- The Washington Times - Monday, October 25, 2004

As I returned from my recent trip to the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, I reflected on how much has changed for Cyprus in just a year’s time. Our country is changing; so are our people and our place in the world community.

This has been a year of conflicting emotions for the people of Cyprus; a year that has been both fascinating and challenging. We sadly marked the 30th commemoration of the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey, but proudly celebrated the 44th anniversary of our independence. Earlier this year, the Republic of Cyprus was honored by its accession to the European Union. Regrettably, however, it entered the EU as a divided country.

Cyprus’ EU accession marks a great milestone and the beginning of a new era. The people of Cyprus are proud to be full and integral members of the great European family. As an EU member, we will be strong supporters of European values and policies, the rule of law, and for a smooth and solid trans-Atlantic relationship.

Cyprus and the United States are bound together by common democratic traditions, values, ideals and interests. We have a history of working together effectively to fight threats to global security. Immediately after the September 11 attacks, Cyprus joined the United States in the international coalition to fight terrorism. This included measures, in cooperation with the American authorities and with our European partners, to track terrorist assets as well as sustained efforts in the areas of money laundering and narcotics trafficking.

Most recently, Cyprus joined the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) introduced by President Bush to help stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems and related materials.

In April, the people of Cyprus went to the polls to vote on a settlement plan proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. This complex U.N. plan, which ran nearly 10,000 pages as formulated by the secretary-general, acting as an “arbitrator,” contained major uncertainties and included provisions that would have meant the beginning of new dangers and new problems and would have institutionalized the division of our country.

By historical standards, April’s democratic process was astonishing: More than 90 percent of the Greek Cypriot community (80 percent of the population) turned out to vote on the plan. Because of fundamental concerns, however, 76 percent of Greek Cypriot voters opposed it, while 65 percent of the Turkish-Cypriots (18 percent of the population) and thousands of illegal Turkish settlers supported it. The plan satisfied most, if not all, of Turkey’s demands and those of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, but failed to address the legitimate security and other concerns of Greek-Cypriot voters. The Greek-Cypriots did not vote against the solution or the reunification of Cyprus. They rejected this particular plan, which did not provide for a functional and, therefore, durable solution, and did not provide for real reunification.

Much of the international reaction was one of frustration and disappointment at the outcome of this democratic process. Some of this is certainly understandable. Many good and honorable people worked diligently to come up with what they felt was a reasonable proposal. But the international community should understand that our disappointment is even greater. The people were not presented with a plan they could embrace and endorse. Everybody must respect and honor the will of the people.

The government of Cyprus remains fully committed to the goal of the reunification of Cyprus as a bizonal, bicommunal federation. We are ready to engage in renewed efforts through the United Nations to bring about permanent peace.

Broadly speaking, we aim at a settlement that will safeguard:

• First and foremost, the interests of the people of Cyprus and not those of other countries.

• The genuine reunification of the country, its economy and its society — in practice, not just in theory.

• A functioning state structure, in which neither community will be in a position to impose its will on the other, but at the same time, neither community would be able to create deadlocks in important functions and activities of the state.

• Respect for human rights, democratic principles and fundamental liberties for all Cypriot citizens.

• Real and final termination of the Turkish military occupation and illegal colonization of Cyprus by Turkish settlers brought in from the Anatolia of Turkey in the thousands. This means withdrawal of all foreign troops and the vast majority of illegal settlers from Cyprus.

• Concrete safeguards that the agreed solution will be fully implemented by all parties and effective international guarantees as to the security of the state.

Both communities in Cyprus deserve better; they yearn for the peaceful reunification of their country so that they can enjoy, at long last, a peaceful, stable and promising life within the supportive structures of the EU.

Tassos Papadopoulos is the president of the Republic of Cyprus.

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