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At UN, Cypriot President on Ships to Syria from Famagusta, "Illegal Ghost City," Raises Questions

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, September 27 -- Tassos Papadopoulos, the President of Cyprus, took questions from reporters at the UN on Thursday. Inner City Press asked about controversy surrounding a recent boat trip, slated to lead to ferry service, between Syria and the contested port of Famagusta, which Papadopoulos described as a "ghost city" illegal controlled by the Turkish-Cypriot army. Inner City Press asked, what is the status of your negotiations with Syria?

            "We have a firm and solemn assurance that the trip was not subject to an official agreement between the Turkish-Cypriot authorities so-called and the Syrian government," Papadopoulos said. "It's a private arrangement between a shipping company and the Chamber of Commerce of Latakia" in Syria.

            As described by Papadopoulos, there are mysteries still to be resolved. "Where are the shipping documents? Where is the legality of leaving a harbor declared illegal by a sovereign nation? Where are the travel documents of the passengers?"

Tassos Papadopoulos at the UN

            In a sense, the incident may raise questions about not only immigration but also anti-terrorism safeguards in 2007. If ships can leave from unrecognized territories and leave no paperwork, what else might be done? There are similar questions about the Turkish-Cypriote operations of such banks as HSBC. As to the ships, Papadopoulos said that Cyprus "has had long and friendly relations with Syria, a great friend of Cyprus for a great number of years. I am hopeful we will resolve this."

            Inner City Press asked, "Meaning no ferry service?"

            "I hope we will resolve it in a proper way," President Papadopoulos said. Video here, from Minute 18:24, subsequently picked up by AP.

            Separately, Papadopoulos met on Wednesday with the U.S.'s Nick Burns, who emerged to say that there should be a new UN envoy to Cyprus. Papadopoulos asked for more deliberation, but thanked Burns for his support. Burns previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Greece, and this week also met, among others, with the President of Sri Lanka, click here for Inner City Press' Sri Lanka story.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540