NEWS

Annan to Cypriots: Seize the day

Even as the December 12 deadline approaches, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday that Greek and Turkish Cypriots still had enough time to reach agreement before the EU summit. Foreign Minister George Papandreou flew to Ankara, where he will meet today with his counterpart, Yasar Yakis, and others in a bid to push Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots to accept Annan’s proposal for negotiations aimed at a settlement before the summit. British and US officials were in Ankara yesterday while the foreign minister of Denmark, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, was in Athens, a day after visiting Ankara. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who, unlike the Greek Cypriots, has still not stated clearly whether he accepts Annan’s proposal, urged the EU not to accept a divided Cyprus as a member at its summit. In New York, Annan told reporters time had not run out. «We do have time to come to an agreement… We are today at the third of December, and we have almost nine to 10 days and I think that is plenty of time,» he said. «The issues are not new… and luckily the same leaders have been working with us on these issues for about 25 years, and we do have time to come to an agreement,» he added. «My dream is to see a united Cyprus admitted to the European Union and a Cyprus that will enter the EU and prosper as one nation,» Annan said. «I think the people have gone through this conflict for several decades and we now have an opportunity to end it and I hope the two leaders will seize the opportunity and bring peace and stability to the island and make history.» Denktash said in a letter to the Danish EU presidency that he would respond to Annan’s plan soon. «In the meantime, I hope that the whole process will not be jeopardized by the EU at the Copenhagen summit by admitting ‘Cyprus’ while the UN is exercising every effort to reach common ground between the two parties,» he said in the letter made available to Reuters. Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said in Athens he was optimistic a deal on Cyprus could be clinched before the summit. «I think that there is a very good possibility that we will have an agreement on Cyprus before the end of the meeting in Copenhagen,» Moeller said. «We have to take everything into consideration in Copenhagen and we will take everything into consideration in Copenhagen,» he said. Cyprus’s National Council drew up a catalog of points related to Annan’s plan that it wants to negotiate, another on parts which it wants changed and a third on others which it wants scratched from the proposal. All these points relate to executive power, territory, the return of refugees and property, security and problem-solving mechanisms. President Glafcos Clerides is expected to give the list to Annan’s special envoy, Alvaro de Soto, today. Neither he nor Denktash met Annan’s deadline last Saturday to present these proposals. De Soto told Cyprus’s state broadcaster RIK yesterday that the positions of the two sides would determine whether a solution could be found by December 12. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, in Ankara, called on Turkey to support Annan’s plan. «What we want to see is… a firm date set for the beginning of Turkey’s negotiations toward accession in the EU,» he said. «Separately, we want to see very fast progress made on the proposals of the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, (to reunify Cyprus) with a view… that there be an agreement by December 12.» In Athens, Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen said it may not be possible to give Turkey a firm date.