Speech by the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL S.Stefanou at the meeting with the Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Missions in Cyprus
9 September 2021, Landmark Hotel, Hotel
It is a great pleasure for us that after almost two years we have the opportunity to continue the custom of meetings we have established between us. We would like to thank you for your participation and for the opportunity you give us to inform you about AKEL’s positions on the important events that have taken place on the Cyprus problem. At the same time, we have the opportunity to outline in greater detail our own approach to the possibilities and ways of putting the problem back on the path of a solution.
We are fully aware of the fact that today humanity is beset by numerous and pressing problems that are difficult to solve. We therefore appreciate all the more your presence here today and the interest you show with regards the Cyprus problem. The situation in Afghanistan adds to the complexity of the challenges the wider region of the Middle East and Asia face, the complex frictions and conflicts that plague the peoples of the region and in which powerful global powers are involved. The humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding and driving many thousands of people to seek ways to secure their own survival, the strain on the ecosystem caused by ongoing armed conflicts, the shortages of basic necessities are just some of the major challenges that the international community is called upon to address effectively.
Having an objective approach to this situation as a starting point, one could conclude that the Cyprus problem is no longer a priority for the international community. A more in-depth approach, however, shows that a solution to the Cyprus problem would contribute to the overall normalisation in the region, particularly if one were to consider that it will enable the tackling of problems that would be complicated by an unresolved Cyprus problem.
I will not dwell on the fact that Turkey is attempting to consolidate its hegemonic presence in the region, that it has been engaged in a multi-level externalisation of its objectives, is consolidating its presence on the African continent and that it is intensifying its intervention in conflicts such as Nagorno-Karabakh. However, I will stress that it is engaging in blackmailing illegal actions in energy fields in the Eastern Mediterranean. Furthermore, it is proceeding to the creation of additional modern military structures in the occupied territories of Cyprus and imposing partitionist fait accompli.
As long as Turkey continues to undermine the solution of the Cyprus problem, it is obvious that it will continue to damage the prospect of restoring stability and normalising international relations in the region in general. This is something that must be of concern to all those whose well-intentioned interests are intertwined with our region, including the European Union and its member states.
Given the current given situation, the solution to the Cyprus problem appears perhaps more distant than ever. And yet, as difficult as it may seem at first sight, under the correct preconditions it can be achieved soon and indeed more easily than other challenges the international community faces.
This is demonstrated by the recent negotiating experience at Crans Montana in 2017, where we had reached, according to the UN Secretary General’s own admission too, a historic opportunity for a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem, something he did not say by accident. Despite the different narratives of those who participated in the Conference, which we had the opportunity to analyse in our previous meeting, everyone without exception admits that at Crans Montana we came very close to a solution regarding the core aspects of the Cyprus problem. Consequently, if we continue negotiations from where we had left off, a speedy solution of the Cyprus problem is realistic. That, after all, has been the position of Mr. Guterres himself, as well as of the Security Council of the UN, for four years. That is precisely what we are arguing should happen now, namely, that we should all work together to make the resumption of negotiations feasible from where they had remained. Unfortunately, this has not been possible over the last four years.
As a result, the Cyprus problem has entered a dangerous period of the passive passage of time. This was followed by Ankara’s complete shameless audacity, culminating in its provocative and illegal activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus, its illegal actions in Famagusta and its official return to the position for a two state solution.
From very early on and bearing in mind the historical experience of the Cyprus problem, we had advised the President of the Republic to take initiatives that would serve the prospect of resuming the negotiations from where they had remained at Crans Montana, given that this was the only way to put a brake on the occupying power’s constant provocations and illegal actions. In the event that Turkey would not respond in a positive way, then the responsibility for the deadlock would be laid entirely at Turkey’s door and subsequently it would be absolutely clear who is responsible for the situation.
Unfortunately we were not listened to. We consider that over the last four years there has not been a coherent and consistent policy pursued by the President of the Republic, which should have made use of every opportunity for a resumption of the negotiations. President Anastasiades’ regressions, the promotion of “new ideas” that annulled previous basic convergences and led to the futile search for “terms of reference” for a resumption of the negotiation procedure have prevailed, as well as the engagement in a blame game, with the result that the Secretary General of the UN has not been convinced of the prospect of a meaningful resumption of negotiations. The position of President Anastasiades for a continuation of the negotiations from where they had left off (the 2014 Joint Declaration, the convergences recorded up to Crans Montana and the Guterres Framework of 30th June) which was also expressed during the last informal conference in Geneva, is not convincing because all the “new ideas” that Mr. Anastasiades is continuing to support in reality question key aspects of what had been agreed.
All these regressions and dangerous experimentations offer Turkey the opportunity and to the Turkish Cypriot leader Tatar to exploit the absence of negotiations, to continue practically undisturbed with their machinations in the EEZ and Famagusta and to insist on a two state solution. All the more so since, as a product of time, these machinations make the effort for a solution of the Cyprus problem objectively extremely difficult. What is happening in Famagusta substantiates the above fears. If a town that has been uninhabited for half a century who will believe that a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem is now possible?
In politics there is the axiom: every policy is judged by not by whatever intentions and declarations, but by its end result. The fruitless passage of time over the last four years has led the Cyprus problem to an unprecedented quagmire with negative developments on the ground and the setting in motion of dangerous deviations from the content of the solution. No one can ignore these complications. Even more so when today we are on the verge of permanent partition.
However, the question subsequently before us is a specific one. Namely whether, in the name of finding common ground, we must destroy a negotiating acquis that we have concluded through decades of discussions, something which certainly cannot be done by approaching unacceptable Turkish demands. I must point out that the so-called “new ideas”’ of third parties are not new at all. They go back at least thirty years. Furthermore, permit me to explain: it was a long-standing position of the former leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Rauf Denktash, who insisted on the recognition of two states in Cyprus as a precondition for negotiations, while the positions he expressed were more confederal than federal.
The similarity with the so-called “new ideas” of third parties is striking. I will not go into details because I do not want to give credence to such machinations and will suffice to underline that these views of Mr. Denktash were categorically and in a well-documented way rejected by two successive UN Secretary Generals, namely Perez de Cuellar and Boutros Ghali. If such perceptions were to prevail, the only result will be another unproductive effort that will last for more such decades.
It is for all these reasons that Mr. Guterres was absolutely correct to insist on two elements, namely the continuation of the negotiations from where they had left off at Crans Montana and the use of natural gas as a catalyst for a solution to the Cyprus problem. AKEL, as a responsible and serious party that works consistently for a solution within the agreed framework, never sticks to a view without it being accompanied by the submission of specific proposals. And it is precisely for this reason that AKEL submitted a comprehensive proposal to the President of the Republic almost a year ago.
AKEL’s proposal serves two main objectives. We initially propose that concrete steps should be taken which can convince that there is sincerity in the declared readiness for a resumption of the negotiations on the agreed basis of a solution of a bicommunal, bizonal, federation with political equality as set out in the relevant Resolutions of the Security Council and from where they had remained towards the end of the Crans Montana Conference on Cyprus because we realise that in the current conditions it is imperative that we give serious incentives to bring the talks back on the rails of Crans Montana. We have also submitted the proposal on natural gas.
The proposal for a resumption of the negotiations begins by stressing our insistence on a solution of a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality, as set out in the relevant Resolutions of the UN Security Council, without terms or preconditions. We express our readiness to continue the negotiation from where it left off with the 2014 Joint Declaration, the UN Secretary General’s Framework and the Convergences recorded. For obvious reasons, we reaffirm in particular the validity of the convergences relating to political equality and in particular regarding effective participation, including the rotating presidency with cross and weighted voting, as well as a single positive Turkish Cypriot vote for any decision to be taken by the Council of Ministers. Finally, we express our readiness to submit at the appropriate time bridging proposals not on already agreed convergences, but only on the outstanding issues of the Six-Point Framework, with a view to reaching a speedy conclusion on a strategic understanding. It goes without saying that if this objective is achieved, a speedy overall settlement will become inevitable.
The second part of AKEL’s proposal, which concerns natural gas and maritime zones, starts with a reaffirmation of the relevant convergences recorded. According to these convergences, maritime zones will be a federal competence (thus a matter to be co-managed by the two communities), natural resources will also be a federal competence (which by definition includes natural gas), and the distribution of federal revenues (which will include revenues from hydrocarbon) is regulated. These specific convergences represent an overall framework which, with the solution of the Cyprus problem, regulates the issues on maritime zones in a comprehensive manner on the basis of international law, the management of the hydrocarbons issue and the distribution of the revenues from them.
We did not confine ourselves to the convergences, but we took into account the Turkish Cypriot side’s concern as well that these only concern what will happen after the solution and do not provide for anything else before the solution. For that reason, we propose that, with the conclusion of a strategic understanding, that the issue of the involvement of the Turkish Cypriots in natural gas issues can be discussed, thereby meeting a long-standing Turkish Cypriot demand. This is a very important step and an incentive for the Turkish Cypriot side. At the same time, we clarify that with the solution of the Cyprus problem a federal hydrocarbon fund will be established, which will replace the existing fund, from which no disbursements are permitted.
With regards the incentives towards Turkey, we propose that after the overall settlement of the Cyprus problem, the united Republic of Cyprus and Turkey begin negotiations with a view to delimitating the EEZ on the basis of the UN International Law of the Sea. We clarify that, irrespective of the progress recorded in the negotiations on delimitation, after the entry into force of the agreement for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, the United Republic of Cyprus and Turkey will start talks to draw up a mutually beneficial agreement on the route of a natural gas pipeline to Turkey, provided that a fertile ground exists from an economic and technical point of view (either for its own use or for transport to other destinations). In conclusion, we point out that with the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, the Federal Republic will not raise any obstacles to Turkey’s participation in the wider energy plans in the region.
Despite the fact that we acknowledge that no one can guarantee that if our proposals are accepted Turkey and Mr. Tatar will cooperate for a resumption of meaningful negotiations and an agreement on a solution within the agreed framework, we are confident that they will at least be put under pressure in this direction because if they do not do so, they will be exposed. If we all attach the necessary focus on this proposal, which serves only to make the UN Secretary General’s persistent recommendations specific, we can hope that there will be a prospect of overcoming the current deadlock. This is the surest and most effective way to address Turkey’s delirium of intransigence and not by projecting ideas that will drag us into ineffective discussions of the distant past.
Apart from this proposal, of course, there is another dimension of the Cyprus problem that some people frequently fail to understand. It concerns the trust that must exist and be cultivated between the two communities, both at a political level and between people themselves. If this relationship is allowed to deteriorate, as it has done in recent years, then it is likely that this will also determine the prospect of the reunification of Cyprus.
Historically, AKEL has been the party of rapprochement, the party that has worked to cultivate and instill in the Greek Cypriot community the importance of friendship, fraternity and cooperation with the Turkish Cypriots. At no time, even during difficult times, did AKEL participate in any provocative or criminal actions that targeted Turkish Cypriots. We therefore understand to the greatest possible extent the importance the joint struggle of the two communities has in the direction of the solution. It is precisely for this reason that even in the midst of the pandemic, with all the objective difficulties we had to overcome, we intensified our efforts to reach out, approach and contact our Turkish Cypriot compatriots.
I will not repeat everything we have done, but I think it is worth pointing our continuous cooperation with progressive Turkish Cypriot parties, the joint presentations on aspects of the Cyprus problem, the mobilisations that took place before the informal Geneva conference, as well as the mobilisation we are organising on 3rd October with the participation of pro-solution forces from both communities. In addition, as you know, our actions in favour of bicommunal initiatives are not limited to the narrow geographical boundaries of Cyprus. By way of example, every year, through our interventions in the European Parliament, we assert the renewal of funds to permit the continuation of the work of both the Committee of Missing Persons (CMP) and the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage. At the same time, we take care to ensure that some of our visitors Groups to Brussels are bi-communal in their composition.
For AKEL, the Cyprus problem is not an arena for drawing short-term petty-party gains. Its solution has always been a central axis of our policy, because the survival of our people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, in our common homeland is connected to it. Right now when what is at stake, as it is clearly unfolding before us, is either a federal solution or partition, the call we address to you all is that you assess what we have outlined on the importance of preserving the acquis of the convergences. These convergences are the only effective way for the negotiations to resume with a prospect of arriving at a speedy successful conclusion.
If there is one thing we can all do, as far as it depends on us, it is to help as much as we can to solve one of the many and important problems that beset the international community.