President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias said he was reserved as regards prospects for an immediate settlement of the Cyprus problem, noting that it is possible to have developments under certain preconditions and that he is already considering any new initiatives that could be undertaken by the Greek Cypriot side.

Speaking during a press conference for Greek and Cypriot media in Melbourne, Australia, President Christofias said, according to an official press release issued here, that things have become more difficult since Dervis Eroglu became Turkish Cypriot leader and that the progress achieved so far in a couple of chapters cannot be described as fundamental.

“There has been progress on the chapter of economy and less on European issues regarding the implementation of the acquis communautaire on all the territory of the Republic of Cyprus. We are now discussing issues of internal security, such as the Police. We think that we are in proximity but this will become clear during our next couple of meetings,” he noted.

President Christofias also blamed Turkey for playing an intense propaganda game, by presenting the Greek Cypriot side as the one which follows delaying tactics because it has allegedly benefited from the non-settlement, as Cyprus is already a member of the EU.

“These are fictional stories of Turkish diplomacy because we cannot forget our homeland,” he noted, adding the “a united Republic of Cyprus represents wellbeing for all Cypriots“ and that “Turkish Cypriots are equal citizens of the Republic of Cyprus but Greek Cypriots cannot become second-class citizens through a settlement of the Cyprus problem, there needs to be a rational balance.”

Asked about the next step in the Cyprus problem, President Christofias said this will be “a step of reflection and collective analysis of the situation before we go to meet the UN Secretary General on July 7.”

He said there needs to be an analysis by the government, the team on the Cyprus problem and the political leaders, as well as the National Council, about the current situation and the next steps.

“I am thinking about how we can undertake new initiatives and what these should be. I cannot announce anything now,” he said, adding however that “we must always be ahead undertaking new initiatives and reaffirming our will to solve the Cyprus problem, both in Cyprus and abroad.”

In his introductory remarks, Christofias said that he cannot give either an optimistic message a settlement of the Cyprus problem is close or a pessimistic message that there will be no solution. “Such extreme assessments must be avoided,” he noted.

He said that in order to pave the way for a settlement, Turkey must have the good will to give the right messages and instructions to Eroglu. He recalled that Eroglu has dismissed the basis for a settlement agreed with former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, which are the UN resolutions, the 1977 and 1979 high level agreements and the position that there is a single state with a single sovereignty, citizenship and international personality.

President Christofias said that this was a setback, adding that the Greek Cypriot side is not discussing a change of this basis and recalling that Eroglu had stated before the UN Secretary General that he will continue the talks from where they were left before he assumed the Turkish Cypriot leadership.

The President noted that there is skepticism within the EU as regards Turkey’s EU accession course and expressed doubt whether European peoples would approve Turkey’s full accession in a referendum. “This does not facilitate our goal, in the sense that a consistent Turkish European course is a lever of pressure on Turkey as regards the settlement of the Cyprus problem,” he said.

He added that as long as the Turkish leadership really wants the accession of Turkey, it must fulfill its obligations towards the EU and Cyprus and implement the Ankara Protocol, terminate illegal settling, withdraw its troops, recognise the Republic of Cyprus and work for a just and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem. “We are far from something like this. We have not received any such messages from Turkey,” he noted.

President Christofias recalled that on the contrary Turkey refused the proposals he made last year in a bid to help make headway at the talks.

The first proposal provides for linking discussions on property to territory and immigration, citizenship, aliens and asylum. Property and territory are considered to be two of the most hotly contested issues at the talks. The second proposal calls for the implementation of Security Council resolution 550 which provides for the return of the fenced off area of Varosha – under Turkish occupation since 1974 – to the UN. The objective of the proposal is to restore the town and return it to its legitimate inhabitants. The proposal envisages also the opening of the city’s port for trade for the Turkish Cypriots, under EU supervision, as well as the restoration of the walled city of Famagusta (old part of the city). The third proposes the convening of an international conference on Cyprus, once the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot side are within reach of an agreement on the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem. The conference is to be called by the UN, and apart from the Republic of Cyprus and the island’s two communities, the EU, the five permanent members of the Security Council and Cyprus’ three guarantor powers will attend (Greece, Turkey and Britain are the guarantor powers according to the 1960 Constitution).

“This shows lack of good will from Turkey to do things that are in her interest. She refused this give and take process and authorised Eroglu to reject our proposals,” he noted.

President Christofias said that Turkey has been engaged in diplomatic games because if she wanted the Cyprus problem to be solved soon there is a way to do so through negotiations and Turkey to give the right messages and accept the convention of an international conference with the participation of Security Council Permanent Members, Turkey and Britain, to discuss the international aspects of the Cyprus problem, guarantees, withdrawal of troops and the issue of settlers.

He noted that on the contrary Turkey does not want this because a precondition for this to happen is that parties will be close to an agreement on the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem, while Turkey wants a solution that will give her the potential to control the united Republic of Cyprus. “We will not accept this. And this is why I am reserved on the prospects for an immediate settlement of the Cyprus problem,” he said.

Asked about the issue of rotating presidency, he recalled that the proposal of the Greek Cypriot side, which provides that all Cypriots will have a say on who will be the President and the Vice President, has been rejected by Eroglu.

Responding to another question, he said that the Cyprus problem must remain within the framework of the UN, which is acting as a facilitator, while at the same time “we must use our European capacity and the EU.”

Asked about the issue of hydrocarbon resources in Cyprus’ sea waters, he said that he has told Eroglu that the Greek Cypriot side wants to solve the Cyprus problem and share the profits from these undersea resources and that if it is not solved “we will take advantage of this area as we represent the Republic of Cyprus.”

Referring to Cyprus-Australia relations, President Christofias referred to the long-standing friendship between the two countries, noting that there is an Australian police squad, serving with the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

“Bilateral relations in the political field are close, but financial and commercial exchanges are not efficient and we have to make concrete efforts to have practical results, as both sides have agreed,” he noted. As he said, the two countries are discussing the issue of double taxation avoidance and the situation regarding their tourist and financial exchanges.

Cyprus has been divided since the Turkish invasion in 1974. UN led negotiations are underway between President Christofias and the Turkish Cypriot leader in an effort to reunify the island under a federal roof.

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