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Cyprus News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-05-02

Cyprus News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus News Agency at <http://www.cyna.org.cy>


CONTENTS

  • [01] Greek-Americans regret Denktash's interference
  • [02] UNFICYP Commander says occupation "will lead nowhere"
  • [03] German diplomat starts talks on Cyprus

  • 0945:CYPPRESS:01

    [01] Greek-Americans regret Denktash's interference

    Nicosia, May 2 (CNA) -- Members of the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes in the United States have expressed their regret over occupation regime leader Rauf Denktash's decision to block a pilgrimage last week by Greek Cypriots to the monastery of Apostolos Andreas, in the Turkish- occupied Karpass peninsula.

    "We sincerely regret that Mr. Denktash is placing obstacles to events such as this and others which aim at developing further contacts between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and which the government of Cyprus, the European Union, the United Nations and the United States support," said President of the United Hellenic American Congress (UHAC) New York, Charles Marangoudakis.

    A pilgrimage of 600 to 800 Greek Cypriots to the monastery had been arranged with the assistance of the UN to take place on April 27, Orthodox Easter Sunday.

    The trip was cancelled due to Denktash's insistence to censor the list of visitors.

    UN Spokesman in Cyprus, Waldemar Rokoszewski expressed regret for the outcome, adding that "it goes without saying that any form of censorship or interference with the list of names presented is unacceptable".

    No such censorship was made on a list of 460 Turkish Cypriots who visited the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque in the free areas of the Republic ten days earlier.

    "We believe that the Turkish Cypriots greatly appreciated the Cyprus government's unrestricted invitation to them to participate in a pilgrimage to the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque in the free area of Cyprus," UHAC National Chairman and World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President, Andrew Athens said.

    The Hala Sultan Tekke mosque in the southern coastal town of Larnaca is considered to be among the holiest places in the Muslim world.

    President of the Pancyprian Association of America and of the International Coordinating Committee - Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA), Phillip Christopher added that "the fact that 460 Turkish Cypriots went to the free area of Cyprus to pray showed their enthusiasm for the pilgrimage," and that "it also showed how comfortable the Turkish Cypriots feel being among Greek Cypriots in a free situation".

    National Coordinated Effort President, Andreas Manatos said that "responses by Turkish Cypriots to other movements toward a possible settlement suggest that they do not support Denktash's actions".

    Pancyprian Association Executive Vice-President, Nikos Mouyiaris, echoed Manatos statements, adding that Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot women "warmly received each other" at a meeting which took place in Brussels on April 17.

    "The Turkish Cypriots seem to want a Cyprus settlement, accession to the EU and all the benefits which result therefrom," said Panicos Papanicolaou, President of the Cyprus Federation of America.

    CNA MH/GP/1997
    ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY
    1230:CYPPRESS:02

    [02] UNFICYP Commander says occupation "will lead nowhere"

    by Menelaos Hadjicostis

    Nicosia, May 2 (CNA) -- It is strangely paradoxical for a soldier's soldier to reject military force as a solution to conflict. But if such a paradox can ever exist, then Major-General Evergisto Arturo De Vergara is surely its most fervent proponent.

    An ardent student of history who carries Roman Catholic prayer beads in his pocket, the new commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) is certain the Turkish occupation of 37 per cent of Cyprus' territory "will lead nowhere".

    "Any solution coming from a military point of view won't last. Look back at history. No military solution lasted long," the general says fervently.

    De Vergara, who hails from Argentina, was appointed to the post as UNFICYP Commander on February 28, 1997, succeeding Finnish Brigader-General Ahti Toimi Paavali Vartianen.

    An animated man who punctuates the conversation with forceful hand gestures, De Vergara says the UNFICYP's aim in Cyprus is neither to impose or force peace, but to provide opportunities for politicians to achieve it.

    "We are here to provide the platform for the politicians to negotiate," De Vergara says, but admits the force of 1200 troops guarding the peace on the island is stretched to its limits.

    "I agree, our force is small now, we are stretching our resources to the maximum, but it doesn't make any difference if I have some 1000, 2000 or 5000 more. Our aim is to provide opportunity. (More troops) would make our life a little bit more comfortable, but if we have to stretch to the maximum, we'll do that," the general says.

    The UNFICYP Commander notes the UN Security Council mandate under which the peacekeeping force is operating, "does not impose any limitations" on its performance. De Vergara is adamant however, not even "maximum power" could have prevented the incidents last summer, in which two Greek Cypriot civilians were brutally murdered in the buffer zone by Turkish extremists and Turkish occupation forces.

    "Shall we build a wall all across Cyprus? No. Shall I shoot demonstrators? No. So in what way would it help to have, instead of 1200 peacekeepers, 50,000 of them," the general asks.

    De Vergara urges restraint to be shown by both sides on the island in order to prevent similar situations and pave a smoother road for politicians to achieve peace.

    "I can bring here 50,000 troops, but if both sides are not showing the necessary restraint to tell the people look, we won't solve the problem this way and the only thing we're achieving with that is embarrassing the politicians because now they have a lot of obstacles to jump over," he adds.

    De Vergara concurs that the complete demilitarisation of Cyprus, proposed by the Cypriot government as a means of solving the long-standing dispute, would be useful in peace efforts.

    "I think if both sides can agree to full demilitarisation, that will also help to reach a peaceful settlement," the general says, but stresses however, what he terms "the Cypriot interest", to be the key which will force open the deadlock gripping efforts towards a solution.

    "The most important thing to be taken into account is the Cypriot interest. What is the Cypriot interest? We (should) take into account not someone else's interest. Here they talk about such-and-such interest. All over the world, everyone has interests here. I want to listen to the Cypriot interest," he says.

    De Vergara also expressed concern over the current military buildup on the island, saying the continual stockpiling of modern weapons could have unforeseen consequences.

    "When you start an arms race, you don't know when you're going to finish it. Some politicians call it balance of power. Others call it balance of terror. What would you like to choose," he asks.

    Referring to the 1989 Unmanning Proposal calling for steps to be taken by Turkish occupation forces and the Cypriot National Guard as a means to reduce tensions along the cease-fire line, De Vergara says several practical measures can be taken to alleviate tensions.

    "As far as we can take both sides from within eyeball range, it would be good because if you're very close that means we don't trust each other. And if there's no trust, it means the danger of conflict," the general says.

    He adds that talks currently underway between Turkish occupation forces and the Cypriot National Guard aiming at reducing tensions between soldiers facing each other only metres away in some instances are not moving as fast as the UN would like them to.

    "Those talks are going on at a slow pace. We would like to have those talks go much faster," De Vergara says.

    The UNFICYP Commander points to a lack of confidence as the main reason why the two sides on the island have not reached agreement on military issues, adding that even if at a slow pace, "we are achieving something".

    "We are tied up to objectives, not to a timetable," the general adds.

    De Vergara says UNFICYP's political chain of command, under which he reports to UN Head of Mission to Cyprus, Gustave Feissel, is not the military type which he is used to, but notes it poses no problems in carrying out his mission in Cyprus.

    "The system is not so easy as in the national system, but it does not impede us to perform our duties," he says.

    The UNFICYP Commander now sees a real opportunity for the Cyprus problem to be solved, but it is an opportunity that the Cypriots themselves must seize and take full advantage of.

    "The chances (for a solution) are very good. I would define it an almost unique opportunity... almost everyone is concerned about Cyprus (but) it is the Cypriots who have to choose, to decide," he says.

    Stressing the point, De Vergara poignantly adds if it were up to him, he would serve Cypriots with a wake-up call to what is above all in their interest.

    "If I had enough power, I would gather everyone and say to them, those who care about Turkish interests, go to Turkey. Those who care about Greek interests, go to Greece... Cypriots should be the protagonists," he says.

    De Vergara repeats emphatically that people "should not be tied down to the past", but rather look forward at the possibilities peace can bring to the island.

    "Here, you cannot find that hate you can find somewhere else in the world... If you don't take advantage of that, what are we expecting? Are we just waiting to have hate to achieve a solution?" he asks rhetorically.

    A self-professed religious man, De Vergara's family roots extend to the northern Spanish village of Vergara. A paratrooper by training, he comes from a long line of career soldiers, stretching back to the early 17th century. "The military was a real calling. You can hardly find a rationale for that... Heritage was one reason why I chose a military career. Another is a deep concern for the human being," De Vergara says.

    Perhaps it is this strong sense of military tradition etched in his character that he has no qualms commanding British troops in Cyprus, given the war between Argentina and Britain waged over the Falklands-Maldives in the south Atlantic 15 years ago.

    "You must know how a soldier's life is. There's a kind of brotherhood of soldiers all over the world. Sometimes we fight because politicians tell us to fight, but we don't fight with hatred," De Vergara says.

    The UNFICYP Commander has twice served with the UN prior to his assignment in Cyprus, as a staff officer and military observer with UNTSO in the Middle East between 1983 and 1985 and with UNPROFOR as the Deputy Commander of Sector West in Croatia between 1993 and 1995.

    He celebrated his 51st birthday on May 1st.

    CNA MH/GP/1997
    ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY
    1300:CYPPRESS:03

    [03] German diplomat starts talks on Cyprus

    Nicosia, Mar 2 (CNA) -- Germany has embarked on a more active involvement in the Cyprus problem by appointing, for the first time, a Special Representative on Cyprus.

    Detlev Countzu Rantzau, is currently in Cyprus on what may be described as a familiarisation visit.

    Rantzau was received this morning by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and had a meeting with Foreign Minister, Yiannakis Cassoulides.

    The German diplomat described his meeting with President Clerides as interesting and enlightening, but avoided making any further statements until, as he said, he had the chance to gain further knowledge on the Cyprus problem.

    He also avoided making any comments following his meeting with the Foreign Minister, but noted he will talk about his contacts on the island during a scheduled press conference next Monday.

    On Monday morning, he will cross into the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus to meet Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    In statements made on his arrival last night, the German diplomat said his country desires a solution to the Cyprus problem so that once Cyprus accedes to the European Union, the island will not usher its problem into the Union.

    Rantzau noted that with his appointment as Special Representative on Cyprus, Germany wants to contribute to efforts towards a solution on the island.

    He avoided commenting on the common statement issued by EU member states which connects progress on the Cyprus problem with the development of European - Turkish relations.

    However, the German diplomat did admit that Europe - Turkey relations do have some bearing on the Cyprus problem.

    CNA MH/GP/1997
    ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY

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