German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has sought to allay Greek Cypriot fears that a UN court ruling affirming the legality of Kosovo’s independence could boost prospects for international recognition of the island’s Turkish Cypriot state, currently recognized only by Turkey.
Westerwelle, speaking during a visit to Greek Cyprus on Friday, said the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on Kosovo’s status does not apply to Cyprus or other countries. The decision “has nothing to do with any other cases in the world,” he said. “This is a very specific case and it is a unique decision concerning a specific historic situation.”
The ICJ ruled on Thursday that Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Kosovo was legal under international law, dealing a blow to Serbia, which vowed never to accept its former province as a separate state and warned the ruling could embolden separatist movements around the world. Cyprus has been divided into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north since 1974.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), which runs the north, is not recognized by any country other than Turkey.
Turkey: Kosovo ruling presents opportunity for Balkan peace
Turkey has welcomed an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that declared Kosovo's independence legal, saying it could pave the way for peace and stability in the troubled Balkans.
The court's long-awaited “advisory opinion” was released on Thursday. In a statement issued later in the day, the Foreign Ministry said it “should be considered a new window of opportunity for the establishment of lasting peace and stability in the Balkans as well as for the enhancement of regional cooperation. Reading the decision from that perspective would certainly serve the common good of the region.”
Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Ankara's welcoming stance for an independent Kosovo strained its ties with Serbia, but tension eventually subsided and Turkish-Serbian ties ahve improved drastically over the past year. Earlier this month, the two countries agreed to abolish visa requirements for their nationals.
The Foreign Ministry reiterated Turkish support for Kosovo's independence, saying that the preservation of Kosovo's territorial integrity was of great importance and expressed hope that the ICJ ruling “will give fresh impetus to efforts aimed at developing a positive and constructive dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.”
It also called for Kosovo's integration with European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. “We are happy to observe that a European integration perspective is shared by all the countries in the region. This vision, which will shape the region's common future, provides the necessary ground for settling existing problems in the culture of conciliation, and for transforming the Balkans into a region of peace, stability and prosperity,” the ministry's statement said. İstanbul Today’s Zaman
With reunification talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders -- under way since September 2008 -- making little progress, Turkey and the KKTC have called for a deadline, saying the talks cannot go on forever. In a sign that Turkey could revise its policy of pushing for the reunification of the island and start seeking international recognition for the KKTC, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek said this week “everyone will go their separate ways” if a solution cannot be achieved by end of 2010. The Greek Cypriots, on the other hand, are against any deadline.
The Turkish government supported a UN plan to reunite the island in 2004, and so did an overwhelming majority of the Turkish Cypriots who voted in a referendum. But the plan failed in the end because it was rejected by the Greek Cypriots. Since then, the Greek Cypriots have joined the European Union as the representative of the entire island and have been blocking progress in Turkey’s efforts to join the 27-nation bloc, seeking concessions on Cyprus.
On Thursday, Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou said his government would not allow the opening of accession negotiations on eight policy chapters if Turkey presses the EU to agree to trade with the Turkish Cypriots, a promise the bloc made in 2004 to reward the Turkish Cypriots for their “yes” vote but has failed to happen so far due to the Greek Cypriot opposition.
Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia has caused concerns in countries with restive minorities that it could set a precedent across the world. Western countries say Kosovo is a one-off case because of Serbia’s repression in the 1990s and does not justify secession in other parts of the world.
From the outset, this caused a major split between the 192 UN member states over whether to recognize Kosovo. Sixty-nine, including the United States and many of its allies, have so far done so but the rest have not, many waiting to see what the ICJ said. Turkey is in the first group, being one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo. Germany also recognizes Kosovo while Greek Cyprus does not.
In a statement released after the ICJ ruling, the Greek Cypriot government put on a brave face, saying the world court differentiated the issue of Cyprus from that of Kosovo. In a statement, it also reaffirmed its “unwavering position of respect to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, which includes the Kosovo and Metohija province.”
Kosovo, an autonomous Serbian province, unilaterally declared independence from Serbia two years ago and remains under UN administration. The ICJ said in an advisory opinion on Thursday that the 2008 Kosovo independence declaration does not violate general international law.
Westerwelle became the first ever German foreign minister to visit Greek Cyprus. He is scheduled to pay a visit to Turkey early next week to discuss, among other things, the situation concerning Cyprus talks.