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Cyprus News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-05-09

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

From: The Cyprus News Agency at <>


  • [01] Albright looks forward to meet Kasoulides
  • [02] UNHCR to continue work in Cyprus
  • [03] Preconditions for Cyprus unification present, Maltese MP says

  • 0830:CYPPRESS:01

    [01] Albright looks forward to meet Kasoulides

    by Demetris Apokis

    Washington, May 9 (CNA) -- US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is looking forward to the meeting with Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, according to US State Department Spokesman Nicholas Burns.

    Asked by CNA, the spokesman said "Secretary Albright will be very pleased to see the Cypriot Foreign Minister Kasoulides, on June 6", in Washington.

    Burns said Albright and Kasoulides will discuss the current situation in Cyprus and the latest UN mediation efforts.

    He repeated Washington's support to these efforts aimed to resolve the Cyprus problem.

    The spokesman said that "Secretary Albright is looking forward to this because she's intensely interested in the Eastern Mediterranean. She wants to do whatever we can to help Greece and Turkey reduce their tensions and also to find a solution to the Cyprus problem".

    Regarding the announcement for a dialogue between Greek and Turkish experts, the State Department spokesman said "the United States does encourage Greece and Turkey to meet to discuss the many proposals that have been made over a very long period of time to try to reduce tensions between them".

    Turkish troops have been occupying 37 per cent of Cyprus territory since 1974 in violation of repeated UN resolutions calling for their withdrawal.

    CNA DA/GP/1997
    0900:CYPPRESS 02

    [02] UNHCR to continue work in Cyprus

    by Menelaos Hadjicostis

    Nicosia, May 9 (CNA) -- The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) may have decided earlier this year to pull out of special bicommunal projects in Cyprus, but will remain on the island to fulfill its original mandate of protecting and assisting refugees fleeing persecution from their country of origin.

    Yet the UNHCR's work with refugees will no longer affect the approximately 200,000 Greek Cypriots forcibly expelled from their homes as a result of the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation of 37 per cent of the island.

    "The definition of 'refugee' has been misused in Cyprus from the beginning. Refugees are those who left their country of origin and who show they are being persecuted. Cypriots (expelled by the Turkish invasion) are legally considered 'internally displaced persons'," UNHCR Chief of Mission in Cyprus, Michael Menning told CNA in an exclusive interview.

    "But we're not making a conclusion about their status. This is not a political statement," Menning was careful to point out.

    The 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees states that the term "refugee" applies to any person who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country...".

    According to the Convention, international protection cannot be invoked as long as a person is within the territorial jurisdiction of his or her home country.

    The UNHCR came to Cyprus in 1974 at the behest of then UN Secretary- General, Kurt Waldheim, to provide humanitarian assistance to those fleeing from invading Turkish troops.

    The High Commission's priority then was to build adequate housing for the tens of thousands of Greek Cypriots, who inundated the free areas of the Republic.

    Menning said that in the years following the invasion, as housing construction became less immediate, the UNHCR's role in Cyprus evolved to include special bicommunal projects generated through planning bureaus like the Cyprus Red Cross.

    "This kind of activity was not replicated anywhere else in the world where the UNHCR has offices... It's an aberration," Menning said, adding that these development projects, which aimed at improving the welfare of both communities on the island, where "unsuited" for the organisation.

    "It's a square peg in a round hole... We felt that projects could be better implemented by an agency better suited to do them... The projects have evolved into developmental phase which we are not qualified to do," Menning said.

    The High Commission therefore made the decision last February to stop its participation in bicommunal projects by the end of this year, with a four-month leeway period into 1998 to completely shut down operations in that sector.

    "We are pleased we could help Cyprus for so many years (but) we must pass the torch to someone more competent. We are more an emergency organisation," Menning said.

    The UNHCR High Commissioner noted that the High Commission's decision is "completely consistent" with the UN's efforts to streamline its operations and to prevent overlap and redundancy.

    "(The UNHCR's) normal mandate doesn't have anything to do with Cypriots, " Menning said, adding that the UNHCR's decision to back out of development projects "will not affect Cypriots at all (because) displaced persons in Cyprus are now virtually indistinguishable (from the rest of the population)".

    However, Menning said the UNHCR will remain in Cyprus "as long as necessary and as long as it's useful" to carry on with its refugee work.

    "We hope to stay in the buffer zone," Menning said, "to maintain our neutrality (on the island)."

    As for the fate of the development projects, Menning said although the UNHCR is backing out, he has been given assurances that funding for those projects will not dry up. Currently, the sole donor of these funds is the United States, but Menning said that other Western European countries have expressed an interest in picking up the tab.

    "There is the guarantee that the money is there, but the mechanism to carry those funds has got to be identified... There is a preference to keep (the succeeding organisation) under the UN umbrella," Menning said.

    The Head of Mission added that there is still time to find a replacement agency as coordinator for these projects and that the UNHCR is willing to help in the transition "at any time".

    Development projects include the Nicosia Master Plan, a plan conceived by representatives of the two communities on the island to help restore and revitalise the divided city as a whole. The Plan is funded exclusively by the US and the funds are allocated by the UNHCR.

    Menning also noted that an attempt was made back in 1986 for the UNHCR to abandon its involvement in development projects, but for reasons unknown to him, the High Commission did not follow through.

    He also welcomed the Cyprus government's recent decision to enact refugee legislation, because the island would be consistent with European standards on determining refugee status.

    Menning was appointed UNHCR Head of Mission in Cyprus two years ago, having served previously in numerous countries including Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand and Algeria.

    "Cyprus is a luxurious post. I consider it a better posting than Geneva, " he said.

    CNA MH/GP/1997

    [03] Preconditions for Cyprus unification present, Maltese MP says

    Nicosia, May 9 (CNA) -- All preconditions for the re-unification of Cyprus are present and the Greek Cypriot side has the political will to reach a solution to the island's protracted problem, former Maltese Foreign Minister, Guido de Marco, said here today.

    "I think there are all the preconditions for this re-unification to take place and we hope that the good offices of the international communities will be there to help the two (Cyprus) communities reach (a solution)," De Marco said.

    De Marco, along with Austrian MP and Chairman of the Group of the Christian Democrat European Peoples' Party in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Walter Schwimmer, were received today Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides.

    "We believe that the political will is present here in the Republic of Cyprus for (direct) negotiations to take place. We trust that this political will is also present elsewhere," De Marco added.

    Schwimmer said the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe can promote contacts between the two communities on the island "because we feel it is also necessary for the younger generations of both ethnic communities to have the opportunity for the same contacts their parents and grand- parents had".

    "I think (both communities) are closer to each other than they know," Schwinner noted.

    Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been separated for close to a quarter of a century when Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 and forcibly expelled 200, 000 Greek Cypriots from their homes.

    Turkish troops continue to occupy 37 per cent of the island, in violation of repeated UN resolutions calling for their withdrawal.

    De Marco echoed the Austrian MP by stressing that a "people-to-people" approach is what will eventually breach the gap between the two communities.

    "I think political contacts and political talks are certainly vital. But ultimately, it's this people-to-people approach which will bring about what, I think, both communities do desire," De Marco said.

    Schwimmer also said that he had assured President Clerides that the European Peoples' Party in the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly support the concept of a singular federated, bizonal and bicommunal Republic of Cyprus, as was envisioned in the 1977 and 1979 High Level Agreements.

    De Marco and Schwimmer are currently in Cyprus, at the invitation of House President, Spyros Kyprianou, whom they met yesterday.

    Kyprianou described the meeting as very interesting and said Europe is certainly interested in a solution to the Cyprus problem and that it has an obligation to move towards a proper solution that would guarantee the freedom, unity and human rights for all Cypriots.

    CNA MH/GP/1997
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