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Foreign minister defends policy shift towards Turkey

kasoulides
Foreign Minister, Ioannis Kasoulides

Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides on Saturday defended the government’s foreign policy shift, saying that the decision to focus on confidence-building measures (CBMs) instead of pushing for sanctions on Turkey has been welcomed by several foreign governments.

It was not Cyprus that put sanctions in parenthesis, but some EU member states, who were also the ones calling for CBMs, the minister said, urging naysayers to consider the costs and benefits of this proposal.

“If anyone disagrees that the main benefit would be saving Varosha, they should come out and say it,” he said.

Kasoulides was speaking to reporters following a speech at the ‘Future of Europe’ conference, co-hosted by the Glafcos Clerides Institute and the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, where he detailed the government’s motivation behind the shift.

During the speech, Kasoulides reiterated that the right climate is needed for the resumption of talks and that this will be attempted by promoting the CBMs, which are also the will of many EU stakeholders.

He added that the EU is a demanding coexistence and solidarity must be reciprocal, saying he disapproved of the approach that Cyprus must exclusively be the recipient of solidarity.

The minister stressed that “our foreign policy is not changing direction, but it is only logical that sometimes we must re-evaluate our actions and tactics to reach our goals and aspirations, if necessary”.

In an interview with Kathimerini earlier this week he said the discussion of sanctions at a political level, at the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), had been exhausted “as there are member states that do not want to impose sanctions on Turkey”. The demand for sanctions would not be withdrawn, but its discussion would take place at technocratic level, he said.

He also announced that the government would be pursuing a series of confidence-building proposals set out by President Nicos Anastasiades regarding the handing over of fenced-off area of Varosha to the UN, putting the Famagusta port customs services under EU authority to facilitate trade with the outside world and the operation of Tymbou (Ercan) airport under the UN.

Agreement to the latter two measures would end the ‘isolation’ and the embargo that the Turkish Cypriots were complaining about, Kasoulides has said. In exchange for agreeing to opening up the north to trade and international flights, the Cyprus government wants Turkey to implement the additional Ankara protocol, by opening ports to ships under the Cyprus flag and allowing Cyprus planes to enter Turkish airspace.

Asked later about foreign reactions to the proposals, the minister said that he has been receiving very positive feedback from Cyprus ambassadors, who have been instructed to inform their respective host countries of the government’s plans.

He was also speaking ahead of his meeting on Monday in Brussels with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and his German and Italian counterparts ahead of the upcoming Foreign Affairs Council.

The agenda is long, covering everything from the situation in Ukraine to climate change, he said, “but the main focus of these meetings will be to promote our CBM proposals”.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who was also speaking at the conference, said that EU membership was an ultimate strategic goal for both Greece and Cyprus, praising the union for its efforts to consolidate common policies in security and defence, and for its promotion of common values such as “respect for international law, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and independence, and for the prevention of violence, as well as respect for human rights”.

These values should be adopted by all nations, he said, expressing the belief “it is possible to solve issues in the Eastern Mediterranean if we espouse common rules and beliefs”.

He criticised Turkey for promoting a completely different, ‘Neo-Ottoman’ agenda that diverges and moves further and further away from Europe.

“There is no difference that can’t be worked through, as long as all sides have the same starting point and framework of rules, which is what Cyprus and Greece will continue to do.”

 

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