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26 May, 2024
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Kasoulides: 'We need to save Varosha even at a dear price'

Kathimerini's Marina Economides talks to Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Kasoulides

Marina Economides

Marina Economides

Instead of sanctions, we will present Confidence Building Measures, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides said in an interview with "K", clarifying that we have already reviewed the policy of sanctions, which until recently was a key issue for Nicosia.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ioannis Kasoulides, was asked to comment on why he believes confidence-building measures will be accepted this time, he expressed confidence after meetings in Washington and Brussels that they will help in this direction. He says that the climate towards Nicosia has changed in recent weeks and makes it clear to those who criticize the concessions for the Confidence Building Measures that the goal now is to save Famagusta even at a dear price.

I imagine you read what is being written. That your comeback marks the return to real politics...

I have said from day one that foreign policy does not change.

Then what made you come back since you said you were retiring?

The intention was to hire someone who would not have to spend half a year to fully learn the subject. I, too, had been briefed for a month on issues that had taken place over the past four years. Therefore, knowing this I accepted the President's proposal because of the difficult and particular nature of the timing. But the foreign policy does not change.

What's changing?

My approach is different from that of my predecessor on many issues. I'm not saying that my predecessor's approach is wrong...

You say that it is not wrong but you said that you do not know his positions on the Cyprus issue...

This had to do with the presidential elections and I tell you I do not wish to recapitulate on this issue. What I said was well said, but that's it.

Was there a tacit agreement with the President to make efforts to restart the Cyprus issue?

It is not a tacit agreement. Before I responded and accepted I wanted to discuss with him and we discussed the issue. The direction is taken by the President.

There are a host of issues that are open. One of them is the policy of sanctions. Do you think we should revisit them, judging by the bad result?

We have already reviewed the sanctions policy. Cyprus' request for sanctions will not be withdrawn. The debate on a political level in the Foreign Affairs Council has been exhausted as there are the Member States that do not wish to impose sanctions against Turkey. What they are saying is that they consider the sanctions counterproductive, that they will not make Turkey change its stance on Varosha, but what is needed are confidence-building measures. They will therefore see our policy. Instead of sanctions, we will present CBMs.

But do they intend to help in this direction? Because the CBMs had been rejected in the past...

That's right. However, if you look closely at the debate that is taking place in the Turkish Cypriot community, it is obvious that it is not so easy for them to easily reject what’s at the heart of the proposal without studying it. Especially at a time when their main narrative to complain to the world is their "isolation" and the embargo against them as they see it. These two complaints, with the transfer of the airport of Tymbos under the auspices of the United Nations, will be lifted for the benefit of the Turkish Cypriots and will add to their progress and prosperity.

Famagusta Port and Ankara Protocol

When we say under the auspices of the United Nations, do we have a specific plan? Some people think that all this is the same rhetoric and in fact, it will result in international connectivity…

Of course, we have, but this is what we will initially discuss with them if they are ready to talk. The main quid pro quo for us, for such a big step, will be the surrender of the enclave of Varosha to the United Nations as provided for in the Security Council resolutions so that it can then be handed over to the legitimate inhabitants of the area.

Is the port of Famagusta included?

The package of the Anastasiades proposal includes the Port of Famagusta, whose customs office will be placed under the supervision of the EU to control the entry of goods into the single market. In order for these two things to happen, Turkey will have to establish a full implementation of the additional Ankara Protocol which will result in the opening of ports and airports to vessels flying the Cyprus flag.

U.S.-EU willing to help

What is the view of the US and Brussels? How are they going to help?

The reaction of the US Secretary of State to the proposal for Confidence Building Measures was positive. More positive still, was the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, who showed her willingness to move and assist on this issue. As far as Brussels is concerned, I presented the President's ideas at the ambassadors' lunch under the French Presidency. The reactions were very positive and I believe that the capitals of Berlin, Paris, all the countries that can exert influence will be willing to help.

But since we are focusing on CBMs, should we assume that the resumption of talks by the end of Anastasiades' will not happen?

I hope that the position of the Turkish side will change and that we can resume talks. Because the Turkish position wants us to accept Turkish sovereignty and a two-state solution, even before we start the talks. I wish the Turkish position would change, and there is a willingness. Imagine if, in the meantime, the CBMs are agreed upon and implemented, what frame of mind will have already been created and how do you think the stance of the Cypriot people (Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots) will change? Currently, they have no expectations. If we move forward with the CBMs, it will change their frame of mind and will offer a period of great expectation as far as the solution is concerned. With the implementation of such large CBMs, the groundwork will be laid for the future.

Given that our expectations are great, should we place our hopes in it? Can we depend on the international community to help?

Last December, the President sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General proposing these MOUs. But there has not been much response from the international community to push these CBMs.

In other words, is it an issue of communication or a lack of credibility?

I see that there has been a marked change in mood in recent weeks and an expectation on the part of the international community. Without saying that someone is to blame, we have gone through this phase of probable lack of credibility and we are entering another trajectory which gives me the right to hope for better prospects in the coming weeks or months.

When we're in an election season though, everything stops.

Neither the President is in an election campaign, nor I.

The ruling party

There is no obstacle in terms of the pre-election campaign. We want to save Famagusta even at a dear price. My motto is to weigh the cost and the benefit, and if the benefit outweighs the cost then we do so.

Won't there be any issues though?

Some may object and say it is a risk. But what is the greatest benefit on our side? The implementation of security council resolutions on the surrender of the enclosed area of Famagusta in accordance with resolutions 550 789. I hope we can succeed and I don't think there would be anyone who will have an objection.

The tripartite and Israel

As far as the tripartite is concerned, did we go overboard?

The trilateral partnership was born during my visit to Cairo in September 2013. Many describe me as the father of the tripartite.

However, on the occasion of the normalization of relations between Israel and Turkey, are we not affected?

I know that when you cement friendship and cooperation on the basis of principles you have to have confidence in your partner, meaning that whatever a country does to improve its own relations with Turkey does not mean that they will abandon you.

So are our relationships cemented?

No one has ever said that our friend is the enemy of our enemy. That is not how relations between countries are. We have confidence in the Government of Israel.

In other words, are we not concerned about the latest developments?

The President of Israel, who will go to Ankara, will first visit Greece and Cyprus...

In relation to the visit to Washington, what conclusions can be drawn?

There is an assurance from the US Secretary of State that the tripartite (+1) will continue at the political level and all other efforts made at the lower levels of the tripartite will be under the guidance of the political level 3+1. It has certainly been ensured that the bilateral relations, that have been built on security and defense issues, on training and personnel matters, and on the effort now being made to evacuate US citizens from the Middle East area, will continue unhindered. Given that Turkey won’t allow us to join NATO, we have expressed to the US that we at least want to increase relations between both our countries.

"We have had issues in our relations with the embassies here."

Once you had taken over the ministry you said that you would try to normalize relations with the embassies here. Was there a problem?

There were issues, yes.

What was the problem?

Whatever the problem now the climate is changing, it is improving and I believe that it is on the road to normalization.

Tough position on some issues?

That's because a position can be just as tough as the way you express it and put it into motion. The diplomatic community here are our friends, they have been sent here on behalf of their governments to be friends of the host country. We must see them through this lens. I pay great attention to these things. We need international support and, therefore we must not forget about these relations, but cultivate them.

"I will not run for PResident in 2023"

There is a scenario that sees you finally claiming the presidency of the Republic for 2023.

No, there is no such possibility.

Nor was there a chance to return?

DISY has a candidate. There is no way I will follow a path other than the approval of the collective bodies of DISY. I don't think you can do things like that.

You are referring to Nikos Christodoulides...
He can do what he chooses, I am not looking at what Nikos Christodoulides is doing, but what I am doing. I believe that I have become who I am thanks to the love and support of DISY, and I will never be able to look them straight in their eyes if I do otherwise.

You had expressed the opinion that with two candidates DISY can lose...

This is what troubles me and what everyone thinks.

But there is also the issue of the low popularity rate of Averof Neophytou based on opinion polls...

It’s a preference between the party or the candidate. I spent a period of my political career when I was the most popular politician in Cyprus.

But that's why Anastasiades put you there, realizing that he himself could not be elected. Doesn't it mean something?

I was facing a three-party candidacy. It’s a preference between the party or the candidate. I was the most popular candidate of choice as the European elections showed. When it came time to vote many liked me from all parties but in the end, they followed their party's choice hence, I was not elected.

Because a scenario of Averof Neophytou's withdrawal is also being discussed in the event that the polls continue to be poor, are you willing to enter the battle to avoid a split?

These are hypothetical scenarios that I cannot discuss. My mind is not at the moment on running for the Presidency of the Republic. I have reached an age where I prefer not to take on such responsibilities.

This article is a translation from its original Greek version printed in Kathimerini's Sunday Paper.


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