- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2001

NICOSIA, Cyprus Although stymied in its quest to reunify this eastern Mediterranean island, the Cypriot government has mooted a tantalizing offer to help Washington search for peace in the Middle East.
The offer has nothing to do with resolving the partition of Cyprus, but is intended to show the advantages of this government's friendship with all countries in the area.
According to Foreign Affairs Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides, once Cyprus is admitted to the European Union, as far as the Middle East is concerned, "Europe will start right here."
And that will create a number of diplomatic possibilities that Mr. Cassoulides will outline to Secretary of State Colin Powell and other officials during a visit to Washington this week.
"Being in the center of this area, Cyprus is trying to play its little role," Mr. Cassoulides said in an interview after his return from a trip to several Arab countries.
The internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government hopes to conclude its negotiations with the EU next year and join the European Club in 2004.
EU membership "is not a foregone conclusion," Mr. Cassoulides said, but countries that previously opposed its membership because of the island's division "have now begun to discuss the issue of our accession." Cyprus has already complied with 17 out of 29 requirements spelled out by the Union.
Some EU members' initial opposition to Cyprus was based on the fact that the government controls only the southern two-thirds of the island. The rest constitutes the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognized only by Turkey.
The Turkish Cypriot leadership, backed by Turkey, has rejected an invitation to join the Greek Cypriots in EU accession talks.
Mr. Cassoulides travels to Washington tomorrow at a particularly frustrating period for the Greek Cypriots.
For nearly 27 years, they have been trying to end the Turkish military presence in the north of the island, without success. Efforts by the United States and some of its allies have produced no results.
Now the Turkish side is demanding recognition of its separate entity as a condition for further negotiations sponsored by the United Nations, an impotent witness to the island's vicissitudes.
"No Cypriot on this side will accept a two-state solution," Mr. Cassoulides emphasized, adding, "We simply have to wait for better days."
President Bush has reiterated the U.S. commitment to efforts to bring peace and prosperity to all Cypriots but under U.N. auspices. To Cypriots, it was a clear signal that there will be no significant American initiatives.
"I do not expect a change of policy from the new [U.S.] administration," Mr. Cassoulides said. "This policy … does not allow us illusions or false expectations.
"The United States is the only [country] with influence on Turkey," he said, "and it does not want to damage its interests by using means which could be considered excessive.
"Turkey will try everything to put off the EU's decision [on Cyprus] but will not succeed," Mr. Cassoulides said. Turkey's own application for EU membership is also pending "and I don't think Turkey will want to damage its European aspirations."
For Cyprus, Mr. Cassoulides said, EU membership also means "that the existing problem will be contained by EU obligations… . EU membership will enhance stability because of effective EU political control."
Mr. Cassoulides does not think Turkey is contemplating further military action in Cyprus because by maintaining its military force in the north it has achieved what it considers its security objective.

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