On March 2nd 2021 ambassador Salina Grenet-Catalano gave an interview to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA).
There can’t be two states in Cyprus, Paris supports a federation, French Ambassador tells CNA
CNA - Maria Koniotou - Cyprus/NICOSIA 04/03/2021 08:14
A two-state solution in Cyprus is not a real solution, the new French Ambassador in Cyprus, Salina Grenet-Catalano, has told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), noting that Paris is very much attached to the UN resolutions providing for a bizonal, bicommunal federation, with political equality.
In an interview with CNA, Grenet-Catalano described ideas about a decentralized federation as very much interesting, stressing that “we would like to have a reunited Cyprus within the European Union, and we think that the federation is probably the best way, if not the only way, to do so.” Moreover, she encouraged the parties to show flexibility in order to allow the resumption of negotiations.
Asked how Paris sees prospects for the informal 5+1 meeting on Cyprus that will take place at the end of April, in Geneva, and how France can help efforts for a Cyprus settlement, as a UN Security Council permanent member and an EU member state, Grenet-Catalano said that as a friend of the Cypriot people, on both sides of the divide, as a UN permanent Security Council member and as a European country, "France has always been looking forward to a fair and lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue.”
“We are willing to help and that is what President Macron reaffirmed to President Anastasiades recently, during a phone call. We are willing to help, but it will be easier for us to help if there is a real negotiating process going on. So that is why we hope that soon the informal meeting which will take place in Geneva, at the end of April, will lead to the resumption of the negotiating process,” she added.
She went on to say that “we encourage the parties to show flexibility, in order to allow the resumption of negotiations. On the substance, we are very much attached to the principles set by the UN resolutions that is to say to the principle of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, with political equality.”
The French Ambassador stressed that “we need to find a lasting solution. And a lasting solution cannot be partition. Partition is not an option. So, we would like to have a reunited Cyprus within the European Union, and on the substance, we think that the federation is probably the best way, if not the only way, to do so.”
Grenet-Catalano said that “we have heard of ideas about a decentralized federation, a loose federation. Those ideas are very much interesting. We consider also that political equality is a guarantee of utmost importance in this issue. It is not up to us of course to say which form this efficient state based on those principles could take. We are talking about a Cypriot owned process, it is therefore up to the negotiators, it is up to the Cypriot people in the end to say what they want, but we consider that if we work on this basis maybe we could reach a fair and lasting solution.”
Asked about the EU’s involvement in the Cyprus problem, Grenet-Catalano recalled that “at the last European Council, the European Union members decided that they would appoint a representative to the UN Good Offices Mission as long as the negotiating process would have started again.”
She went on to say that “if the EU could be present at the next informal meeting that would be good, because we consider that the EU has a role to play of course in this issue, because in the end a reunited Cyprus will be an EU member state. So, it is important to have the EU following the process all along. We are very much in favour of the European presence, as it was the case before, during the Crans-Montana negotiating process,” Grenet-Catalano added.
Invited to comment on the position of Turkish side and Turkish Cypriot leadership about a two-state solution, the French Ambassador said that “we stick to the UN principles. That means the bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality. The two-state solution is not a real solution because partition is not a solution for us. It could not be a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem. We really want a reunited Cyprus within the EU,” she added.
Grenet-Catalano stressed that “we don’t want a solution, a formula that could haunt the EU for a long period of time. Reunification is the only way out.”
Asked about activities that Turkey illegally carried out on several occasions in Cyprus` Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Turkish moves as regards the fenced off city of Varosha, Grenet-Catalano said “at the moment there is no Turkish vessel in the Cypriot EEZ. Maybe it is a tactical move, but I hope that this demonstrates a more constructive approach by Turkey as regards the respect of international law and respect of international principles,” she added.
She stressed France`s attachment to the international law, and that Paris wants the international law to be respected. "So, it is a position based on principles again, the principles of European sovereignty and solidarity. The only way to settle the disputes is through negotiations or through dispute settlement mechanisms,” the French Ambassador said.
Furthermore, she noted, “that the French position on Varosha is the position of the UN. The last resolution adopted in January repeated those principles, and so we stick to those principles. And of course, this resolution is very clear about the rights of the former inhabitants of Varosha. I know that the former inhabitants of Varosha are very much attached to the city. That is natural, that is normal,” she added.
Grenet-Catalano said that “we can solve this problem within the context of the UN resolutions and principles and the best way to solve this issue is not through unilateral moves again, it is through negotiations and through a lasting solution to the problem.”
Asked about the stance that the EU should hold vis-à-vis Turkey at the European Council meeting of March 25-26, Grenet-Catalano reiterated that “for the time being there is no longer any Turkish vessel in the EEZ and we hope that Turkey will confirm this new stance and new position which respects the international law.”
She went on to say that “France and the other EU members are watching very closely ahead of the next European Council meeting which will discuss the relationship between the EU and Turkey. I cannot say what the outcome of the European Council will be. A report by the High Representative Josep Borrell is due very soon and will be the basis for discussion,” she added.
Asked about the bilateral relations between Cyprus and France and how these can be further enhanced, Grenet-Catalano said that “our bilateral relationship is excellent." She noted that she is looking forward to bringing this excellence a step further. "In the political sector maybe we could work more on the European issues, because France will be the President of the European Union Council at the beginning of next year," she added.
Grenet-Catalano said that "we have high expectations, we have ambitious goals for this Presidency and we hope that Cyprus will stand by our side and will be active at our side on those issues."
She said that in the defence sector, Cyprus and France have a really wonderful relationship. "We are very thankful to Cyprus for all the facilities we are provided within the ports and the airports for our vessels and aircrafts. Of course, there will be new training activities because Cyprus is a close partner, it’s a friend and we are used to exercise in order to improve the inter-operability between our forces. That means how our forces can better operate together. So, we continue with these exercises bilaterally, but also in other more enlarged formats," she added.
Asked if more visits by French air carrier Charles de Gaulle should be expected in Cyprus, the Ambassador said that “I cannot be too much explicit for the time being as far as the Charles de Gaulle and the aircraft carrier group. A new campaign has started. The Charles de Gaulle left Toulon recently. This mission is Clemenceau 2021. So, probably there will be some activities in Cyprus, but later on in spring."
She added that "in the economic field there is a potential to develop, to further our relationship as far as trade is concerned, but also to foster investments. And we count very much in the innovative sector such as the digital sector, but also renewable energy. France has considerable expertise in that field and Cyprus has a great potential in that field."
Moreover, she stressed the importance of enhancing relations in the education sector and improve the Francophonie in Cyprus. "We are working hard with Education Minister, Prodromos Prodromou, on this issue and I hope that we can bring back the French lessons at all levels in high school," she stressed. “The French school in Nicosia and the French Institute have seen an increase in attendance, something we are very happy about,” she added.
She said that she is very much in favour of more and more Cypriot students going to France to study, noting that "what is not very much known is that you can study in English in France also. We have more than 1500 programmes taught in English and tuition fees are affordable."
Asked how Cyprus and France can cooperate in the framework of the French EU Presidency, during the first six months of 2022, Grenet-Catalano said that “we consider that we have very close positions with Cyprus on numerous issues. We just want to further our dialogue on those issues and, if possible, to have Cyprus to be active and be with us in order to reach the ambitious goals that we have for this Presidency.”
Asked about Paris` position with regard to the trilateral cooperation schemes which Cyprus and Greece have developed with countries in the region, the Ambassador said that “we consider these initiatives as positive as we consider any initiative to foster, to increase dialogue and cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean region, in order to foster the stability of this region.”
“These initiatives are very positive and very good. For instance, the new Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum is going to be active in the coming months and we hope to join that Forum, because we consider that it is very much important to dialogue and to coordinate on those very strategic issues such as Energy and resources. Any kind of dialogue in the region will be good for the security of the region,” she stressed.
Referring to the Covid-19 pandemic, Grenet-Catalano said that “if we did not have the EU and this cooperation in order to get the vaccines and all the coordination, I am sure we would not have done better. And European solidarity as far as the economic recovery is concerned was also very good. We managed to show solidarity and it was very much important”.
She expressed the belief that Cyprus has managed quite well the crisis, “with a very cautious, very serious approach to the pandemic.”
Moreover, she expressed concern about the continuous closure of the crossing points in Cyprus. "Of course, both sides have to take measures to tackle the pandemic but the side-effects on people-to-people contacts are worrisome. So, I hope that both parties will find workable solutions and ways to coordinate better on this issue as well as the distribution of vaccines. I think it is in the interest of the whole population in Cyprus,” she added.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017, at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, ended inconclusively. The UN Secretary-General invited all parties involved to attend an informal five-plus-one meeting on the Cyprus issue in Geneva, Switzerland, from 27 to 29 April 2021.