Cypriot President Demetris Christofias has issued a warning to his European counterparts over Turkish interference with his efforts, together with the leader of the Turkish community Mehmet Ali Talat, to achieve a historic reunification of the island country.
Christofias said his country could become a "paradise" and "a beautiful bridge" between Europe and the Mediterranean, only if Ankara stops interfering in his efforts to achieve solution with the Turkish community on the island.
"If they leave us alone, we can find a solution soon," he said.
Christofias, in Brussels to participate in his second European Council since his election last February, was speaking at a conference organised by the European Policy Centre. "With my friend Talal we speak Cypriot language, we can solve the problem," said Christofias, adding: "Unfortunately, we are dependent on the will of Turkey."
Christofias explained that ever since a young politician, his political tendency is to consider Turkish Cypriots not as Greek Cypriots' enemies but their brothers and sisters.
"I have been fighting for equality of all Cypriots, regardless of ethnicity and religion," he said, adding humorously that he is now constantly asked why he bothers to fight for the properties of Greeks in the Northern part, since Communists should not care about property.
Christofias described his vision, which he said is also the vision of the Cypriots, Greeks and Turks, for reunification as a federal, bi-zonal, bi-communal country. Instead, Turkey is pushing for a loose confederation between two states and trying to upgrade the unrecognised "Turkish Republic of Nortern Cyprus" to the rank of state.
The President of Cyprus also called on Turkey to make a goodwill gesture by withdrawing half of its troops stationed in the northern part of the island, which he said stands at 43,000.
Answering questions, Christofias also spoke out strongly against "the Kemalists" in Turkey who are trying to ban Turkey's ruling AKP party via a Constitutional Court ruling (EurActiv 01/04/08). "The decisions have to be taken by the politicians, not the military," Christofias said.
- End June / July: Fresh meetings between Christofias and Talal, as well as of working groups.