NEWS

UN fears delay could derail plan

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan pressed yesterday for negotiations on his plan for Cyprus to get under way «urgently,» a day after Greek Cypriots met his deadline and accepted the proposal as the basis for negotiations. A Turkish-Cypriot delegation in New York, though, sent a letter to Annan asking him to show flexibility in his timetable because their leader, Rauf Denktash, was in ill health and a new Turkish government had not taken office yet. Annan, who is trying to get a formal agreement from Greek and Turkish Cypriots ahead of the EU’s summit in Copenhagen on December 12, issued a statement through his spokesman expressing concern at the danger of missing deadlines. According to his plan, an agreement could be finalized on April 16 after separate referenda by Greek and Turkish Cypriots on March 30. «A way to get negotiations under way needs to be found urgently,» Annan’s statement said. He plans to meet his special adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, in Europe at the end of the week to see what can be done «to bring the process forward,» it said. «The secretary-general is very concerned… A way to get negotiations under way needs to be found urgently, because further delay could result in the disappearance of the opportunity,» the statement said. «The plan the secretary-general has submitted has a calendar designed to allow the parties to seize this opportunity, and that requires the main issues to be resolved prior to the Copenhagen European Council. The calendar is part and parcel of the plan.» The EU would like to see a united Cyprus before its Dec. 12 summit, which is to decide on its enlargement, but as the commissioner in charge of enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, repeated after a meeting of foreign minsters late on Monday, the EU must be ready to accept Cyprus without the political problem being solved. Foreign Minister George Papandreou said that no one objected. Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday briefed his Cabinet and opposition party leaders on Cyprus and on his meeting with the leader of Turkey’s new ruling party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Monday. «Even if the solution does not come before Copenhagen, Cyprus’s accession must go ahead,» Simitis said last night. He praised the spirit of consensus on Cyprus (aside from «some reservations») expressed by opposition parties. «This is a precious asset for our country. It shows that Greece can and will rise to the occasion,» he added. Earlier, Simitis told the Cabinet that the results of his meeting with Erdogan were positive, adding that Erdogan was in favor of the Orthodox seminary on the Turkish island of Halki being reopened. It was closed in 1971. Simitis set out six targets that Athens and Nicosia would aim for in the negotiations on Annan’s plan, sources said. Regarding the proposed constitution, there should not be a joint presidency and the transition period should be cut from three years to one; the number of Turkish settlers (whom Greek Cypriots reckon at 150,000 and the UN 60,000) should be determined and some of them should return to Turkey; regarding territory, the map chosen should allow the greatest possible return of Greek-Cypriot property; Greeks visiting Cyprus should not require visas and the transition period for settlement, ownership and movement should be reduced; Cyprus should participate on the political side of the EU’s defense force; Greek and Turkish troops on Cyprus should be kept to a minimum.