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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ IOANNIS KASOULIDES - INTERVIEW WITH CNA ]

IOANNIS KASOULIDES - INTERVIEW WITH CNA

The day after he is elected to the presidency, Ioannnis Kasoulides will invite himself to the Turkish-occupied areas for a meeting with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, to discuss pressing matters relating to efforts towards a negotiated settlement, one of the nine presidential candidates has told CNA in an interview.



“Come 25 February, I will invite myself to the occupied areas, to Kyrenia, to Mehmet Ali Talat’s residence. He cannot decline a meeting with a newly-elected president, who wishes to see him with good will, to talk to him about measures between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities for peace, and there are measures we can discuss,” Kasoulides explained.



The former foreign minister believes that it is high time that Cypriots take their fate in their own hands and push for a political settlement by themselves, through negotiations, with a view to reunite the country, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.



He says he will follow an outward-looking foreign policy to revert what he calls the “negative impression” Cyprus has abroad.



Kasoulides is absolutely certain he will be in the run off election and does not exclude any prospective cooperation. His priority, he told CNA is to redress the country’s credibility in the international political scene and to seek a political settlement, through peace talks, which he understands is not an easy task but believes that with the right strategy, he will be able to exploit, to achieve this goal, junctures in world affairs to the benefit of Cyprus.



Cypriots will go to the polls on February 17 to elect their president for a five-year term. The three main presidential hopefuls are Kasoulides, incumbent President Tassos Papadopoulos and House President Demetris Christofias.



Kasoulides is backed by the Democratic Rally (DISY) party and other movements, Papadopoulos is supported by the Democratic Party (DIKO), the Social Democrat EDEK, the European Party and the Enviromentalists, and Christofias has the support of his party AKEL and other smaller groups.



In his interview with CNA, Euro MP Kasoulides said that in the first few days of March, the UN process provided by an agreement reached between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriots communities in July 2006, must begin.



“A preparatory period of about 5-6 months will be needed on thorny issues such as the economy, property issues, and this will be followed by substantive negotiations,” he explained.



Responding to questions, he said he would not tally with time in the effort for a settlement, adding that if things do not progress at the level of technocrats, he as president and leader of the Greek Cypriot community will resort to high level meetings to push things forward.



Questioned on his intention to seek what he calls a “Cypriot” solution, he said the Cyprus problem cannot be solved without “bothering Turkey”, without “friends and allies”.



“My priority is first to restore the credibility and the political clout Cyprus can carry, as opposed to seeking a political settlement per se because the quality of the solution also depends on whether there is a friendly disposed environment towards us,” he said.



He explained that most international conflicts have been settled between the opposing sides involved in them, whereas in Cyprus there is an impression that “others” will come to solve the problem.



“The others have tried but the result is the same. It is high time - on the basis of the material we have before us from all these past years, recent developments such as the acquis communautaire, UN resolutions, other federal systems - to seek a solution between us”, he explained, adding that this would mean the UN Secretary General, under whose auspices talks will take place, will restrict his role as this is defined by his mandate of his good offices mission.



Kasoulides acknowledges the “huge difficulties” in attempts to settle the Cyprus problem, but he points out that these efforts must be coupled with the international political climate around – including Turkey’s wish to join the EU, energy concerns, Iraq, US foreign policy, Russia’s world standing – and Cyprus’ strategic interests, in addition to “moving Cyprus out of its current isolation”.



On Turkey’s European aspirations and the EU stance towards Ankara, he said so far Brussels’ appeals seem to be more of a plea than a strong recommendation to a candidate country which has to meet its obligations as these emanate from its accession course.



As for the right to veto EU decisions, he explained that “a veto is tantamount to a situation whereby there is no unanimous decision on a specific issue the EU is discussing, which can be postponed for a 1, 2 or more months but at the end of the day a decision will be taken.”



Responding to questions about Turkey’s role in solution efforts in Cyprus, he recognised that “it is difficult to get Ankara’s consent in this but under certain circumstances, it could happen”.



“We have to create such junctures that will bring Turkey on board. I do not believe pressure will be exerted on Turkey, US and British strategic interests lie with Turkey, not Cyprus. What we have to do is to make some of these interests concur with our own interests in order to create those junctures that would push things forward,” Kasoulides explained.



On his plans for one five-year term in office, he said a solution could be found soon or it could be reached in five years’ time, adding that “unless you lay the foundations on which to build, with a view to succeed, you cannot make headway.” He also said he does not plan too far ahead, hence at this stage he outlines his plans for the next five years only.



On his opponent, incumbent President Tassos Papadopoulos, he said his most striking weakness is the fact that his foreign policy has been “inward looking” in that he seems to undermine the importance of having friends in the international political arena.



“I believe that the foreign policy of a state must be primarily outward looking,” he said but also acknowledged that President Papadopoulos has undoubtedly done “good things” for the country, such as membership of the euro area. This, he notes, was made possible with the help of the main opposition party, DISY, which supports Kasoulides’ bid for the presidency and the solid economic indicators of past presidencies.



As for the third main presidential candidate House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias, he had this to say: “Where I disagree with Christofias is that he has for the past four and a half years backed Papadopoulos’ policy, knowing where this was leading us.”



Papadopoulos was elected to the presidency with the support of AKEL, which until the summer was the main partner in the coalition government.



Nonetheless, Kasoulides said, “I accept that, following his bid for the presidency, Christofias’ positions on the question of Cyprus are not completely contrary to mine, and I am referring to the need for an initiative and efforts to regain our credibility abroad.”



Kasoulides said he disagrees with Christofias’ view on the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU services regulation and his opposition to applying for membership of the Partnership for Peace, which he believes show “euro- skepticism”.



Asked about the prospect of having a coalition government, if elected, he said “the time is ripe for the political parties to cooperate on the national issue, hence my proposal to reach an agreement, on a national basis, on a framework solution which will serve as a starting point for our positions in future negotiations.”



On possible cooperation in the second round of elections, on February 24, Kasoulides said he is ready to cooperate with other parties and movements, provided that it is understood that “the Executive in which politicians will participate in their individual capacity, and not as party representatives, will be under the national flag of cooperation.”



“I am ready to cooperate with everybody, I have neither barriers nor prejudice against anybody,” he adds.



Kasoulides is “absolutely certain” he will go to the second round of elections, on the basis of two opinion polls his campaign has carried out, but whose contents he declined to reveal, saying there is a reason for it, which he did not disclose either.



Asked about changes he would bring about, if elected, he referred to the introduction of the national health scheme, the creation of a School of Medicine, efforts to make pupils and students “digitally literate”, under the slogan “one pupil one lap top”. He also talked about giving more freedom to teachers with the school curriculum and providing good means of public transport.



He believes that the proposed reduction of the compulsory military service from 26 months to 14 is in line with new trends in defence matters, which call for professional armies looking after the nation’s defecnes, a development Kasoulides says is partly due to technological advances in the realm of defence.



On the issue of illegal immigration, he says Cyprus must show a more “effective and strict” approach to illegal immigrants but also acknowledges that the government has to deal with political asylum seekers in accordance with European rules and regulations.



He recommends speedy processing of such applications, within months instead of years, and advocates employment for asylum seekers and for foreign students since there is a need for foreign labour force.








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