- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Anti-terrorist exercise

U.S., Thai and Singaporean troops opened annual military exercises in Thailand yesterday that will include anti-terrorism training for the first time.

Darryl N. Johnson, the U.S. ambassador to Thailand, said the Cobra Gold maneuvers involve 21,000 troops in the largest annual military drill in the Asia-Pacific region in 21 years.

"This year the exercise will include a counterterrorism scenario to be addressed by Thai and U.S. forces," Mr. Johnson told reporters as the exercise opened with a flyover by four F-16 and four F-18 fighter jets.

"Multilateral exercises such as Cobra Gold are essential to help us work together to defeat those terrorists and eliminate their networks in this region and around the world.

"People from over 80 countries, including Thailand, lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania," the ambassador said.

The exercise also includes 73 U.S. and 32 Thai aircraft, and six U.S. and 11 Thai ships. Singapore, which has observed the maneuvers since 1993, joined the maneuvers in 2000. Singapore sent 70 troops to the exercise this year.

Black Sea partners

Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Dan Geoana hailed this week a joint declaration with Bulgaria as a historic pact to strengthen the southern flank of NATO.

Mr. Geoana, the former Romanian ambassador to the United States, said the declaration of support for both countries' campaigns to join the Western alliance shows they can cooperate instead of compete against each other in the nine-nation campaign for NATO membership at the summit in November. He compared their pact to the three Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which are cooperating in their efforts to join NATO.

"We discovered that together we are more powerful and valuable for the allies," he said. "The signing of the declaration is proof that we, not only the Baltic states, can cooperate."

He added that both nations will also support each other in their campaign to join the European Union.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passi said: "The signing of the declaration is unprecedented. We exchanged competition for cooperation. This is the key to success."

They will present the declaration to NATO Secretary-General George Robertson at a NATO pre-summit meeting today in Iceland.

U.S. interest in Cyprus

The key to settling the Cyprus problem is security, and the United States has strategic interests in seeing the island reunited and integrated into the European Union and NATO, according to the Western Policy Center.

"Negotiators have failed to address security on its own terms, which include the need for personal security for Turkish Cypriots, who fear a recurrent of the 1963-1974 bicommunal violence; strategic security for Greek Cypriots, who will not countenance a Turkish military presence in the north; and regional security for Turkey, which seeks to ensure that no hostile military force is stationed 40 miles off its southern coast," executive director John Sitilides wrote this week in the Strategic Regional Report on the center's Web site (www.westernpolicy.org).

Cypriot Ambassador Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis told Embassy Row last week that security is the one issue that has been settled in talks between Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. However, she could not reveal details because of a news blackout in the negotiations.

Mr. Sitilides called on the Bush administration to engage seriously in the negotiations to avoid a crisis that could occur if only the Greek-Cypriot side of the island is admitted to the European Union by the end of the year. Turkey, also hopeful of joining the European Union, would be seen as occupying an EU nation with its troops in northern Cyprus, where they protect Turkish-Cypriots, Mr. Sitilides said.

He said the United States has strategic interests in reuniting Cyprus to ensure the stability of NATO's southern flank and promote Turkey's membership in the European Union.

"In addition, the joint accession of Turkish and Greek Cypriots to the European Union would institutionalize an official Muslim presence in the bloc, laying waste to the argument of Islamist fundamentalists that Western outreach to the Muslim world in a sham," he wrote.

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