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Return of Famagusta can act as a game changer, says Cyprus Minister of Foreign Affairs

18 June, 2013

The return of the fenced - off section of the Turkish occupied town of Famagusta can become a game changer in the Cyprus issue, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Kasoulides has said.

In an interview with London Greek Radio (LGR- Greek language radio in London), Kasoulides spoke of the issues he discussed with his British counterpart William Hague during his recent visit to London.

Asked to refer in detail to an EU formula on the matter of the return of Famagusta, Kasoulides declined to go into detail, saying nothing has actually happened so far on the part of the EU. “We hope that an effort will be underway”, he noted, adding when the time comes all will be revealed.

Replying to another question, he said that he conveyed to Hague the Republic’s position on the need for confidence building measures and for the appointment of a negotiator on the part of the Greek Cypriot side.

Referring to the issue of Famagusta, Kasoulides noted that “everyone understands that something is needed that will constitute a game changer” adding that “for us Famagusta is the great step forward”.

Undoubtedly, he said, it would improve significantly existing trust issues between the two sides and enable the peace talks to proceed with the resolution of matters of substance as far as the Cyprus issue is concerned.

Referring to Turkey having to be involved in the peace effort rather than have the process being ‘Cyprus owned’, Kasoulides said that during his meeting with Hague he explained that the proposition that the two communities can solve the Cyprus issue is an illusion.

The differences between the two communities are small and can easily be resolved, he pointed out, adding that on the other hand Cyprus and Turkey have huge differences which need to be resolved. Therefore, he said, a way must be found for Cyprus and Turkey to enter into talks directly.

The Cypriot FM said that the role of Turkey is important in order for progress to be achieved as opposed to the talks ending up being a repetition of all other efforts in the past 37 years.

“I think our position was fully understood”, he said, explaining that it is not for him to express Britain’s position. As for my part, he added, “I feel I have conveyed the message and that it has reached its destination.”

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Repeated UN-led rounds of peace talks have so far failed to bring about a negotiated settlement that would reunite the country. It is expected that talks between the two Cypriot communities will resume in the Autumn.

The fenced-off section of the Turkish occupied town of Famagusta – called Varosha- was abandoned by its lawful inhabitants, during the 1974 Turkish invasion. Famagusta was captured by the advancing Turkish troops during the second phase of the Turkish invasion, in mid August 1974. Ever since it has remained sealed off, under the control of the Turkish military.

UN Security Council resolution 550 (1984) considers any attempts to settle any part of Varosha (the fenced off area of Famagusta) by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the UN.