- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2000

Hope for Cyprus

President Clinton's nominee for the ambassadorship to Cyprus believes now is the best time in more than 30 years to reunify the divided island.

Thomas G. Weston, currently the State Department's special coordinator for Cyprus, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week that three recent developments have changed the political climate between ethnic Greeks and Turks on the island and between regional rivals Greece and Turkey.

The European Union has invited the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government to begin membership negotiations. The Union has also decided to extend the same privilege to Turkey, the only country that recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

"The EU's decision … to extend candidacy to Turkey added a new dimension to and incentives for a comprehensive settlement," Mr. Weston said. "As Turkey moves closer to the European Union, European stability in all areas, including Cyprus, should be reinforced."

"The second factor is the rapprochement between Greece and Turkey," he added. "Over the last year, the leaders of both countries have taken historic steps together, strengthening their bilateral relationship.

"This cooperation was evident even before last year's earthquakes in Turkey and Greece, when each extended assistance to the other… . This factor helps improve the atmosphere between two states that have a real stake in a resolution of the Cyprus problem."

The third reason for hope is the ongoing "proximity talks" between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots, Mr. Weston said. The United Nations has sponsored two rounds of talks in which intermediaries represent the two sides.

Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is insisting on international recognition for his government before resuming direct talks with Greek-Cypriot leaders.

"We continue to work hard to ensure that the recommencement of talks on May 23 in New York moves the parties toward a just and durable settlement that addresses the legitimate concerns of both sides," he said.

Mr. Weston, a career Foreign Service officer, has spent 31 years working on European and Canadian issues. He is a former deputy assistant secretary of state.

Black-tie Arabian night

The wives of Arab diplomats in Washington are planning another gala benefit with plans to turn the National Building Museum into a scene from the "Arabian Nights."

The 17 women began the Mosaic Foundation three years ago to raise funds through galas for charities. Save the Children is this year's beneficiary organization.

"We are delighted to be the beneficiaries of this exciting evening," said Charles MacCormack, president of Save the Children. "We share the Mosaic Foundation's commitment to working together to help children and families."

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is the honorary chairwoman of the event.

The National Building Museum "will be transformed … into an exquisite display of Arab beauty and culture," the foundation said in a statement.

The center court will be decorated like an Arab bazaar, complete with an oasis courtyard and date palm trees.

"Dinner will be served in a grand organza tent illuminated with amber lights," the group said.

The board members are the wives of the ambassadors of Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Mauritania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen and the wife of the representative of the Palestinian Authority.

Tickets for the black-tie event can be ordered by calling 202/338-3777. They range from $400 to $1,000 for an individual ticket to $10,000 to $100,000 for a table.

Beware in Burkina Faso

The State Department is cautioning Americans to avoid large crowds in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

The city is "experiencing an increase in civil unrest and violent activity related to a strike called by opposition groups," the department said in a statement this week.

"Americans are strongly cautioned to avoid large crowds, as violence is possible."

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