Deadline for Cyprus plan today

Today will be critical for the Cyprus issue, as the National Council of Greek-Cypriot political leaders will meet under President Glafcos Clerides to decide whether to accept a UN proposal as the basis for negotiations toward a comprehensive solution of the island’s problem. In Athens, Prime Minister Costas Simitis will meet today with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the party that has been given a mandate to the form the next Turkish government. The rare high-level visit by a Turkish official is expected to concentrate on the Cyprus issue and Turkey’s campaign to be given a date by the EU for the start of accession talks. The UN plan has been devised to end Cyprus’s division before the EU’s Copenhagen summit on December 12. Therefore, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who presented the proposal last Monday, has set today as a deadline for replies as to whether Greek and Turkish Cypriots agree to hold talks on the basis of the plan. Greek and Greek-Cypriot officials have indicated that they will agree to negotiations, although they are not happy with all of the plan’s provisions. Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot officials have also said that the plan could be discussed. But they have chafed at today’s deadline, noting that veteran Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash had been admitted to hospital again in New York, where he underwent two heart operations in October. The Athens News Agency quoted sources in New York, saying that Denktash, 78, had suffered a pulmonary edema. His aide Ergun Olgun said that the Turkish Cypriots would not reply to Annan today. It was not clear when Denktash will leave the hospital. Turkey’s powerful military evaluated Annan’s proposal and decided that it was up to the government to decide on the plan, the left-leaning Radikal newspaper reported yesterday. Turkey’s Prime Minister-designate Abdullah Gul, a deputy of Erdogan’s, said on Saturday that Annan’s plan was a «negotiable document.» He told CNN-Turk that: «We have to find a solution to the Cyprus issue. Otherwise, our power in Cyprus weakens. We have to work positively for a solution… The document includes favorable aspects but also problematic aspects.» The EU’s foreign policy and defense chief, Javier Solana, congratulated Gul on Saturday and urged him to tackle two issues that concern the EU: Cyprus and the European Security and Defense Policy, which is being held up by Ankara’s objections to the EU’s force using NATO assets. «The new government will face historical challenges. It will also have the occasion to take courageous decisions, notably on Cyprus as well as the ESDP,» Solana said. Clerides, who was in Athens from Friday until yesterday, met with Simitis and opposition leaders. «We will try to reach agreement without delay. But this depends on the will of the other side as well,» Simitis told a joint news conference on Saturday. «But we will under no circumstances accept something that is not acceptable to us.» Warning against the dangers of not solving the problem, he added, «What we want is a solution that will guarantee peace and cooperation on the island,» he said. «And which will be viable,» Clerides added. The Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus unanimously voted against the UN plan, saying it legalized the Turkish invasion of 1974. The Church of Greece is to discuss it on Wednesday. Today, Foreign Minister George Papandreou will brief Archbishop Christodoulos and Simitis will meet with opposition leader Costas Karamanlis. A poll found that 52 percent of Greek-Cypriots were opposed to the proposal.

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