- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Cyprus in Europe

The government of Cyprus is heralding its anticipated invitation to join the European Union as an historic event, but Turkish-Cypriot officials predict the move will result in the permanent division of the island.

"You can maintain the illusion there is a single Cyprus," said Osman Ertug, the Washington representative of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is recognized only by Turkey.

Cyprus has been divided since the 1970s when Turkish troops intervened to support Turkish Cypriots after Greek Cypriots attempted a coup aimed at annexing the island to the Greek mainland. Since then, the TRNC has maintained its own state, while the rest of the world recognized the Greek-Cypriot administration as the legitimate government of Cyprus.

Mr. Ertug, in a recent interview with Embassy Row, said the EU will make a mistake by admitting the Greek-Cypriot government, while Turkish Cypriots are negotiating for equal status in a reunited Cyprus. The EU is expected to invite Cyprus and other nations to join when it meets Dec. 12-13 in Denmark.

"This will end up most likely in the permanent division of Cyprus. There will be a reaction in Turkey and further integration [of the TRNC] with the Turkish side," Mr. Ertug said.

He dismissed the conventional wisdom that Turkish-Cypriot civil rights would be protected by EU laws that would apply to all of Cyprus. He said those same laws could also lead to an erosion of Turkish-Cypriot identity.

"We would be overwhelmed by the EU's principles of the free flow of goods, capital, people and services. Unless our group rights are guaranteed, our individual rights would be in jeopardy," he said.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to reunite Cyprus continue at the United Nations and at the State Department.

Cypriot Ambassador Erato Kozakou Marcoullis told our correspondent Gus Constantine and other Washington reporters at a recent luncheon, "The reunification of Cyprus is an event of historic proportions. … The EU has stated its preference for a reunited Cyprus to join as part of a comprehensive settlement."

In Cyprus last month, U.S. Ambassador Michael Klosson expressed American support for U.N. efforts to reunite the island before the EU summit. The United Nations yesterday released a plan for the reunification of Cyprus.

Alvaro De Soto, a U.N. special adviser on Cyprus, met recently with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou to discuss hopes of reunifying Cyprus before the EU summit.

"The weeks to come are critical," Mr. De Soto said.


Bahrain's democracy

The ambassador of Bahrain believes last month's election in the Gulf nation proves that democracy and Islam can co-exist.

"We're very excited about the election. We're excited about starting the new government," Ambassador Khalifa bin Ali al Khalifa said.

Fifty-three percent of Bahrain's voters turned out for the Oct. 24 election and the Oct. 30 run-off to elect 40 members to the new lower house of parliament. The election, which included female voters, was the first since 1975 when the late emir, Issa bin Salman al Khalifa, dismissed the legislature. His son, King Hamad bin Issa al Khalifa, established a constitutional monarchy after a referendum in 2000. He will appoint 40 members of the upper house and his Cabinet.

Foreign observers certified the election as free and fair, the ambassador said. Nine female candidates ran in the election, although none was elected.

"This is overwhelmingly a vote of confidence" in the king's democratic reforms, he told Embassy Row in a recent interview.

Mr. Khalifa said the new democracy guarantees civil and religious rights.

"People can practice any religion here. Women can drive. Head scarf or no head scarf, it is a personal decision," he said.

Mr. Khalifa also congratulated the Bush administration for seeking the approval of the U.N. Security Council in a resolution last week that demanded Iraq comply with U.N. arms inspectors.

Bahrain, the home of the U.S. 5th Fleet since 1995, is no fan of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the ambassador said. Saddam fired a missile at Bahrain during the 1991 Gulf war, but a U.S. Patriot missile intercepted it over the desert, he said.

"Saddam is a threat," Mr. Khalifa said, adding that Bahrain has no complaint with the Iraqi people.

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