Interview with the German Ambassador in Nicosia Dr. Gabriela Guellil
by Esra Aygin for Havadis Newspaper
What does Germany think about the newly re-launched negotiations process in Cyprus?
Dr. Guellil: The division of Cyprus has endured too long. With our own history and Germany’s reunification in mind, the German government welcomes any tangible progress towards a comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem. We consider the resumption of fully fledged settlement negotiations based on the 11 February Joint Declaration of the two community leaders with the aim to reunite Cyprus as an important step in this direction. We continue to support a settlement of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework, in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the principles on which the European Union is founded. It is important to maintain the momentum to produce further convergences. It is a difficult task, but not a mission impossible. Europe stands ready to play its part in supporting the ongoing negotiations under the auspices of the UN. It has to be underlined that the settlement of the Cyprus problem would be to the benefit of all Cypriots which is of particular importance at a time of economic stress and uncertainties. Young Cypriots need perspectives for a prosperous future, exploiting the islands potentials jointly. Therefore, any confidence building measures agreed by the two parties which could contribute decisively to creating a climate of mutual trust and give impetus to the negotiation process have to be supported.
It seems that the ‘stars are aligned’ with the international community having a heightened interest in a solution in Cyprus. Would you agree with this? Are you hopeful?
Dr. Guellil: After many unsuccessful efforts to bring about a settlement to the Cyprus problem, all hopes to achieve the reunification of the island were focussed on the Annan Plan in 2004, and again the hope was shattered. The international community has never lost its interest in the solution of the problem – the UN mission has never been converted into a permanent one. When the direct negotiations started dwindling away and were finally suspended from mid 2012 onwards, there seemed to have remained very limited enthusiasm to break the deadlock. However, behind the curtains, efforts to overcome the paralysis continued. Certainly, the US played a significant role there – on many occasions we could witness the American ambassador in Cyprus advocating the benefits of a solution the charm of creating a win-win situation, stressing economic challenges and opportunities through regional cooperation in particular in the area of hydrocarbons. Turkey as well is playing a constructive role to support the negotiation process and it goes without saying that a settlement would open up this important market for Cyprus. It seems that recent positive developments - the resumption of direct negotiations early this year - have mobilized new hope in the international community. There is a role for Europe to play, there is a role for European countries to play. And there is European commitment. The new momentum must be kept alive and accelerated. Many questions remain, but the will to pull it through seems to be getting stronger and stronger.
There is a wide belief that this is the last chance for reunification in Cyprus. Do you believe this is true?
Dr. Guellil: A history of missed chances seems to be proving that there is always a possibility for a new start. However, with the time going by, did the probability to compensate losses and injustice of the past in a better way increase? The number of Cypriots who have never known a united country is growing year by year – Cypriots should have the chance to live a united future.
Do you believe that the hydrocarbon reserves and the financial crisis serve as motivations for a solution?
Dr. Guellil: Economy is a factor that counts – and energy resources are a powerful matchmaker. Certainly, the financial crisis that has hit Cyprus has resulted in a rising awareness that creative thinking “out of the box” is needed. The unprecedented crisis can therefore contribute to open the minds, to consider formats of cooperation in order to accelerate the exploration of hydrocarbons that so far were no-go areas. In that sense I perceive a very strong connection between the crisis, hydrocarbon reserves, economic recovery and the solution of the Cyprus problem.
What would be the future of Turkish and Greek Cypriots in the absence of a solution?
Dr. Guellil: I do believe that Cypriots are ready to compromise in order to find a settlement. They are aware of reality and they will chose the best option which is a common future in a united country. They know that the future will confront them with many uncertainties and troubles in the case of a continuation of the status quo. Almost 25 years after German reunification we are still in the process of “digesting” many of the consequences, of course, but when the Brandenburg Gate opened we wanted to go through and enjoy the end of separation. Anything else would have been far worse.