of the Council of Europe member-states reiterated that the decision for compensation must be adhered to. Turkey was given until 28 October to pay up.

    On December 19, the Council of Europe Committee of Deputy Ministers announced it will reach a decision on the "Loizidou vs Turkey case" in February, in view of the fact that Ankara has not implemented the Court ruling.


    Presidential elections were held in Cyprus on February 8 but as none of the seven candidates managed to secure a majority vote a run-off election was held the following Sunday between Clerides and opposition candidate George Iacovou.

    Clerides won the election with 52,87 per cent of the vote, while former Foreign Minister Iacovou garnered 47,13 per cent.

    Clerides' re-election was backed by two small parties, the New Horizons Party and the Eurodemocratic Renewal Movement.

    After his re-election for another five years Clerides managed to secure the participation of socialist EDEK party and the United Democrats party in his new government, in a bid to form a government with the widest possible backing.

    Speaking before the House of Representatives at his investiture, on February 28, President Clerides called on the Turkish Cypriot leader to work together for a common homeland.

    He said his main objective is "to achieve progress in efforts to secure a solution of the Cyprus question."

    However, socialist EDEK withdrew from the coalition government after President Clerides decided not to deploy the Russian-made defence missile system in December.


    Hopes for a settlement to the humanitarian issue of missing persons were dampened this year, as there was not much progress on an agreement reached between President Clerides and Denktash in July 1997 for the exchange of information at their disposal on the location of graves and the return of remains.

    The only major development was the establishment of the fate of a missing person for the first time in 24 years, after an investigation by the US government following a Congress decision.

    The American government announced in May that DNA tests on remains proved that the then 17-year-old Andrew Kasapis, who in 1974 was registered as missing along with four other American citizens of Greek origin, is dead.

    In the report submitted to Congress, the US government said the investigation "concluded that the other four, in all likelihood, did no survive".

    Another development in the issue was the UN chief's appointment, on June 11, of Swiss diplomat Jean Pierre Ritter as the third (UN) member of the tripartite Committee of Missing Persons, for an 18-month period.

    Representatives of the two communities met to exchange information on the places were missing persons were buried in January 1998 and had decided to meet again to discuss ways of returning remains.


    Meetings between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities of the island were fewer and far-between in 1998, after a decision taken by the Turkish Cypriot leader in December 1997 to ban most bicommunal events in reaction to the opening of EU accession talks with Cyprus.

    On February 13, the occupation regime began imposing illegal fees and documentation requirements for people wanting to cross into the Turkish- occupied areas, in a bid to make contacts even more difficult.

    On an initiative of the Oslo-based International Peace Research Institute and US backing, businessmen from Greece, Turkey and the two communities of Cyprus met twice this year to discuss ways of cooperation and projects that would benefit the communities of the island.

    The Bicommunal Business Group met in Oslo on July 1 and in Constantinople (Istanbul) on December 12-13, after which they issued statements on the importance of increased contacts and cooperation between the two communities.


    Two women were appointed in high ranking state posts this year, within the framework of government efforts to increase the number of women at the decision-making level.

    Chrystalla Yiorkadji was appointed Auditor General on November 18 and Iliana Nicolaou as Ombudswoman on December 18.

    CNA MA/GP/1999

    [02] Spokesman - Government

    Nicosia, Jan 5 (CNA) -- The government intends to undertake an "historic initiative" to form a broadly acceptable government in view of anticipated important developments this year in the Cyprus problem.

    "The government and President Glafcos Clerides believe that 1999 will be a difficult year and to meet the crucial anticipated developments we must have the widest possible consensus," Government Spokesman Christos Stylianides told his daily briefing today.

    The spokesman's comments came as the President was consulting with his closest aides before the appointment of two new cabinet ministers, following the resignation of the Defence and Education ministers on Monday in protest to Clerides' decision not to deploy Russian anti-aircraft missiles in Cyprus.

    He said the government believes that a one-party government cannot handle the significant developments ahead and added "I hope the political parties will realise this necessity of our times and that together we will manage to find a consensus to act jointly for the future."

    Stylianides acknowledged that at present there are some time restrictions and some constitutional constraints which prevent any moves to form a broadly accepted government.

    CNA MM/MA/1999
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