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Media Watch 2003

07 June 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: George Psyllides
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 7 June 2003.
Clerides government was willing to open Famagusta port in exchange for Varosha

FORMER government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou yesterday confirmed that the issue of operating occupied Famagusta port for exports through the United Nations had been mooted at least twice before.

The government on Thursday ruled out any discussion of allowing exports of Turkish Cypriot products through illegal ports and airports in the occupied north.

Both officially and unofficially, government sources made it quite clear there was no chance of authorising anyone to operate Famagusta port, even in exchange for the abandoned suburb of Varosha.

But former president Glafcos Clerides revealed to a local television station that he had discussed the possibility of its operation by Greek and Turkish Cypriot municipalities under the supervision of the UN.

Papapetrou yesterday confirmed there had been such discussions, adding it was perfectly legal and there was no danger of recognition since the 1960 Constitution provided for two municipalities in Famagusta - Greek and Turkish Cypriot.

“I think Clerides combined this with the return of Varosha,” Papapetrou told the Cyprus Mail.

Clerides had suggested the return of Varosha - closed since 1974 - to its Greek Cypriot owners in exchange for the opening of the port of Famagusta to export Turkish Cypriot products.

Papapetrou said the same issue had been discussed when United Democrats leader George Vassiliou was President of the Republic between 1988 and 1993.

The government, however, was adamant that no such concession would be made on the issue.

Ruling DIKO deputy chairman Nicos Cleanthous yesterday reiterated it would be impossible to export products through ports that could not be checked by the legal government of the Republic.

Commenting on Clerides’ suggestion, Cleanthous said he did not know what the former president had said in public suggesting his views had been different in the National Council.

“Unfortunately it is not the first time, and I don’t know what he says in public; I know what he says in the National Council and we have said that it was not possible in any way (to export products) through illegal ports over which the legal government of the Republic has no control,” Cleanthous said.

Asked whether the EU was promoting a formula to put the port under UN control, Cleanthous said, “with such ideas we might as well stop governing this country and abandon the idea that we are a legal state and a legal government”.

He added that the EU would not be tabling such a proposal “simply because Clerides was not in power and the current government has irrevocably clarified its position”.

DISY chief Nicos Anastassiades yesterday accused the government of not clarifying the issue with the EU, leaving the door open to misinterpretation.

“Our position was that the government should have concluded the consultations before announcing the measures for the Turkish Cypriots so as to avoid misinterpretations,” Anastassiades said.

He added: “Unfortunately we see that gaps have been left, which create problems.”

The DISY chief said he hoped the government’s discussions with the EU would iron out any misunderstandings and lift any dangers.

Meanwhile the Athens News Agency yesterday reported from Istanbul that Ankara was upset by the EU package because it provided for export procedures supervised by the Republic.

Quoting diplomatic sources, ANA said the Turkish Foreign Ministry would try to “expose the shortcomings of the package”.

“If by responsible authority they mean the Greek Cypriot administration, then we do not consider the embargo lifted and we’ll start a discussion on the issue in all EU assemblies,” the sources said."