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24 December, 1998
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos yesterday expressed Athens' satisfaction over two resolutions regarding Cyprus that were unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council, one renewing a UN peacekeeping force on the divided island republic for another six months.
The second resolution called on the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to respond positively to efforts by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's deputy special representative for Cyprus, Ann Hercus, to secure agreement on measures to reduce tension and build confidence between the two communities.
The Security Council without debate adopted both resolutions on Tuesday.
Mr. Pangalos said the simultaneous adoption of the two resolutions not only illustrated the strong interest of the international community on the Cyprus issue, but also showed that the Security Council had realised the dangers entailed by any further prolongation of the problem.
"It is indeed the first time that, apart from the usual formalities, the Security Council with new, very strong expressions and specific instructions and directions, appears determined to make efforts not only for a short-term reduction of tension, but to tackle the substance of the crucial problem of security and at the same time move decisively to resolve the Cyp rus problem," he said.
Commenting on the texts of the resolutions, Mr. Pangalos said they clearly described the main parameters for resolving the Cyprus problem and in so doing, stated in the most responsible, official and categorical way that any other proposals put forward by the Turkish side were not being considered by the international community and were regarded as unacceptable.
In adopting the resolutions, the Security Council expressed grave concern at "the continuing excessive levels of military forces and armaments" on the island.
Mr. Pangalos stressed that there was only one state and only one legitimate government in Cyprus and that the situation imposed by force - following the 1974 Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation - could not be tolerated.
The only solution to the Cyprus problem, he added, is a federation. The second resolution adopted, Mr. Pangalos continued, proposes specific means for achieving progress in the issue of security, such as the commitment not to use force and a gradual process aimed at reducing forces and armaments along the lines already proposed by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides.
The Greek minister said the text of the resolution also referred to an intensification of international efforts for the attainment of an overall solution to the problem.
Noting that it would be wrong to underestimate the importance of the two resolutions, Mr. Pangalos said, "we cannot allow Turkey to dictate to the international community what moves should be made".
Asked what specific initiatives on the Cyprus problem might be expected from the international community, Mr. Pangalos replied, by way of example, the withdrawal of US weapons systems which are presently illegally deployed in the Turkish-occupied part of the island.
Replying to reporters' questions on Nicosia's plans to install Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to bolster the island's defences, he said the issue would be discussed by Cyprus' National Council.
Mr. Pangalos said it is the first time the Security Council uses such strong wording and gives concrete instructions and directives, which proves that "it is determined not only to reduce tension in the short-term, but also to substantively tackle the crucial issue of security and move decisively towards the solution of the Cyprus problem." He added that one of the resolutions addresses the basic parametres of the Cyprus issue, making it clear that proposals put forward by the Turkish side for the establishment of a confederation of two states on the island are not accepted.
The Greek Minister welcomed statements made yesterday by US President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and European Union officials with which they express support to the UN resolutions and pledge to work for their implementation.
"The Greek government expects their implementation with specific initiatives," he added.
Mr. Pangalos said the resolutions and the statements by foreign leaders "create well-founded hopes that the international community appears ready to take up its obligation to enforce international law in Cyprus."
He expressed the Greek government's readiness "to cooperate in a constructive spirit with the UN and the international community for the implementation of these resolutions."
Replying to questions, the Greek Foreign Minister dismissed a comment that the resolutions contain only "verbal improvements" on previous UN resolutions on Cyprus, and said the "improvements are substantive".
Asked about the deployment of the Russian-made S-300 defence missile system ordered by the Cyprus government, Mr. Pangalos said the final decision will be taken by the Cyprus Republic's government and political leaders.
US President Bill Clinton said that he was committed to ending the "tragic division of Cyprus" and urged Cypriots to do their part to support international efforts to end the dispute.
In a statement issued by the White House late on Tuesday, immediately after the unanimous approval of two resolutions by the Security Council, Clinton vowed to "take all necessary steps to support the Security Council resolutions", adding that "I am encouraged by the cooperation and engagement demonstrated by the two sides thus far in working with the UN".
The two council resolutions, among others, called on Mr. Annan to "work intensively with the two sides in Cyprus to develop a gradual process aiming to limit and in continuation significantly reduce all military forces and armaments on Cyprus".
Mr. Clinton urged "all the parties to avoid taking any steps that could increase tensions on the island, including the expansion of military forces and armaments" and expressed the belief that "1999 can offer significant opportunities to achieve progress toward a Cyprus settlement that will meet the concerns of the parties involved".
British Prime Minister Tony Blair also expressed his commitment to work for the implementation of resolution 1218.
His government "wants to see a major, sustained effort towards securing a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement in Cyprus and will work itself, and with other permanent members of the Security Council, to give complete and whole-hearted backing to this effort."
"Britain is committed to working for full implementation of this resolution." He also called on all parties "to continue to cooperate with the UN Secretary General and his deputy special representative in a constructive and flexible manner and to secure progress on the issues it identifies."
Austrian FM Schuessel:
Austrian FM and president of the European Union General Affairs Council Wolfgang Schuessel called on the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides to cooperate with the UN for achieving progress in a settlement on the island and the reduction of tensions.
He added that "we fully support the efforts so far deployed by Ms Hercus...and hope that she will pursue them further".
Mr. Schuessel called on the two sides to continue to cooperate with the Secretary General and Ms Hercus "with a view to achieving tangible results in the areas identified in resolution 1218."
Cyprus gov't says UN resolutions 'positive' :
In its response, the Cyprus government considers two UN resolutions as positive and said they offer "new prospects" to efforts for a settlement to the protracted Cyprus problem and a reduction of arms on the island.
"The Cyprus government considers these two resolutions as positive because we believe they create some hopeful prospects regarding efforts to open the road on the core issues of the Cyprus problem, but mainly for the reduction of all armaments with an aim to the demilitarisation of the island," Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told a press conference yesterday.
He made special reference to the Russian stance at the UN Security Council, which apparently assisted the unanimous adoption of the two resolutions.
Mr. Kasoulides called a press conference to comment on the two resolutions, regarding the renewal of the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (1217/98) and on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's good offices mission here (1218/98). A UN force has been on Cyprus since 1964.
The Cypriot foreign minister underlined that "we know the Turkish side well and we know the history of the Cyprus problem, but at the same time we have the obligation to take any opportunity, when it is created".
Mr. Kasoulides said the Greek Cypriot side has to "work positively and constructively whenever the chance arises, hoping it will bear fruit".
Efforts to settle the Cyprus problem reached a stalemate after the Turkish Cypriot side, in defiance of UN resolutions, demanded recognition of the illegal regime unilaterally declared in the areas of the island occupied by Turkey in 1974.
Referring to resolution 1217, he welcomed the reaffirmation that "a Cyprus settlement must be based on a single citizenship, with its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded and comprising two politically equal communities as described in the relevant Security Council resolutions, in a bicommunal and bizonal federation".
Mr. Kasoulides pointed out that this reaffirmation is important in view of the Turkish side's demand for a confederation of two states in Cyprus.
Regarding resolution 1218, Mr. Kasoulides noted that the Security Council requests the UN chief to work intensively with the two sides for a settlement in Cyprus and the reduction of the two sides for a settlement in Cyprus and the reduction of arms, and does not restrict itself to urging the two sides to work to this event, as in previous UN resolutions.
He pointed out that for the first time it calls upon the two sides to show compliance with these objectives, cooperating fully with the UN secretary general.
Commenting on a statement issued by Mr. Clinton, Mr. Kasoulides said "it creates some new hopes for 1999".
He pointed out that the US president reiterates his willingness to work towards a settlement in Cyprus.
Mr. Kasoulides acknowledged that similar statements were made by the US president in the past, but underlined that "in this statement he expresses the US government's will to take all necessary steps to support a sustained effort to implement UN resolut ion 1218".
The foreign minister refrained from commenting on the issue of the Russian-made S-300 missile system ordered by the government, noting it will be discussed today at a meeting of the National Council, the top advisory body to the president on the Cyprus question.
Asked if the government position on the S-300 has changed in view of the two UN resolutions approved, Mr. Kasoulides said the official position would be outlined today.
He said the two resolutions, the content of discussions held in Athens between President Clerides and Premier Costas Simitis and Mr. Clinton's statement will be put before the political party leaders.
The government has said it would reconsider its decision to deploy the defence missile system if substantive negotiations on the Cyprus issue get underway or if talks on the reduction of tension and arms, leading to demilitarisation, begin and are on a good path.
Russian ambassador to Cyprus Georgi Mouratov described the two resolutions as satisfactory and expressed the hope they will give a push to a settlement here.
"We anticipate and wish that these resolutions will give a positive push to the settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis defined in all previous Security Council decisions", Mr. Mouratov said yesterday.
Asked where the Russian-made S-300 defence missile system ordered by the Cyprus government will be deployed, because of the press reports suggesting they will be taken to Crete, Moscow's ambassador said this issue was not discussed at his meeting yester day with Cypriot Undersecretary to the President Pantelis Kouros with whom he exchanged views on the resolutions.
The UN Security Council's decision to extend the UN peacekeeping force's mandate lacks validity, according to Ankara, because "it is not based on an agreement between the two sides."
An announcement by the Turkish foreign ministry yesterday criticised the Security Council because it "took the decision at the consent of the Cypriot government."
The announcement said that the issue of the peacekeeping force is technical and that "despite this fact, certain positions concerning the resolution of the Cyprus problem are also referred to in the relevant decision."
These positions have no validity according to Ankara, because they are not based on an agreement between the two sides.
Lastly, the announcement calls on the Security Council to take into consideration the proposal made by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash on the establishment of a confederation in Cyprus.
Source: Athens News Agency