Pallone Meets With U.N. Secretary General Annan in New York to Discuss Ongoing Cyprus Peace Nogotiations
New York City, NY --- With a little over a month left before residents of Cyprus vote on a referendum on the island's future, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and several of his House colleagues met with United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General Kofi Annan today to voice their concerns about several provisions now included in the Secretary General's plan that they believe negatively impact the Greek-Cypriot community and could make it extremely difficult to govern the island nation. U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Donald Payne (D-NJ) and Robert Andrews (D-NJ) also joined Pallone at the meeting.
Pallone said the Secretary General assured both he and his colleagues that Cyprus' scheduled accession into the European Union (EU) set for May 1 would not be delayed under any circumstances. This was welcome news to Pallone and his colleagues considering the Turkish-Cypriot side has been suggesting a delay is now warranted. The Secretary General also agrees with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos that all laws and governmental structures must be in place for a unified government by the time Cyprus officially joins the EU.
"Today's meeting with Secretary General Annan was very effective," Pallone said after leaving the United Nations. "It's clear the Secretary General wants both sides to resolve all their differences so he does not have to make final decisions on controversial subjects. However, the Secretary General said he will make those decisions if the Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot negotiators cannot come to agreement."
Pallone, a member of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, told the Secretary General that he has heard concerns from Cypriot Americans about how the final Annan plan will address issues of property. The New Jersey congressman said the diaspora is very concerned about proposals that would prevent Greek Cypriots from reclaiming or purchasing land in the Turkish occupied area, while Turkish Cypriots would be allowed to buy land anywhere on the island.
"Secretary General Annan acknowledged the property provisions are complicated, but necessary to protect the two enclaves," Pallone said. "I respect the Secretary General's concerns, but requested he explore different formulas that would protect the enclave and also allow Greek Cypriots the opportunity to purchase property in the area."
Pallone also voiced concern over any agreement that would allow Turkish troops to remain on the island. The New Jersey congressman strongly recommended to the Secretary General that the United Nations maintain a presence on the island as long as the Turkish army remains. Pallone said he was concerned that Turkish forces would not leave until the nation joins the European Union, something that remains to be seen and could be ten years down the line.
"I'm extremely worried about the actions Turkish troops might take on the island with the absence of a neutral international presence to keep them in line," Pallone said. "The Secretary General assured me that U.N. forces would remain on the island for a considerable amount of time."
Pallone is hopeful that Secretary General Annan will keep his concerns in mind during the final weeks of p eace negotiations and if he's forced to finalize a proposal next month.