Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called on both sides on the island to show a mutual willingness to compromise, stating that bold steps should be taken to find a solution.
Speaking after a busy day during his official visit, the first by a German present, Steinmeier said: “Over the last several decades, and I can assess this through my previous capacity as well [as Foreign Minister], there were optimistic phases where we could hope for a better situation. But in politics there is a duty to try what seems impossible.
“For this, I am grateful to President Christodoulides who has made the resolution of the Cyprus issue his priority and has the support of the United Nations. We too will support the UN, as will the other European countries.”
Nikos Christodoulides described Steinmeier’s visit as of “particular importance and symbolism”, as it coincides with the 20th anniversary of Cyprus’s accession to the European Union and the 50th anniversary of the Turkish invasion.
Christodoulides said his vision and sole aim since taking office is to end the unacceptable state of affairs in Cyprus. However, he said, the key lies in Ankara.
He added that the European Union, by supporting UN efforts, can help to achieve a solution to the Cyprus problem, which will be beneficial for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike, for the wider region and for the relations between the EU and Turkey.
The German president emphasised that his country strongly supports the solution of a bi-zonal bi-communal federation, within the framework of the United Nations.
At the same time, he called the appointment of the UN Secretary General’s personal envoy important, noting that it will give a new perspective and break the deadlock.
He also described Cyprus as a safe harbour in the region for the European Union, especially after the terrorist attack by Hamas in Israel.
The main message of the visit is that “Germany supports the constructive steps in the search for a solution to the Cyprus problem” and that Berlin views the developments in the Cyprus problem with reserved optimism and hopes that there will be other steps after the recent visit of Maria Angela Holguin, as the Secretary General’s personal envoy for the Cyprus issue.
He added that it is equally important in Cyprus to make it clear to Turkey often, regardless of who will do it, that the behaviour regarding the solution of the Cyprus problem must also be related to other issues of Turkey, such as the approach to the EU. “This message must also be sent to Turkey from the member states as well,” he noted.
The Cypriot president said that the current state of affairs cannot lead to the solution to the Cyprus problem, “and I think we all understand this dimension. I strongly believe that the vast majority of the Cypriot people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, desire reunification, a solution based on the agreed framework.
“In this direction, we are ready to work with all our partners, including Germany, which maintains excellent relations with Turkey, so that we can achieve the goal of resolving the Cyprus problem, which I consider – if I didn’t consider it, I wouldn’t invest so much very much – that it is an achievable goal.”
In a message to European partners, Christodoulides said: “The Republic of Cyprus is an ardent supporter of closer relations between the EU and Ankara, which are going through the developments and the resolution of the Cyprus problem.
“It is in this context that we consider a more active involvement on the part of the EU – a leading role that will not replace the role of the UN.
“I am glad that at the level of Brussels there are advanced concrete discussions and we will see what will be the agenda of European Council of March, if there will be a discussion on Euro-Turkish relations,” which could create conditions for a more active involvement of the EU in the effort to resolve the Cypriot issue.
Christodoulides said that 2024 is another important milestone.
“This year marks 35 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. My hope and aspiration is that soon we can have the opportunity to celebrate the reunification of Cyprus, the reunification of Nicosia, the last divided capital of Europe.”
Steinmeier also praised the contribution of Cyprus to the evacuation of German citizens from the war zone in Israel.
“For this reason, we sent German soldiers to Cyprus and I thank Cyprus for the support it gave us, which was swift, multifaceted and important.”
The German President made special reference to the war in Gaza, the need to release the Israeli hostages and the need to provide humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians.
Summing up the bilateral relations, Steinmeier said that the two countries aim to strengthen relations between their Ministries of Defence, cooperation on economic issues, as well as energy.
“We want to strengthen our cooperation in matters of civil defense and we signed this in a Joint Declaration,” he added.
The German president also praised the EU’s unanimous and sustained stance in relation to the Ukrainian issue, and called on European citizens to go to the polls en masse for the European parliament elections in June, urging them to vote for parties that stand “in support of Europe and offer solutions. The EU is very important and times are difficult and dangerous to leave Europe in the hands of populists and anti-democrats.”
With a visit to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) that has maintained 60 years of continuous presence on the island, Steinmeier said that Germany, as a sign of support for the work that the UN does in Cyprus, “we will for the first time send German [civilian] police officers to Cyprus.
“This was decided last Wednesday by the Council of Ministers. In the coming months, they will take up their duties.”
Accompanied by President Christodoulides and Nicosia Mayor Constantinos Yiorkatzis, Steinmeier also viewed the occupied part of the capital from the rooftop of the town hall and visited the Green Line.
Migration “a major challenge”
The presidents of Cyprus and Germany also referred to immigration.
Frank Walter Steinmeier described the problem as a great challenge for Cyprus, noting that the country faces a significant burden, since it receives a large number of illegal political asylum seekers.
He noted that Germany, as part of the solidarity mechanism, transported 1,000 migrants from Cyprus. He also pointed out that an agreement on the common European asylum system should be reached before the end of the current term of the European Parliament.
He added: “I will visit the reception centre for asylum seekers in Kofinou (on Tuesday) to get an idea of how Cyprus is dealing with this problem and how the EU can support.”
For his part, Christodoulides reiterated the need for the European Union to review the status of Syria, so that returns and deportations of immigrants to this country can be achieved.
Asked to comment on a report by Donald Trump, who said that if he is elected U.S. President, NATO partners that do not pay their dues to NATO will not have US help if they are attacked by Russia, the German President said: “They are in a pre-election race in the US.”
He added: “In October last year I went to Washington and spoke to President Biden and called on Europeans not to think that the outcome of the US election has already been decided.
“I believe that the current President of the US is a NATO ally and ensured the unity of NATO and this continues to this day. We have every interest in the unity of NATO which remains strong.
“We in Europe and in Germany must do everything we can to ensure that NATO is strengthened in the near future, regardless of the new US President. This is not only said by me, but also by other representatives of the German Government.
“In relation to what was heard from Trump, they certainly do not contribute to the strong position that we want. These statements are irresponsible and help Russia – and they are certainly not positive for the alliance.”