By Jean Christou
WASHINGTON is working on mechanisms to facilitate confidence building measures, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rubin, but he remained tight-lipped Tuesday on whether the return of Varosha was top of that agenda.
But Government Spokesman Christos Stylianides said there had been “a systematic and thorough discussion on the issue of confidence building measures (CBM), which focused primarily on the issue of Famagusta” during Rubin’s meeting yesterday with President Nicos Anastasiades.
“There are thoughts of mechanisms and initiatives. However it will do the process no good if we create unrealistic impressions,” Stylianides said.
Rubin avoided any specific mention of Varosha when he spoke to media after the meeting. “We discussed ideas for confidence building measures and ways that the international community countries like the United States can contribute to supporting people-to-people efforts and confidence building measures that will start to make real progress in breaking down the barriers that have divided the two communities for so long,” he said.
He added that the US was committed to doing everything it could to help the process move forward as quickly as possible but was quick to play down Washington’s role, despite rampant speculation that the US was the driving force for movement on Varosha as a CBM.
“Our role is obviously not as a participant but as a supporter,” said Rubin. “Our role is as a contributor. We hope to create some of the mechanisms to help support some of the programmes. We are very strongly committed to doing everything we can to make that happen.” Rubin said the US hoped the EU and others would do the same but declined to go into any details on what the mechanisms might be.
Speaking after his meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, Rubin said Washington believed this was the year when it would be possible to move quickly “so that is what we are supporting”.
“We do believe that there is a need for rapid progress now,” said Rubin. “They [the two leaders] and their negotiators have stated that they want to make rapid progress. We think this is a period when that should be possible. We hope that they will seize the moment. We hope that if there are difficulties they will overcome them. We are very, very hopeful that this will be a year of historic progress and we’re prepared to play our part in supporting it.”
Asked if Famagusta was the key to progress, Rubin said: “It is not for us to say what the key is or isn’t. It’s really for the two leaders to make those decisions.”
In addition to CBMs, the discussions also focused on an assessment of the current negotiations and the more active involvement of the European Union in the process.
Eroglu was quoted in the Turkish Cypriot press yesterday as saying: “The moment you give Varosha, there will be no solution. On the top of it, the solution is being delayed. Because when you give Varosha, they will say: ‘We took Varosha with a little bit of pressure. We can take other things too, if we put pressure.’ This will bring only stalemate.”
He said it was the Turkish Cypriot side’s aim to have a referendum in three months time but Anastasiades did not see a solution before 2015, he claimed.
Comparing Anastasides with former president Demetris Christofias, Eroglu said their politics were not much different but he could say that Christofias was “more pacifist”.
“Now, the USA has become involved quite intensely… because the issue of natural gas has emerged. The USA does not want a solution to earn our favour. They need our friendship in order to continue their own domination,” he said.
Despite reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry would visit Cyprus soon with big news about Varosha, a State Department official said last night there was no trip on the current agenda.
“He would like to go. It is something we are talking about. We’ll see if something happens soon,” the official said.