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Media Watch 2005

18 February 2005
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Menelaos Hadjicostis
Comment: The following article appeared in Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 18 February 2005.
ILLEGAL ENTRY: The US trade delegation disembarks at the illegal Tymbou airport in the occupied north
""...the visit was an “illegal action that violates UN resolutions and Cyprus law."... "completely contrary” to UN resolutions and every legal principle... "This action was taken under the false pretext of lifting the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, even though it is well known that this isolation is owed to the attitude of the occupation regime and certainly not the attitude of the Greek Cypriots"... "Nicosia had every right to take legal action against the "lawbreakers" under numerous bilateral agreements with Washington"... "overtly provocative act" that was being "tolerated and perhaps abetted" by Washington ..."

[Picture caption] ILLEGAL ENTRY: The US trade delegation disembarks at the illegal Tymbou airport in the occupied north

A US-led trade delegation touching down at illegal Tymbou airport for a whistle-stop tour of the occupied north sparked a huge outcry in Nicosia as President Tassos Papadopoulos said the move could damage ties with Washington.

“Such actions are an affront to the feelings of the Cypriot people and don’t at all contribute towards improving relations between Cyprus and the USA,” Papadopoulos told reporters before leaving for an official visit to Malta yesterday.

“They do nothing to create the necessary climate surrounding efforts to reunify the island,” he added.

Leading a chorus of condemnation from politicians of all parties, Papadopoulos said Nicosia encouraged economic cooperation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, as long as it complied with international legal norms and European Union directives.

The delegation, composed of Turkish representatives from 11 US-based companies, including pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer and parcel delivery leader Fed Ex, was led by the Commercial Attache at the US Embassy in Ankara, Aner Kayani.

That more than anything else perturbed Nicosia, which saw it as a calculated move on Washington’s part to disregard both the Cyprus government and Brussels in order to deliver on post-referendum promises of lifting Turkish Cypriots out of their economic ‘isolation’.

But Papadopoulos said Nicosia had bent over backwards trying to bring Turkish Cypriots out of the cold through the EU-sanctioned Green Line regulation designed to promote trade between the two communities and to allow for the export of Turkish Cypriot goods via the island’s legal air and sea ports.

Kill off
Nicosia insists that any move by the international community to establish direct trade links with the north would be a move towards recognition and would kill off any chance of a reunification deal.

Urging Turkish Cypriots to take advantage of the opportunities the regulation affords them, Papadopoulos said “others” appear to be manipulating the rules to legitimise the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime short of full-fledged diplomatic recognition.

“Neither the United States nor other countries will move to recognise the occupied areas. Neither are the Turkish Cypriots seeking diplomatic recognition,” said Papadopoulos.

Papadopoulos explained that one of the primary reasons for this was that native Turkish Cypriots are European citizens by virtue of the Cyprus Republic’s EU membership and diplomatic recognition of a secessionist entity would erase that.

The backlash from party leaders was immediate and harsh.

Akel Parliamentary Spokesman Nicos Katsourides said the visit was an “illegal action that violates UN resolutions and Cyprus law.”

Disy Chief Nicos Anastassiades said the visit was “unacceptable” and “disturbing,” while Diko deputy leader Nicos Cleanthous said it “violates international law.”

 ‘Troubling’
United Democrats President George Vassiliou said the “troubling” trip is intended to prod the Greek Cypriot side into re-taking the initiative on settlement efforts.

“It’s in some way to pressure our side to understand that if we don’t move towards something, then we can continue to believe that things will remain as they are indefinitely,” said Vassiliou.

Acting House Speaker Vassos Lyssarides expressed the “angst and dismay” of all parties over the visit which, he said, was “completely contrary” to UN resolutions and every legal principle.

“This action was taken under the false pretext of lifting the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, even though it is well known that this isolation is owed to the attitude of the occupation regime and certainly not the attitude of the Greek Cypriots,” Lyssarides said in a statement.

House Legal Affairs Committee member Andreas Angelides said Nicosia had every right to take legal action against the “lawbreakers” under numerous bilateral agreements with Washington.

The Cyprus-American Business Association registered its “concerns and disagreements” with the visit, which it warned could “worsen the situation on the island as it obstructs the efforts to continue to the peace process.”

“The association feels exposed towards the state, the public and its members as another American business association is organising - with the help and support of  American embassies in Turkey and Cyprus - a visit to Cyprus under such circumstances and with lack of respect towards the sensitivities of the Republic of Cyprus,” CyABA said in a statement.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Lefteris Christoforou dispatched a letter of protest to US Ambassador in Nicosia Michael Klosson expressing shock over an “overtly provocative act” that was being “tolerated and perhaps abetted” by Washington.

The outcry may have had an impact as both American Express and computer software maker Oracle who had reportedly agreed to join the delegation, appeared to have backed out at the last minute.

An unrepentant Klosson said if politicians couldn’t move the ball forward on the Cyprus problem, then big business would.

“We believe that building closer business ties will facilitate progress towards a Cyprus settlement. Business can help bridge economic gaps and nudge the political process forward,” Klosson told The Cyprus Weekly.

At Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce headquarters in occupied Nicosia, where the trade delegation met Turkish Cypriot businessmen, Klosson - whose presence there gave the meeting additional political weight - said: “This is about business, not politics.”

But no-one south of the ceasefire line was convinced that the transparent visit came without political strings attached.

TCCoC Chairman Ali Erel rebuffed suggestions that the trip was timed to offer ‘prime minister’ Mehmet Ali Talat a political boost 72 hours before Turkish Cypriots cast their votes in ‘parliamentary’ elections.

Business
“The basic message is we want to do business...this is not connected with the elections...it’s a coincidence,” he told reporters outside TCCoC headquarters.  

That’s not how Papadopoulos saw it, suggesting that the visit had the strong scent of political campaigning.

Erel said moves to improve the Turkish Cypriots’ economic lot to bring it up to par with that of Greek Cypriots would generate the impetus to get the two sides talking again.

But the implication is that the Turkish Cypriots would gain a stronger bargaining hand thanks to a stronger economy.

“To achieve a comprehensive solution, we need to get rid of economic disparities between the two communities,” Erel told reporters.

Erel said the visit would herald the establishment of a Turkish Cypriot-Turkish board which would meet on a regular basis to search for ways of strengthening business ties.

Asked by The Cyprus Weekly what he would say in response to the Greek Cypriot outrage, Erel said: “The whole thing about this is to unite Cyprus and not to divide it.”"