Cyprus' First Woman Diplomat to Washington
By Patrica Keegan
Stalemate on Cyprus
'Despite the changes that have taken place throughout the world, the Cyprus problem remains stalemated. The country is divided, the people are divided, nothing has changed. Other countries, embroiled in conflict for years-some even for centuries, are finding solutions. Look at South Africa, East and West Germany, Ireland. Remarkable changes have taken place all over the world, others have been willing to compromise and reach agreements. But Cyprus remains divided, the same situation continues. It is so frustrating!' says Ambassador Marcoullis, the new ambassador to Washington.
Cyprus' first woman ambassador to take up a post in Washington is not only frustrated, but saddened, by the current stalemate.
The northern part of Cyprus, comprising 38% of Cypriot land, has been under Turkish military occupation since 1974. Turkey has more than 30,000 troops in the region,and recent reports show increasing levels of armaments flowing into the area.
Since 1974, there have been several occasions when both sides seemed ready to work out a solution which would benefit all the people of this small island-but talks have always broken down. Now, the Greek Cypriots, who have practically begged for years for total demilitarization of the entire island, declared they are not going to leave themselves vulnerable to attack, and have ordered S-300 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia. In June of this year President Clerides called on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to undertake a personal initiative to achieve progress in reducing military tension on the island.
Hopes were raised to an all time high when President Clinton appointed his prime negotiatorRichard Holbrooke as his special envoy for Cyprus. With direct intervention by the U.S., surely an agreement could be reached to bring a viable conclusion to the raw divide which cuts though the very heart of the capital, Nicosia. Holbrooke went though a process of mediation with both sides, but to no avail. Holbrooke reiterated the U.S. position on a Cyprus solution, saying it should be based on 'a bizonal, bicommunal federation as prescribed by UN resolutions.' The two sides could not agree. Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash wants a confederation of two sovereign and equal states on the island. All hopes to return the island to the Cypriot people were once again thwarted.
President Clerides said, on October 1, during the celebration of the 38th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule, that the Turkish side has been 'hypocritically pretending' they want a solution based on a federation, when in fact they want a confederation. The President said that any confederation approach would have 'serious negative consequences resulting in the permanent division of Cyprus, increased alienation between the two communities and increased friction between Greece and Turkey.'
He does not believe there should be such divisions between the Cypriots. He called on the international community 'whose strategy regarding the Cyprus problem is served only by unification and cooperation and not by further division and confrontation,' to take effective action. 'What is required above all, is for the international community to intervene in a more decisive manner in the direction of the Turkish side'.
Any solution, the President stated, must be negotiated to assure security for both sides. Clerides envisions a federal constitution that will require a partnership and political equality of the constitutional parts.
In speaking with Ambassador Marcoullis, her love for the island of Cyprus is palpable. She has written a collection of poetry that defines her deep connection with the pain, beauty and pathos of her island.
'I wrote this collection in 1977 when I was a student in Finland. I was remembering my homeland, thinking about the past, the future, and the traumatic experience of the invasion.' She sees Cyprus as a source of inspiration for artists and poets because of its beauty and ancient, poignant history. During a recent speech on Cyprus to the Smithsonian Associates, she shared the following poem with the audience.
Having been to Cyprus in April 1991, I had, in a short space of time developed an appreciation for this 9000 year old civilization. Yet what stands out clearly in my mind were the tears on the face of my guide as I left her to walk cross the Green Line into the occupied area of Nicosia. She wanted to cross with me, but was forbidden because she was a Greek Cypriot. Though she was born in the Turkish occupied north, during the invasion her house in the north was bombed. She and her family fled, watching their home crumble in flames behind them. They could never return.
I spoke with women on both sides of the divide who believe it is crucial to come to know each other and to begin healing the past. There is no contact between the people. Denktash is adamantly opposed to cultural exchanges, which were started, but abruptly ended.
I asked the ambassador where the Cyprus people find hope for an ending to this long nightmare.
'We have remarkable stamina, which is why our people have endured throughout the centuries. Since the 1974 invasion, people have poured their energies into recovery. People who lost everything, home, livelihood, business, everything, had to start from scratch. Recovery, survival and then the drive to belong to different international structures, especially the European Union, has kept us focused. Now we are proud to say we are one of the most developed countries in the whole region, in the whole of Europe. Our economic indicators are much better than some European countries. It is our drive for survival that is keeping us going. Membership in the European Union will be a major accomplishment for Cyprus.'
Substantial accession negotiations between the European Union, Cyprus, and the other five candidate countries begin November 12. By unanimous decision the EU's target for Cyprus is to support 'a bizonal and bi-communal state based on the overall political settlement of the Cyprus issue on the basis of UN resolutions.' In his address to the United Nations, Wolfgang Schussel, Austrian Foreign Minister and EU Council President, stated: 'The EU stresses once again that the current status quo in Cyprus is not acceptable.' He reminded the General Assembly that Cyprus' accession to the EU would 'benefit all communities and help bring about peace and reconciliation.'
As a child, Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis was enthralled by the theater. She had dreams of becoming an actress, but fate sent her in another direction, as large and magnetic, to help her beloved country. She studied law and political science and completed a Ph.D. She served as consul in New York, and was a member of the Permanent Mission of Cyprus to the United Nations from 1982 until 1988, and returned to the Foreign Ministry until 1996 when she was posted as ambassador to Sweden with con-current accreditation for Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. She is married to Dr. George Marcoullis, a prominent oncologist- hematologist, and has a son, Panos, who is studying in the U.S.
Accession to the European Union, which Cyprus has worked long and hard to achieve, is now on the horizon, and with that comes an urgency for a solution to the problem. The European States, desiring a reunited Cyprus, are now involved in finding a solution. Despite her frustration, which is a composite reflection of the people of Cyprus, Ambassador Marcoullis is looking forward to important, positive changes in the coming year and the E U and the U.S.'s support for the new UN iniatiative currently underway.