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05 September, 1997
New US State Department Special Coordinator on Cyprus, Thomas Miller, yesterday expressed optimism over prospects for a solution to the protracted Cyprus problem despite tremendous existing difficulties.
In an interview, Mr. Miller said that time is working against a solution to the protracted Cyprus issue and added the US wants to focus on the substance of the problem.
Mr. Miller gave the interview to reporters from the Athens News Agency, the Cyprus News Agency, Turkish Anatolia News Agency and the newspaper Turkish Daily News, in view of his upcoming visit to the region, scheduled to take place September 7-20.
He pointed to security, constitutional arrangements and the three fundamental freedoms as some of the main issues that should be addressed, and supported secret diplomacy in efforts for a settlement in Cyprus.
He said he will use his experience from the Middle East peace process when dealing with the Cyprus question, noting that neither side will achieve everything it wants and pointing to the importance of rapprochement between Greece and Turkey.
The US diplomat, who will work closely with the US President's Cyprus Emissary, Richard Holbrooke, said he has "a couple of ideas" about his trip, but his first objective is "to do a lot of listening" as he has just taken up his post.
Asked what he considers the main obstacles in solving the Cyprus problem, Mr. Miller noted that "whenever there is a problem as difficult as the Cyprus problem has been, there is usually not just one obstacle" and said "security, constitutional issues, or some of the other categories obviously have to be worked more."
He referred to the freedoms of settlement, movement, property and sovereignty as issues that must be discussed, noting "the core issues are out there for the two sides to deal with".
Mr. Miller stressed that one of the considerations is that "in a good compromise, good solution, endurable and lasting, neither side walks from the table with everything it wants."
Asked what approach would be best to solve the Cyprus question, Mr. Miller said this is one of the issues he will be exploring during his visit.
The US official expressed "full support" to the UN process and clarified that "we are not competing here".
He refrained from saying if the UN approach in the past decades has worked and supported what he termed as "sledgehammer diplomacy".
"You just keep going back... Try a different way and behold, as we discovered with the Middle East peace process, ideas that have been tried and discarded, when tried again perhaps repackaged, somewhat worked," he explained.
The 49-year-old diplomat stressed "you don't give up, you just keep on persisting and that is what we're going to do".
Mr. Miller expressed "tremendous respect" for Richard Holbrooke, noting that with his participation "I'm hopeful that we might be more successful than in the past".
"When I say 'we', I mean all of us, not just the US, because any effort to solve the Cyprus problem would take the efforts of the international community working in close conjunction with the UN efforts," he added.
Replying to a question, Mr. Miller described the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides as "the key actors" in the Cyprus question and said "the other very essential actors are Greece and Turkey", noting that conditions on the island and between Ankara and Athens are better than in the past for a settlement.
Mr. Miller, who served in Athens both in the 1980's and again in 1994, expressed the view that "public sentiment was much more responsive to rapprochement over the last couple of years than what I experienced in the mid-1980's."
He also said he "detects a different spirit", noting Greece and Turkey are neighbors and "you can't change your neighbor".
Asked on the American position on Cyprus' European Union (EU) accession, he reminded that the US had supported the March 1995 agreement.
"Half of it was that negotiations would begin six months after the end of the Intergovernmental Conference and (Turkey's) customs union (with the EU) was the other half. This is something we supported back then and still support," he said.
Mr. Miller refrained from replying to a CNA question about how he will deal with the Turkish side's threat over Cyprus' EU accession course, as he believes "secret diplomacy works best", adding this is one of the issues he will be discussing.
He said he understands Turkish concerns over a Cyprus government decision to buy the Russian anti-missile system S-300.
"We made our concerns about the S-300 missiles known publicly at the highest levels of the Cypriot government and we talked to the Russian government about this. So I think our record on this is pretty clear," Mr. Miller added.
Asked if there is a possibility of deploying a multinational or other force in Cyprus to replace the UN peacekeeping force, Mr. Miller said the issue of future guarantees is a key element in negotiations and discussion on this issue is premature. He stressed that "UNFICYP (UN peacekeeping forces on Cyprus) had done a very good job over the years".
Source: Athens News Agency