Christofias: "Turkey Must Recognise Cyprus, Respect Territorial Inte


Financial Mirror
July 08, 2009

— "Melkonian school should continue" —

— "Melkonian school should continue" —

President Demetris Christofias concluded a two-day official visit
to Armenia, where he said after meetings with his counterpart Serzh
Sargsian that Cyprus-Armenia ties should be enhanced even further.

In an interview with the Azg daily newspaper in Yerevan, Christofias
said that "on a political level we have no issues. However, we need
greater coordination on other matters."

"There are weaknesses in our bilateral relations, particularly on
economic and cultural exchanges, as well as tourism. So, we have
decided to boost our efforts so that the relevant ministries on both
sides can prepare the necessary protocols," Christofias said.

"Our political ties are at a very high level, and on international
and regional policies, again we have common ground. We also have a
strong foundation as regards the common issues and problems we share."

Referring to his statements at the joint press conference in Yerevan,
where he said that negotiating with Turkey was complicated, because
Turkey was a complicated counterpart, Christofias told Azg, "that is
what we are trying to achieve. We do not have direct talks with Turkey,
because Turkey, unfortunately, does not want to talk with the Republic
of Cyprus, as it does not recognise our independence in violation of
international laws, and in particular European laws, as it aspires to
join the European Union but refuses to recognise an EU member state."

"Negotiations are taking place between the two community leaders. The
current Turkish Cypriot leader is is an old comrade and friend of
mine, Mr Talat. For years the Turkish Republican Party and Akel have
cooperated. Since 1977 it was agreed that we would strive towards
a unified federal state. I regret to say that Talat has become the
community leader but his policy is directed by Ankara. Naturally, I
must be understanding, but there are limits which he has passed. So
we have met difficulties in the negotiations, as Ankara wants a
confedaration and the Greek Cypriot community cannot accept that."

"However, our talks continue. I am doing my best to persuade Talat
to return to our common policy and to find common language to solve
the Cyprus problem. But somebody must also persuade Turkey. The UN
and the EU must make it clear that Ankara is obliged to recognise
the Republic of Cyprus and respect our independence and territorial
integrity. And Mr Talat must be allowed to talk freely with us in
order to reach a solution desired by everyone."

As regards Ankara’s regional ambitions, Christofias said that "Turkey
tries to present itself as the peacemaker in the Caucusus and with
peace initiatives. Time will tell if these are to be believed. I am
cautious, having my own experience with Turkey."

"For example, President Serzh Sargsian took the initiative to
meet with the Turkish president and proposed a normalisation of
relations. Despite its initial agreement, Turkey did not sign the
relative protocol and started putting new conditions. I think Turkey
is playing a strategic game. From our experience, we managed a few
days ago to open a new chapter on a common crossing point (Lymnitis),
near which lies a Turkish military camp. They asked the U.N. to allow
family members to visit the camp, to which I agreed. But after that
they started setting new conditions, leading to complications on a
matter we had agreed on ten months ago."

Melkonian proposal On the issue of the Melkonian school in Nicosia,
Christofias was asked about the AGBU’s intentions to sell the land,
and the majority of Armenians wanting to reopen the school.

"We are in the middle, when it is difficult to say anything to either
side. This is a very sensitive issue for Cyprus and the Armenians
living there, because the Melkonian has been a distinguished school,
thousands of young Armenians have received their education there,
which has been of a high standard."

"For the Armenians of Cyprus, it is a matter of national pride. And
we understand the feelings of our fellow Armenian Cypriots."

"We are in favour of seeing the Melkonian continue its existence,
this is our policy. This is our feeling as well. On the other hand,
we are not the owners. The owner is in the United States and we
cannot force them, or confiscate that property. We do not want to
see a conflict among Armenians. The owning company’s representatives
came from the U.S. and I received them, and listened to them. But I
only listened. I did not promise anything, because any decision we
take must respect the wishes of the Armenian public."

"This is a complicated issue and complicated problem. We say that we
are ready to solve the complex Cyprus problem through peaceful means
and I hope that we can find the way to solve this issue as well through
dialogue, for the benefit of Armenians of Cyprus, Lebanon, Armenia and
the whole world. And this we must do as soon as possible as the school
has already been leased for two years to our government for another
school that had construction problems. There are other solutions as
well and I hope that very soon you will hear some good news.

"And ‘good news’ means, and I hope it will be good news, that it will
satisfy the Armenians who are extremely sensitive about this matter."