JOURNALIST: Various circles are arguing that what the Greek and Greek Cypriot sides did in Crans-Montana was not enough, or even right. How do you respond to that?
N. KOTZIAS: The vast majority of the Greek people agree with the manner in which we prepared for and carried out the negotiations. At long last, the issue of the occupation of Cyprus by a third country was put on the negotiating table. There was consistency between what we proposed two and a half years ago and what we did in Switzerland. In fact, in contrast with what certain parties are claiming, on the issue of the abolition of the Treaty of Guarantee and, by extension, the abolition of any rights of intervention of the guarantor powers, we succeeded in carving out the widest possible consensus among Cyprus, Greece, the EU, the UN Secretary-General himself and, for most of the time, the UK. I can’t understand why this isolation of Turkey’s illegal aspirations bothered some people.
JOURNALIST: Were there other problems?
N. KOTZIAS: In my opinion, the biggest longstanding problem was and is that we could not emancipate the Turkish Cypriots away from Turkey; that we did not stress enough that the Turkish Cypriots now feel like strangers in their homeland and live under a military regime. That they suffered and are suffering just like the Greek Cypriot refugees. They are suffering from the militarism as well as from the settlers who are altering their culture, traditions and characteristics.
JOURNALIST: Were there shortfalls on your part as well?
N. KOTZIAS: The line we fought on was right, both practically and on the level of ideas. The shortfalls I saw on our part in Crans-Montana were that, first, we did not take care to point up, from the outset, the material interests associated with a specific group that sees unconditional surrender as negotiation. For example, on his visits to Greece, Mr. Eide met in secret with businesspeople (and why would he do that?) who, it appears, are associated with specific international players and choices regarding the Cyprus problem. Also present at these meetings were some of the journalists who like to attack me personally and try to denigrate the joint effort of the Greek and Cypriot governments. Second, that Mr. Eide took us to this stage of the negotiations without having prepared adequately. Third, for a long time we allowed him to tell multiple lies. I pointed them out to him one by one at the Conference itself. He knew he was lying, but it didn’t bother him that he was caught red handed. Fortunately, he was forced into retraction when, in a document, he tried to present his positions as ours. I’m afraid he is continuing to employ this tactic even after Switzerland.
JOURNALIST: You revealed Ankara’s true intentions to the Hellenic Parliament. Can you set out the most important ones?
N. KOTZIAS: Turkey aimed to legitimize its occupation and, if it could, extend it to the whole of the island. This is why it never answered my question as to whether its position “for continuation of the Treaty of Guarantee over Cyprus” means continuation of the de facto partitioning of Cyprus or pursuing to control the whole island. In the end, Turkey admitted that it wanted, through preserving the right of intervention, to intervene unilaterally throughout the island whenever it saw fit. This was the point of rupture with the UN Secretary-General, leading to the end of the negotiations.
But it makes one wonder what exactly are they after, all those who raged at our refusal to grant such a right to Turkey. A right that runs counter to the principles of the UN, the EU, international law, democratic political culture, the very values of the Enlightenment, according to which the army must be subordinate to political leadership. But it also runs counter to everything the Turks themselves accuse the putschist officers of; officers who commanded the occupation forces in Cyprus, as we saw from the arrests of a number of officers in occupied Cyprus. So, there are some people who � instead of calling us maximalists � would do well to explain why giving Turkey the right to intervention throughout the island is a solution to the Cyprus problem. And it is also worth asking how is it that they refuse to see and accept what the UN Secretary-General himself stated, namely, that it is inconceivable for there to be rights of intervention over an independent member state of the UN and the EU.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Turkey is prepared for a solution? How can this stance be changed?
N. KOTZIAS: I believe that some members of the Turkish political system and establishment have a problem seeing the changes in today’s world and, instead conduct themselves as if we were still in the age of colonialism and protectorates. They also find it hard to accept relinquishing, through diplomatic means, what they believe they gained through military action. They find it equally difficult to obey the Iraqi government’s calls for them to withdraw from Iraqi territory. At the same time, I believe that powerful forces within Turkey want a real and substantial solution. We need to help them move in such a direction. This is why we support the democratization and Europeanization of the Turkish society. A European Turkey will be a major gain for all of us. But this certainly isn’t achieved by bowing to sultanic-type demands and ‘oriental bargaining’. Following the conference, those who support Turkey’s positions for a “solution of the Cyprus problem are essentially hindering the evolution that has to take place in Turkey’s thinking.
JOURNALIST: Were there other players, besides Turkey, whose stance had a negative effect? Mr. Eide, for example?
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, there were. But that’s not to be discussed right now. What’s more, the knowledge and experience one has plays a major role in negotiations. At some point, Mr. Eide seemed to be confused when I pointed out to him that, starting in 1867, Norway was under a regime of guarantees that was renewed in 1907 and abolished in 1927. At that time, Norway stated that it could not be a member of the League of Nations and, at the same time, be under a system of guarantees from third countries. I explained that, by extension, the same applies to Cyprus as a member of the EU and the UN. Norway took this step at a time when there were still colonies and protectorates. Today, when colonies and protectorates are a thing of the past, there cannot be guarantees for Cyprus.
JOURNALIST: What is Greece’s stance on the matter of the four freedoms?
N. KOTZIAS: Unlike Turkey, Greece stated from the outset that it supports the Republic of Cyprus and will not have � much less express � a view on the internal aspect of the Cyprus problem. We fully respected and respect Cyprus as an independent and sovereign state. This stance of ours allowed talks to take place between the two communities without the interference of third parties.
The matter of the four freedoms is a particular issue. First of all, it is not directly related to the resolution of the Cyprus problem. It is only indirectly related. In part, it concerns Turkey’s relationship with the EU. Turkey wants first to make gains from the EU in order “to facilitate” any steps on the Cyprus issue. The reverse should be the case, with Turkey facilitating the solution to the Cyprus problem and thereby facilitating its European course. More generally, in the case of the four freedoms and the Turkish army, we see Turkey’s desire to upgrade its geopolitical/geostrategic position through the Cyprus problem.
Finally, it’s important to note that while in the first days of the talks the Turkish Cypriots spoke of the need for the occupation forces to remain, so that they could feel secure, later on, towards the end of the talks, they were underscoring that Turkey must become the guarantor of Cyprus’ security against third countries. The second position is completely different from the first, and very revealing as to Turkey’s true intentions.
JOURNALIST: Can the efforts on the Cyprus problem be renewed? Of course, the point is not to hold another Conference for the sake of the conference, but for there to be results.
N. KOTZIAS: Negotiations require sobriety, patience and persistence. Belief in the case you are being called upon to defend and promote. They are a marathon “battle” on an open field, and not on an indoor 60-metre track. At the same time, one has to understand that the negotiations are not carried out only at the moment when the various parties meet, but also in many other forms, including public diplomacy, meetings with third parties, citizens’ diplomacy. Success also depends on how convinced your own public are of what you are seeking. In other words, negotiations go through many phases, stages and structures.
The Switzerland conference was not well prepared by Mr. Eide. In contrast, we and the Republic of Cyprus were prepared, productive, prudent. We set out a number of proposals. For example, we asked for the abolition of the Treaty of Guarantee and the adoption of a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the solution. This proposal was adopted by the UN, and the Secretary-General presented his positions on this mechanism; positions that some parties tried to keep out of the discussion. We also presented our proposal for a “Friendship Pact between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece,” which would abolish the “Treaty of Alliance” and, by extension, the presence of foreign armies on Cyprus. These proposals, like the two rounds of negotiations in Switzerland in 2017, are our common “endowment”, and it is with them that we will go to the next round of negotiations, which will have to be adequately prepared in order for it to succeed. We dream of a Cyprus that is independent, territorially integral, sovereign, federal, with its people active in the realisation of its future.
JOURNALIST: Greece has stated that it is involved only in the Security issues. The other issues concern the functioning of the state, the country. As a matter of principle, how would you see Cyprus after the solution? What characteristics would it have?
N. KOTZIAS: At the beginning of the negotiations, I introduced a term: “Cyprus as a normal state”. Through this term, I tried to alter the manner in which the discussion had been carried out until then. I underscored that we must agree on what kind of state we want Cyprus to evolve into following the agreement, in the “new state of affairs”. That Cyprus must become a normal state; that is, independent and sovereign, without guarantees from third countries or occupation troops. No one objected to this. In fact, I had the honour of the UN Secretary-General’s adopting the term. I then explained that, if we all agree that this is our goal, then all of the problems � particularly with regard to the external aspect of the Cyprus problem, which involves/concerns Greece � must be resolved from the perspective of this goal. My critics, in contrast with the EU and the UN, want a semi-colonial Cyprus. And this is the root of all our differences.
JOURNALIST: Is there room in EU-Turkish relations for the Cyprus issue to be used as a tool for pressuring Turkey? What is your stance on the Customs Union upgrade that is under discussion?
N. KOTZIAS: Last Monday and Tuesday I was in Cyprus to discuss how we will proceed from here. Among the issues is the EU-Turkey Customs Union. I believe we need to contribute towards its implementation, which could add a turnover of 50 to 60 billion euros to Turkey, on the condition that Turkey not attempt to divide the EU, as it did in Cyprus. That is, to divide the latter into states with which it will do business and states with which it will not have transactions; into states it respects and states it does not respect, as it has tried to do until now.
JOURNALIST: How far might the Turkish provocations in the Cypriot EEZ and in the Aegean go, and how are they being handled?
N. KOTZIAS: The Erdogan era, at least to date, is an era in which no ‘hot incident’ has taken place. There may be provocations in the Aegean and in the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus, but they have not been planned to provoke a ‘hot incident’. What concerns me is that the provocations of Turkey � a revisionist and restless power � could easily lead to errors and accidents. That’s why it would be good for the provocations to stop, for there to be self-restraint, and to ensure, in this way, that there won’t be any escalations.
It is also worth studying the connection that exists between Turkey’s demand to maintain “rights of intervention” and its conduct with regard to the Cypriot EEZ.
JOURNALIST: Your positions and efforts are enjoying almost universal acceptance in Cyprus. Does this weigh you down with more responsibility and pressure?
N. KOTZIAS: As a Greek, I feel our historical responsibility in that we did not succeed in averting the Junta’s crimes. This is why I have twice publicly apologized to the Cypriots. I have always believed that Greece must contribute towards overcoming everything that followed the crimes of the Athens Junta. I have always acted based on this thinking. I am one of the many Greeks who have dedicated themselves to justice for the Cypriot people. My practical experience from many years in social movements and the Left, from many years at the Foreign Ministry and in universities, gave me knowledge and experience that are useful in the job I am doing. But problems are often larger than people. From this perspective, the Cyprus issue is a problem that requires us to learn every day, to grow, to become more capable. Yesterday’s success is no guarantee that anyone will succeed next time. Every step forward increases demands and aspirations, and the weight that accrues can be handled only through reflection, collective effort, sobriety and patience. Yesterday’s achievement is yet another reason for one not to become complacent and for one to make even greater efforts. This is my personal relationship with the Cyprus problem, with Cyprus and its people.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic