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Media Watch 2003

05 June 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Jean Christou and Gokhan Tezgor
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 5 June 2003.
Hannay steps down from Cyprus job

LORD David Hannay, Britain’s special envoy for Cyprus since 1996, has bowed out of the island’s political problem and will not be replaced unless the need arises, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced to the House of Commons yesterday.

Straw said that in the light of recent developments in the Cyprus problem, Britain had been reviewing the arrangements for ensuring an active British input into Cyprus diplomacy.

“For seven years, our contribution has been led with great distinction by Lord Hannay as special representative,” Straw said. However, he added that both he and Prime Minister Tony Blair had accepted Hannay’s recommendation that his term should end with effect from yesterday.

“And I have decided for the time being at least, not to make any further appointment of this kind,” Straw said in a written announcement issued both in London and Nicosia.

The British Foreign Secretary said that the announcement of Hannay’s withdrawal “ in no way indicates a weakening of the government’s determination to work with others under the aegis of the UN to find a solution to the Cyprus problem”.

“Should events again make it appropriate for a Special Representative to be appointed, the government will not hesitate to do so,” he said.

“The search for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem has been and remains a high priority for the government. But in the light of recent developments, we have been reviewing the arrangements for ensuring an active British input into Cyprus diplomacy.”

Straw was referring to the collapse of the Cyprus talks in The Hague in March, when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash refused to put a solution plan drawn up by UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan to a referendum in the north. Denktash’s stance angered diplomats such as Hannay and UN special Cyprus envoy Alvaro de Soto, who had worked around the clock to broker a deal before Cyprus signed the EU treaty in Athens in April.

Referring to Hannay’s mission, Straw said the British envoy had worked “with enormous professionalism and dedication in support of the United Nations to bring peace, security and prosperity to Cyprus in the form of a comprehensive settlement so as to enable a reunited Cyprus to join the European Union in 2004”.

“Lord Hannay’s support and advice during his time as Special Representative - invaluable here in London, but also singled out for praise by the UN Secretary-General and many of our international partners - have brought this country great credit,” Straw said.

Commenting on the Cyprus issue, Straw said: “For reasons set out in the subsequent report by the UN Secretary-General and endorsed in UN Security Council Resolution 1475, this final effort ended in failure, for which the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr Denktash, bore the prime responsibility. It is the British government’s firm view that the Annan Plan remains the best way forward.”

Straw added: “The House will understand that this announcement in no way indicates a weakening of the government’s determination to work with others under the aegis of the UN to find a solution to the Cyprus Problem.”

British High Commission spokesman Stuart Summers told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that Straw had been quite clear that Hannay’s withdrawal should not be taken as an indication that Britain was less serious about the Cyprus problem.

“It is tied in with Annan’s judgement on taking no new imitative,” Summers said. “The issue will be left open.”

Summers it would be “business as usual” for Britain’s Cyprus desks in London, Nicosia and Ankara, “which will continue to facilitate any settlement”. “But the post of special representative will not be recreated unless circumstances decree it,” he said.

Government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said the matter was an internal issue for Britain. ‘The government is satisfied by the statement that it does not imply a lessening of the British interest to contribute in efforts to promote a solution to the Cyprus problem,” Chrysostomides said. He said the Cyprus government had not been consulted on the move.

“The issue has no substantial effect in efforts to promote procedures to solve the Cyprus problem,” he added.

Kofi Annan repeated yesterday that he would not be taking a new initiative on Cyprus until he received signals from both sides that they were ready.

“We have not given up on Cyprus,” Annan said in New York.

He said he was prepared to work with the parties but wanted to see genuine political will to make progress.

“And I think both the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots as well as the motherlands are looking into prospects for pressing ahead with the process. But I will wait to see the signal that both sides are ready,” Annan said.

Annan’s spokesman Fred Eckhard told journalists that the Secretary-general has no plans to send De Soto back to Cyprus any time soon."