Negotiator says U.S. was wrong to back U.N. plan for Cyprus in 2004

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NEWSMAKER INTERVIEW:

The U.S. erred in backing a U.N. plan for unifying Cyprus as a federation of two states instead of allowing the Turkish and Greek camps to work out an agreement on their own, the Greek Cypriot negotiator told The Washington Times.

“Everybody recognizes now that it was a mistake,” Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis told editors and reporters at The Times in an exclusive interview.

The U.S. role now is “positive,” and it has acted “more as honest brokers and as friends of the process,” he said.

In a wide-ranging interview last week, Mr. Mavroyiannis discussed ongoing unification negotiations between the island nation’s Turkish-dominated north and Greek-run south, and the impact of the discovery of oil and natural gas reserves off the southern coast on the process as well as on relationships among regional neighbors.

Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot teams have been meeting regularly since unification talks restarted in February after a long stalemate.

Mr. Mavroyiannis described the series of meetings as a “screening process” that has “identified a lot of divergences” between the two sides.

“I want to caution against being overoptimistic, not because we are not determined, but we have not seen any concrete results yet,” he said. “We are still stuck in the beginning of the process.”

But the negotiator promoted the current process over the U.N. scheme — called the Annan Plan, after former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan — that the George W. Bush administration backed. Turkish Cypriots hailed it, but Greek Cypriots rejected it in a 2004 referendum.

Mr. Mavroyiannis said the talks have yet to produce tangible results and that both sides will have to work hard to seize a “window of opportunity.”

The two sides have agreed to establish a bizonal, bicommunal, nonaligned federation. They first will need to resolve issues such as property claims, territorial adjustments and security guarantees, as well as the issue of Turkish settlers who were encouraged by Turkish Cypriot authorities to settle in the northern part of the island.

These core differences can be resolved in a “matter of months,” Ozdil Nami, foreign minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, told The Times in March.

Mr. Mavroyiannis downplayed such optimism.

“It is too early to predict how long it will take,” he said. “At the same time, we all understand that there is a window of opportunity which will not last forever.”

Cyprus was divided into an internationally recognized Greek-speaking south and a Turkish-speaking north in 1974, when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of a union with Greece.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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