- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2003

Chance for Cyprus

“Call me Euripides. When anyone calls me Mr. Ambassador, I think they’ve forgotten my name.”

With those words, Euripides L. Evriviades, the new ambassador from Cyprus, introduced himself and offered a cup of thick, sweet coffee.

“I say Turkish coffee because that’s what it’s always been called. Turkish coffee offered by the ambassador of Cyprus,” he said.

That was not small talk, coming from the envoy from a Mediterranean island where ethnic Greeks and Turks have been separated by a militarized green line since Turkish troops invaded the northern part in 1974.

Mr. Evriviades, who represents the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government, hopes that parliamentary elections in the Turkish-Cypriot section on Sunday will mark a turning point that will help to reunify the island.

“There is a clear window of opportunity,” he said.

Opposition political parties are running as a united front against supporters of Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and promising to pursue negotiations with the Greek-Cypriot government on a U.N. reunification plan rejected by Mr. Denktash. Some polls show the opposition will win the most seats.

Turkey, the only country to recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, is watching the elections closely. Turkey publicly backs Mr. Denktash, but an opposition victory could allow Turks to endorse the U.N. plan and remove one of the obstacles to their goal of joining the European Union.

The European Union plans to admit Cyprus next year, regardless of whether it is still divided, and has warned Turkey that it cannot join as long as it has troops on the territory of a member nation.

“I think Turkey is beginning to realize their aspiration for the EU will be enhanced by a solution based on the rule of law,” Mr. Evriviades said.

The ambassador recognizes the distrust many Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots have for each other, dating to ethnic violence in the 1960s and the Turkish occupation since the 1970s.

“You have a double security problem,” he said. “You have Greek-Cypriots feeling insecure and Turkish-Cypriots feeling insecure. The solution is not more armament but the EU.

“There have been painful periods of the past. We should not be held hostage to them. We must move forward. You cannot be a prisoner of the past.”

When he presented his diplomatic credentials in a White House ceremony last week, Mr. Evriviades thanked President Bush for supporting the reunification of Cyprus.

“The people of Cyprus are heartened by your personal assurances to press for a solution that will reunify our country and its people,” he told Mr. Bush, who expressed U.S. appreciation for Cypriot support in the war against terrorism.

Mr. Evriviades arrived in Washington four weeks ago and is hustling to learn the ways of the capital.

“Like Alice in Wonderland, I feel I cannot run fast enough to stay in one place,” he said.

When he gets time, however, he plans to pursue his own American dream. He wants to ride Route 66 from coast to coast on his 1996 Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Call to Sudan

Sudanese Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed yesterday credited President Bush with helping to advance peace talks in his homeland, after Mr. Bush called Sudanese President Omar Bashir.

Mr. Bush congratulated Mr. Bashir on progress in negotiations with Sudanese rebels after 20 years of civil war, which ended with a cease-fire last year.

“This is the first time they have talked,” Mr. Ahmed said. “Mr. Bush … encouraged [both sides] to walk the last lap toward peace and said the United States is willing to help.”

Mr. Bashir replied that “without the deep involvement [of the United States], we would not have accomplished what we have today.”

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrisonwashingtontimes.com.

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