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Former UN chief among many who failed to solve Cyprus problem

Rauf Denktash, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali (centre) and George Vassiliou

By Jean Christou

Former Cypriot President George Vassilou on Tuesday described Boutros Boutros-Ghali, UN Secretary General from 1992 to 1996, as a “great man” who tried but failed, like so many others, to solve the Cyprus problem.

Egyptian diplomat Boutros-Ghali died on Tuesday aged 93. He served one five-year term as UN chief.
Vassiliou, who was the Cypriot president from 1989 to 1993, was facing off at the time with then Turkish Cypriot leader the late Rauf Denktash when what became known as the Ghali ‘Set of Ideas’ came into being.

Vassiliou said the plan had started out as ‘food for thought’ as a UN document but evolved into what became known as the Ghali Set of Ideas in the Spring of 2002. The Greek Cypriot side accepted the Ideas as a basis for negotiations but Denktash rejected them though the blueprint was endorsed by the UN Security Council, Vassiliou said.

The Set of Ideas were floating around for about a year before Vassiliou was ousted in the 1993 elections by Glafcos Clerides. Clerides abandoned the Ghali blueprint immediately saying it contained negative elements that would not guarantee a viable settlement and the ‘Set of Ideas’ was consigned to the annals of history.

“Boutros-Ghali was a great man who loved Cyprus,” Vassiliou told the Cyprus Mail. “He tried to help Cyprus from the depths of his heart and he felt very sorry when his plan failed after the end of my presidency. He was a great friend of Cyprus but very disappointed that he didn’t see his dream come to pass.”

The Set of Ideas foresaw the property claims of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot displaced persons being recognised and “dealt with fairly on the basis of a time-frame and practical regulations.”

A guarantee system including the three existing guarantor powers was to be put in place with the inclusion of the UN, while the ‘Ghali map’ provided for the territory of the ‘TRNC’ to be reduced from 37 per cent to 28.2 per cent with the return of Varosha and Morphou to the Greek Cypriots.

In his last report on Cyprus before leaving office in 1996 – 20 years ago this year – Boutros-Ghali warned that if the situation in Cyprus was allowed to persist, the consequences would be to the detriment of both communities in Cyprus. “Unless the political leadership on both sides manifests the necessary determination to negotiate an overall settlement and this process is fully supported by Greece and Turkey, the present situation will persist and even lead to greater dangers,” he said.

“The apparent calm that has prevailed for some years has lulled political leaders and the people of both communities into a false sense of stability… beneath the surface, however, the situation in Cyprus is changing, in terms both of the demographic composition of the island and of the relationship of the two communities with each other and to the outside world. Either the two communities will take control of their destiny by reaching an overall settlement on the basis that has already been agreed, or forces beyond their control will fundamentally change the situation on the island.”

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