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‘Extremely difficult, if not impossible’ to reach solution if Varosha status changes

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Theocharis Lalakos (CNA)

If the Turkish side changes the status of Varosha, then it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reach a Cyprus settlement, the Ambassador of Greece to Cyprus, Theocharis Lalakos has said.

In an interview with CNA prior to his leaving his post in Cyprus, Lalakos said that the latest Turkish actions in Varosha have gone much too far, and cited the clear reaction by the international community.

Asked if he thought the Turkish side’s attempts to open part of the fenced off city of Famagusta could be prevented or reversed, he said he considers it could be achieved. However, in order to do so, “the international community must maintain its firm position, opposing any change in the status of the fenced off area of Famagusta in the way Turkey seeks to achieve this,” he  said.

Lalakos said that the position of the international community “is something that we achieved through a lot of hard work. Nicosia worked for it, but also Athens helped very much, with the international contacts we had throughout this time. This is an issue on which we continue to focus our attention. It is necessary to constantly remind this pending issue and we will see if the Turkish side decides to freeze its plans,” he added.

In terms of whether the north could be annexed by Turkey, Lalakos said nothing could be ruled out in terms of Turkey’s behaviour towards Cyprus. However he think Turkey would be more likely to pursue an arrangement that would result in the international recognition of the north of the island while enabling Ankara to exert as much control as possible over the entire Republic of Cyprus, “with everything that this entails, not only for the national interests of Cyprus or Greece, but also for the position of Cyprus and the functioning of the EU.”

“This is something that we continue pointing out to our European and other interlocutors,” he said.

Referring to efforts to solve the Cyprus issue, Lalakos underlined that a change of the basis on which previous negotiating efforts took place, as the Turkish side demands, could not be accepted.

“We cannot accept negotiations to begin before the negotiating process kicks off, particularly on very serious issues, as the final solution or the framework within which the final solution of his complex problem must be sought,” he said. And, Greece wants Cyprus, which is a priority for Athens, to become a normal state without guarantors and without occupation troops.

Lalakos noted that during in recent years the Turkish side is insisting on pursuing a settlement outside the UN framework, openly question the work that has been done to date. “And we saw this happening in an explicit way during the informal five-party meeting in Geneva,” he added.

Ankara has also gone too far on Varosha, which he called a “brutal and provocative violation”.

He said all international players realise that a change in the status of Varosha would make the settlement of the Cyprus problem extremely difficult, if not impossible, because it changes any balance that there may be at the negotiations, in a dramatic way, and therefore it will be extremely difficult to have a final agreement.

Lalakos said that Greece is interested in having a relation with Turkey based on the respect of the international law and the treaties that have been signed which are not perfect for Greece, but must be respected.

“We want dialogue (with Turkey), but we will never make concessions as regards our sovereign rights and the major national issues, including the Cyprus problem,” he underlined.

The Greek Ambassador said that a solution to the Cyprus problem would certainly improve the relations between Greece and Turkey, however problems will not cease to exist and must be solved in order to have normal relations with Turkey.

Asked about the issue of possible migration flows from Afghanistan, the Greek Ambassador said that Greece and Cyprus already host a lot of migrants and refugees and must be prepared to address any new flows. Preparations have begun with close coordination between the two countries and also in the EU framework, he noted.

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