The Cyprus problem is not an issue of invasion and occupation, US ambassador John Koenig has said.
Speaking night at a discussion being held at the University of Cyprus, last night, he addressed the subject of Turkish soldiers and settlers in North Cyprus which was raised by a student. Koenig said that the US neither supported the occupation nor the practice of bringing in settlers. However he added:
“The Cyprus conflict of course began 51 years ago and in that context of course it took a huge and tragic turn in 1974 and I am not in any way justifying what happened then, but it cannot be reduced to a problem of invasion and occupation. That is in fact to ignore your own history. But I do not regard the Cyprus problem as a problem of invasion and occupation. If you don’t like it, I can’t help it. I do not regard that as the core of the Cyprus problem”.
Koenig pointed out that Greek and Turkish Cypriots did not necessarily share the same view and urged for some honest soul-searching as to why that might be.
“I don’t think I have met a Turkish Cypriot, maybe there are a few out there, who actually believes that the Cyprus problem is a problem of invasion and occupation and these are the people you need to make peace with. So you better pay attention to how they see the Cyprus problem as well”.
Participating in what was described as “his last public event”, when he steps down as Ambassador to Cyprus this summer, Koenig highlighted the lessons he learned over three decades of service as a diplomat in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Bitterness had to be overcome, citizens needed to be empowered and becoming fully integrated with Europe would help to reunite the country.
“Dare to imagine a reunited Cyprus,” he urged.
He concluded by saying that “as an American who has spent most of his life living with your successes and setbacks, your hopes and concerns, I promise I will never stop doing what I can to help you realize your vision of a reunited island. But it’s up to you the Cypriots to reclaim the Cyprus dream”.
Cyprus News Agency