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Media Watch 2004

22 February 2004
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Jean Christou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 17 February 2004.
US talks up prospects for a solution
"This map certainly includes the strategic ‘aircraft-carrier’ island of Cyprus... The success of a solution, whatever form it may take, was virtually guaranteed from the time Bush told Erdogan in the Oval Office, 'Solve the Cyprus problem'..."

THE INTERNATIONAL community will spare no effort in trying to achieve a Cyprus settlement, the US State Department said yesterday, with Secretary of State Colin Powell adding significant steps had been taken towards a settlement.

President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash began negotiations on Thursday to reach a settlement before Cyprus joins the EU on May 1. They met briefly on Friday and are due to resume on Tuesday.

The two sides must reach an agreement by March 22 or face the prospect of guarantor powers Greece and Turkey being brought in. If that still fails, UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan will fill in the blanks to send the solution to separate referenda on April 21.

“There is a unique opportunity here to reach a settlement in time for a united Cyprus to join the European Union, and I think none of us will spare any effort in trying to achieve that very worthwhile goal,” State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said yesterday.

Ereli declined to comment on a report by the US-based think tank, Western Policy Centre, which said that Turkish General Tolon, the Commander of Aegean Forces, had described Turks who supported a Cyprus settlement as traitors. Tolon was quoted as saying that without a substantial effort to engage the Turkish military in the process, a Cyprus settlement was probably not achievable.

“I would simply note that in its public statements and private diplomacy, the government of Turkey and the authorities in Turkish Cyprus have committed themselves to the Annan plan and have committed themselves to reaching an agreement and supporting an agreement, and that that’s the right thing to do,” Ereli said.

Speaking at Princeton University on Friday, Powell said the improvement in prospects to solve the Cyprus problem had come about mainly through the good work of UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan, and “the will of the leaders in the region to work with him”.

In an article yesterday, the mainland Turkish Daily News questioned why the US had shown a sudden and unprecedented interest in solving the Cyprus problem.

The paper said the strategic position of Cyprus was part of the “grand new design” America had for redrawing the map of the Middle East. “This map encompasses the sources of power and oil and natural gas in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the Caucusus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhistan and Turkmenistan. In other words, the new extended map of the Middle East includes, in addition to the above, Iran, Afghanistan and some states bordering China and Russia, as drawn by the Pentagon cartographers of the United States. This map certainly includes the strategic ‘aircraft-carrier’ island of Cyprus,” the paper said.

Repeating recent reports that the US was interested in stationing forces on the island after a settlement, the paper said that although the story had been denied, no one would be surprised if there was an announcement that US Rapid Development Forces would be stationed in Cyprus once the island was reunited to ensure stability in the region.

“The details are certainly of no consequence, so long as the parties settle their differences within the parameters of the Annan plan. The United Stats is interested in the stability of the Middle East, period,” the paper said.
“This is why Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan was so astonishingly forthcoming in his new initiative. It was more than a popularity contest. He was in the White House with President George Bush to repair and reconstruct Turkish-American relations, which were badly damaged because of reneging on promises made about Iraq,” TDN said.

“The (UN) Secretary-general needs a success…he is staking his reputation on the success or the failure of the efforts. In other words, he too has taken a calculated gamble, but he must have been given assurances that this time was not like any other time. This is the endgame, even if it is a shotgun marriage of convenience…

“The success of a solution, whatever form it may take, was virtually guaranteed from the time Bush told Erdogan in the Oval Office, ‘Solve the Cyprus problem’, and Erdogan, as a Turkish samurai, immediately promised him he would do so.” "