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Marc Grossman Interview by Turkish Media

Interview by Turkish Media

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs

Washington, DC January 31, 2003

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: All right. Go ahead.

INTERVIEWER: I first want to get your sense of where things are going, and February 28th is a few weeks away, and I understand that both sides have given their reaction to this sort of paper once again.

And I also understand just from reading the reportings and hearing the statements from each side that both positions are rather maximalist as in the divisions are rather extensive, and almost begs the question is this plan still valid or workable.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think this plan is absolutely valid, and it is absolutely workable, and you can put me down as somebody who believes that the opportunity that exists for Greece, for Turkey, for Greek Cypriots and for Turkish Cypriots, between now and the 28th of February is as good as it has ever been.

And we hope that everyone will lift up their sights here and support the Secretary General's plan, and get this job done by the 28th of February so that a unified Cyprus can enter the European Union. I think that would be a very exciting prospect.

INTERVIEWER: So what is the great picture then? On April 16th, a ceremony at the Acropolis and you are talking about Denktash and Clerides being there? I mean, what is the great --

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: That sounds good to me.

INTERVIEWER: Describe to me what the great outcome would be?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: The great outcome would be that Cyprus, unified through the Secretary General's plan, with all of the protections for both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, and that this Cypriot democracy would enter the European Union.

I think that it would be a spectacular thing, and I think that it would be not just good emotionally, but it would be very good strategically for Turkey.

The true strategic value of Cyprus for Turkey at the moment is as a stepping stone to Europe. Turkey now has a date to begin its negotiation in December of 2004. That is a very big accomplishment, both for Turkey and for the European Union.

And if there was a Cyprus solution in addition to that, gosh, perhaps the time of the negotiation after December of 2004 might just go a lot faster and a lot smoother, and I think that would be a very good thing.

INTERVIEWER: Sir, you are saying that there is a possible deadline to February 28th, although it was thought at the Copenhagen Summit that this is it. I mean, you know, that you do it as in Copenhagen, and now we have this February 28th.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Right.

INTERVIEWER: And people are talking about April 16th as another deadline. How serious is February 28th? What is the deadline --

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think there is big difference. Everybody wished, and I certainly wished, that this could have been concluded by Copenhagen. But the 28th of February deadline is not a date that people just snatched out of the sky.

The 28th of February was the date in the Secretary General's plan at Copenhagen for the period of negotiation. And don't forget what the Secretary General hoped people would do in Copenhagen was sign the first two pages, or the first 16 pages, and then negotiate the details until the 28th of February.

So the 28th of February I believe is embedded in this plan. So I don't see it as anything other than a real deadline. When you talk to me about deadlines after that, I really worry about them, because I think if we spend a lot of time thinking, what happens after the 28th of February, that a lot of energy gets used up, not focused on trying to get a deal, but trying to worry about the future.

So I think that everybody ought to spend their time supporting the Secretary General, and supporting the Secretary General's plan, and getting this thing signed up by the 28th of February.

INTERVIEWER: And there you have it on the record with Denktash saying it is not likely that it will be signed.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, somehow it is not surprising to me that the people who are negotiating this have negotiating positions; and people keep saying, oh, why are they having their own positions.

Well, they are having their own positions because they are the elected leaders of their respective sides. There is President Clerides, who is the elected leader of Cyprus, and there is Mr. Denktash, who is the elected leader of the Turkish Cypriots.

So I am not surprised that they are negotiating. That is their job, and I think that as we become closer to the 28th of February that I would hope that everybody would search their consciences and look to their strategic view, and say, I have achieved a lot, and I have to compromise in some things in order to achieve the larger goal, which is to move all of the people of Cyprus -- Greeks and Turks -- into the European Union.

INTERVIEWER: How do you -- as someone who served in Turkey, were you surprised at the sort of in some sense -- to see a change in Turkish public opinion regarding Denktash, and for the first time -- I mean, some people have talked about it as a taboo being broken.

For the first time, you have people openly criticizing Denktash and calling on him to be a little more compromising in his negotiations.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: It is not for me to comment on that at all. That is a matter for the Turkish people and for Turkish Cypriots.

What I say is that I think that more and more people in Turkey over the years recognized the importance of the European Union. More and more people in Turkey over the years strove for more democracy so they could get into the European Union.

They strove for a freer economy so they could get into the European Union. They strove to make other changes so that they would be a country ready to be in the European Union.

And I think that people are seeing the Cyprus issue as part of that whole -- as part of that set. Now, I don't say that people in Turkey should change their country for the benefit of Europeans. They change their country for the benefit of themselves.

And I also would say that the Turkish people will never accept a solution on Cyprus that they fear or that they worry would ever bring back the kind of situation there was before 1974.

And we, as the United States of America, would never support such a solution, and I think that you have in the Secretary General's plan, and in the possibility of Cyprus being a member of the European Union, the kind of guarantee for people on the Turkish mainland that their brothers and their sisters, and the people for whom they have this great affinity, would never again face the kind of life they did in 1974 and before. So that is a really important thing.

INTERVIEWER: On the other hand, critics have pointed out one aspect of the plan, which is -- well, two aspects I am going to go into.

One is that it -- and perhaps now I am going to put it the way that people are putting it; that it perhaps forces these two communities to live a little too close to one another a little too early.

I am talking about population exchanges here, which seems to be something that Denktash is not too comfortable with. He feels that the numbers are too big, and too many Greeks moving over to this side, and a little too soon clearly.

But having gone through what we have gone through in the last 10 years in the Balkans and what not, is this perhaps a valid point to the plan being fixed in this regard?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I am not a negotiator. People have to negotiate this plan until they are satisfied with it. But it seems to me that people have been working on trying to solve this problem since 1974, and the fact that here we are in 2003, with all due respect, doesn't seem too soon to me.

Second, I don't think that you can talk about what will happen in Cyprus, and then stop before there is a European Union. Let's say that everyone agrees to a plan, and that plan is going to require some populations to move.

But you see then people who live in Cyprus are then part of a larger whole. They are part of the European Union. And I believe that all around Europe that you find that people -- that countries that have diversity are greatly benefitted by being part of a very diverse European Union.

What happened in the Balkans was that people in the Balkans had only themselves to fall back on. They were not part of anything larger. The country had fallen apart, and they were living under a dictatorship.

And here you have a democracy, which is going to be part of a large number of other democracies, and people I think will lift up their sights and say if I spent my energy exporting to Holland, rather than worrying about trying to fight with my neighbor, life would be better.

So there is a huge advantage here at the end, which is the European Union.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think that the Cypriot people have spoken on the subject? Can one say that the Cypriot people have already -- that Turkish Cypriots have already spoken on the subject with some active demonstrations, and a clear -- I mean, can we read these as an indication that the Turkish Cypriot people have spoken and they are supporting the plan?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, again, it is not for me to say. We support democracy around the world, and we support the right of people's free expression around the world, and it seems to me that there are a lot of people, and there are a lot of Turkish Cypriots, who are coming out to say this is the kind of life that we would like to have in the future.

That said, Mr. Denktash is the elected leader of Turkish Cypriots, and so that is really for them to all decide, and for them to all talk about. But we take very seriously the right of people to demonstrate, and the act of people demonstrating.

People in Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, clearly are interested in the European Union, and they are interested in peace. And we are interested in both of those things, too.

INTERVIEWER: And does that impact negotiations, because they don't have a representative, and they don't present their positions, and it does not --

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, I think that is not quite right. They are part of the Turkish Cypriot community. Mr. Denktash is their elected leader, and he is negotiating on their behalf.

And so that is something for Turkish Cypriots to arrange and to deal with, and not for me.

INTERVIEWER: Let's go to the other side, the Greek side. Elto Erguclu (phonetic), in his column, I think yesterday or the day before, he asked a question which I felt was interesting, because I had never heard anyone say -- he was saying, okay, fine, these demonstrations, and we want a solution, and Denktash should actually sort of hurry up.

But where are the demonstrations on the Greek side? He said where are the peace demonstrations on the Greek side, really underlying this feeling that we also read from the reports that the Greek Cypriots are not terribly happy with the provisions in the plan.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: That is for Greek Cypriots to decide. One of the things that President Clerides has talked about is the need to take this to a referendum. So at some point or another in a democratic way that only they can choose, Greek Cypriots will express their opinion about this plan.

INTERVIEWER: And if Papadouplous is elected on the other side, how would that feature in the talks? How would that affect -- do you see less concern that there is someone who says or who has been very forthright about his opposition to the plan?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Who the Greek Cypriots elect to be their President is the business of the Greek Cypriots, period.

INTERVIEWER: And that brings up questions about -- I mean, when I talk to Turkish Cypriots, and I talk to both Turkish and Greek Cypriots, there is a clear concern about whether or not it will pass a referendum.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I believe that if the two leaders, President Clerides and Mr. Denktash, can come to an agreement along the lines of the U.N. Secretary General's plan, and they are prepared to turn around and support that agreement with their people, that their people will recognize the great advantage, first, of the plan.

And secondly of a unified Cyprus going into the European Union and that they will express their will.

INTERVIEWER: Let me touch upon another concern people have raised about the security arrangements in the plan. I mean, some people have almost talked about that aspect as being the weakest part of the plan.

And one thing specifically that I heard was that currently there is six -- apparently six security structures on the island, and a non-plan just sort of reduces the number of troops that carries on this messy, sort of continuous -- maintains this messy six-way division.

Who is talking to the Turkish Chief of Staff on the plan? Obviously they are a major factor in dealing with the security arrangements. But I don't see them really -- I don't see the U.N. talking very much to them. I know that they make their voice heard through the Turkish foreign ministry, but perhaps -- where are they on this, and who is talking to them?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I don't know. We deal with the Turkish Government in this regard, and our Ambassador Weston, and our support for the Secretary General, and I know that they are dealing with people who are at the Foreign Ministry.

I am sure that if they were invited to visit with people at the TGS that they would be delighted to go there, too. But this is a negotiation between governments, and I am sure that the Turkish General Staff's views are taken into account on the Turkish Government's side.

INTERVIEWER: Do you --

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: And let me say, I must say with respect that certainly in the last couple of weeks anyway that it is not the security issues that have been of interest or raised with us at all. There has been the issues that you raised.

INTERVIEWER: The population.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: The population and the map, and those things seem to be negotiable. Finally, I think the fact that the Secretary General's plan envisions the continuation of a certain number of Turkish forces on the island is not a small matter. It is a big matter.

INTERVIEWER: In the past, U.S. officials privately, or in the case of Holbrooke, and sometimes less than publicly, just characterized Denktash as one of the -- as the lesser willing party in this negotiation, and that characterization remains when you talk to U.N. officials. Is that your view, is that --

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: My view is that there is no time between now and the 28th to waste on questions like that, or on answers like that. I don't denigrate your question, but there is no time between now and the 28th of February to spend time worrying about that kind of thing.

Everybody -- President Clerides, Mr. Denktash, Kofi Annan, Ambassador DeSoto, people in Greece, and people in Turkey, have got to put every ounce of their effort into making this arrangement on the 28th of February.

INTERVIEWER: What happens if there is no agreement by the 28th? Are the talks going to March?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I don't know. I don't spend a minute thinking about after the 28th of February. We have got to spend our time getting to the 28th of February.

INTERVIEWER: What happens if there is no agreement? Are the talks going to March?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think it would be too bad if there is no agreement.

INTERVIEWER: What is at stake?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: No, I believe that if you spend your time now speculating about what will happen on the 29th of February that you will create a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the people will say, well, I don't really have to get this job done because there is Scenario A and Scenario B, and Scenario C.

And what is at stake is, I believe, is the future of all of the people of Cyprus, and Greek Cypriots, and Turkish Cypriots, can have a better life if this agreement gets fixed, and if they go into the European Union as a unified whole, as an island.

And that seems to me a very big thing, and for Turkey it is as I say the beginning of -- and I hope a quickening of their ability to get into the European Union, and for Greece, and I think between Greece and Turkey, it takes away a whole level of argument between Greeks and Turks.

So there is no downside to this that I can see, and that is why we are so enthusiastic and in favor of it.

INTERVIEWER: People who want to see a solution on the Island have been somewhat concerned that with the possible war with Iraq and Saddam that Cyprus is pushed off the table.

In other words, I mean, I wanted to ask you like how much time that you spend on Cyprus today versus Iraq, and if you could give an answer about that.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I have spent a lot of time on Cyprus today.

INTERVIEWER: And what about the time that you spend on Iraq?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I spend more time on Iraq, but I have also spent time on Columbia, and I have also spent time on The Netherlands, and on Germany, and on all of the kinds of things that appear.

So that is not a fair way to judge. What I an tell you is that we are capable, and I believe that the Government of Turkey is capable, and the Government of Greece is capable, and the Government of Cyprus is capable, and Mr. Denktash is capable, of thinking about this and working on this between now and the 28th of February, no matter what happens in Iraq.

INTERVIEWER: And even if war starts?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: No matter what happens.

INTERVIEWER: How do you think that the tension between Denktash and Turkey's newly-elected leader are doing? Sort of the public tension between these two leaders, how do you think that is impacting the process?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I have no idea. INTERVIEWER: But it sure has a bearing on it.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, no, because all I am interested in is the results. I am interested in the 28th of February.

INTERVIEWER: Here you have one leader that picks up the mike and says that you should sign this and negotiate this, and the other one says that you should not compromise my national -- what is the word, national --

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Right. But I am not a Turkish person, and I am not a Turkish Cypriot, and so that is not my business. I am an American official, and what I say is that as we work this forward to the 28th of February, everybody has got to negotiate, and everybody has got to put their position out, and then everyone has to recognize the overwhelming strategic advantages of an arrangement. And some people are going to have to compromise on all sides.

INTERVIEWER: How could the EU presidency at the moment contribute to this? Is there any other than -- you know, perhaps (inaudible) -- you know, he was in Ankara, and showing greater attention to it. Is there any other way it could be helpful?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think, first of all, that it is a very exciting prospect that this deal could be arranged while Greece is in the Presidency of the European Union. I think it is an added advantage to everyone.

INTERVIEWER: How so?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Because Greece is right there. Greece is part of this solution.

INTERVIEWER: You mean, they can just hop over whenever --

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: No, I think the fact that this deal, or this arrangement could be made, an historic arrangement could be made while Greece was the Presidency is a very nice thing.

And the other thing that I think the European Union could do would be to be clear, about the economic advantages to Cyprus, and that entry into the European Union would bring.

For example, I thought it was very important last week that Commissioner Verheugen talked about the European Union's interest in organizing a donor's conference for Cyprus if there is an arrangement.

INTERVIEWER: If there is an arrangement.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: If there is an arrangement. And if there is an arrangement, he also talked about the fact that there are 200 million Euro that could be invested in Cyprus. That is a lot.

And I wouldn't say to either a Greek Cypriot person or a Turkish Cypriot person about making this arrangement for money. That's not what I am saying. But that if this arrangement was made, there is a very big payoff I think from the European Union. I can take on more.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Two more.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Two more is fine.

INTERVIEWER: I was -- now you have got me confused. One thing I was thinking was that the expression that can be associated with the Middle East peace talks was land for peace. I was thinking and trying to find a little idiom like that that could be used for this, but land for peace, or people for peace, doesn't really work because you can't really describe this situation as a war.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Right.

INTERVIEWER: So I give you a chance to come up with one now.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Like you, I am not sure that this is -- that this subjects itself through words.

INTERVIEWER: So it makes it harder?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: It does make it harder. No one is saying that this is easy. I don't want you to come away from this half-hour thinking that this is easy. This is really difficult. If this was easy, it would have been done 20 years ago, or 15 years ago, or 10 years ago.

The difference now is Europe, and that is the news here, is that this is not a negotiation as it was 5 years ago, or 10 years ago, or 15 years ago, when good people and serious people made a serious attempt to solve this problem.

I mean, I think Dick Holbrooke would tell you exactly the same thing. That he put his heart and soul into this.

INTERVIEWER: Yes.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: But we knew at that time that the new news would not come until Cyprus was ready to enter the European Union.

INTERVIEWER: And Holbrooke says a lot more about the (inaudible). My other question is --

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Because he is now a banker.

INTERVIEWER: He does not have to worry about his paycheck, right? My other question is that it seems like when I look at these revisions that both sides want, they are both saying that we would like -- I mean, the Turkish side seems to be saying we would like less Greeks to come and more land, and we want to give away less land.

And the Greek side, the exact opposite; that we would like to sign off with, and so that does seem a little -- not just maximulus, but it does seem a little -- what is the trade-off here? What is the -- what should these two guys understand about the principle of negotiating in this last minute?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Oh, I don't think that any of us are going to teach either of them any principles of negotiations.

INTERVIEWER: Can you say that they have to understand that there is a trade-off between land and people here?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Of course, they understand that there is a trade-off, and that is what they are negotiating. I don't think you should be surprised that there is a negotiation going on. These are two of the most accomplished negotiators in the world, and so the fact that they are negotiating seriously shouldn't be the news here.

What should be the news here is that at some point we would all hope that these two very accomplished negotiators would look at their larger strategic interests, and say I have negotiated this as far as I can, and I am prepared to compromise here, and I am prepared then to turn around to my people and defend what I have done.

INTERVIEWER: I know you said two questions, but one thing that is important for the Turkish public is -- I am very sorry and I don't mean to push it, but the idea that Greeks have no reason to say yes. This is a very prevalent -- this is a very common thought in Turkey.as you know, especially after Copenhagen.

Why -- people would say why would they say yes. They have no reason to say yes. They have got their island and they are going into the European Union, and why would they say yes.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Because I believe that they would like to settle this problem. Certainly the people in Athens would like to settle this problem, and when I visited with President Clerides in December, he wants to settle this problem.

And the European Union would like to settle this problem. I mean, the European Union sends the message to Athens, and to Nicosia that it is better if a unified Cyprus enters the European Union than if a divided Cyprus enters the European Union.

So I think there is plenty of incentive for President Clerides and the Greek Cypriot people to solve this problem.

[End]


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