- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Seize the moment

The U.S. ambassador to Cyprus urged Greek and Turkish Cypriots to “seize the moment” and work for the reunification of their island or lose the momentum and see only part of their divided homeland admitted to the European Union on May 1.

“A window of opportunity for a Cyprus settlement remains open … but it is up to leaders, both on the island and off, to seize the moment quickly, or it will pass,” Ambassador Michael Klosson told the Western Policy Center on a recent Washington visit.

“This could well prove the best opportunity ever. Both sides are being asked to make significant compromises, but the costs of no solution are significantly greater for all. The United States is ready to help.”

The European Union has decided to admit Cyprus, even if the island remains divided. But the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government would be the only representative, if the Turkish-Cypriot administration rejects unification. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Turkey, which is under pressure to coax Turkish Cypriots into a settlement or risk its own future goal of joining the European Union.

Mr. Klosson cited the “momentous” developments in 2003 as evidence of a favorable climate for reunification. The United Nations proposed a settlement plan. The Turkish side opened its border to Greek-Cypriot visitors, and a political coalition that favors the U.N. plan is now sharing power with politicians who rejected the proposal.

“What a difference a year makes,” he said.

Hungarian beef ban

Hungarian Ambassador Andras Simonyi hopes the United States will lift a new ban on beef exports from his country as soon as Hungarian slaughterhouses meet U.S. food standards.

Mr. Simonyi said the ban was imposed after seven slaughterhouses, or abattoirs, failed inspections by U.S. health officials.

“Hungary was taken off the list of countries that are allowed to export meat to the United States as a result of these inspections,” he told Hungary’s MTI news agency this week.

“From what we were told by the Americans, some of the abattoirs did not meet U.S. food-safety standards. The decision concerns mostly pork-based meat products worth an annual export value of $5 [million] to $6 million.”

Mr. Simonyi said most Hungarian slaughterhouses meet the standards set by the European Union, which Hungary is due to join in May. But the United States has stricter inspections, he said.

Seeking Hambali

The United States is “seriously” considering Indonesia’s request to interrogate a suspected terrorist President Bush mentioned in his State of the Union speech, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia said yesterday.

“We are well aware of Indonesia’s desire to have physical access to him. We continue to consider the request very seriously,” Ambassador Ralph Boyce told the Associated Press in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, is reputed to have been the chief of operations for Jemaah Islamiyah, the terrorist group linked to al Qaeda and blamed for the 2002 bombing of a nightclub on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. The attack killed 202 persons.

Hambali was arrested in Thailand in August and turned over to U.S. authorities, who are holding him at an undisclosed location.

Mr. Boyce, addressing embassy guests invited to watch Mr. Bush’s speech, also praised Indonesia’s transition to democracy since the 1998 collapse of the 32-year Suharto dictatorship.

He said the United States is “totally, unequivocally committed” to help Indonesia, the world’s most-populous Muslim nation.

“I think Indonesia’s transition to democracy is one of the quiet success stories of the new millennium,” Mr. Boyce said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected].

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