NEWS

Time ripe to solve Cyprus, Simitis says

The time is ripe for a solution to the Cyprus issue, Prime Minister Costas Simitis told Parliament yesterday during a debate that followed the island’s invitation to become a full member of the European Union and other results of last week’s summit in Copenhagen. New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis, who had not congratulated the government on helping achieve Cyprus’s unconditional accession, managed to include it among the agents of victory. «We believe that work was done by all – the government, the Foreign Ministry, the diplomats. We all contributed – you in government and all of us in the opposition,» he added. But he stressed that the person ultimately responsible for Cyprus’s accession was his namesake, the late statesman Constantine Karamanlis, who got Greece into the European Community in 1981. Simitis said that Cyprus’s accession would help end the island’s division. He has been pushing for the two sides on the island to reach agreement by Feb. 28 on a proposal presented by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. «Conditions have matured for the last wretched loose end in Europe, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, to be tied up,» Simitis told Parliament. «We believe in the need for a constructive negotiation, not just any negotiation, but one aimed at a viable, just and functional solution to the Cyprus problem,» he said. Turning to the role Turkey can play, and its effort to get closer to the EU, Simitis said, «The Green Line on Cyprus separates Ankara from Europe.» Stressing the need for a deal, he said, «All problems have a time for their solution, otherwise new dangers arise.» Karamanlis said he did not believe Annan’s proposal, as it stands, made for a just and viable solution. He said that a painful compromise could lead to further trouble. Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga repeated her party’s claim that the Copenhagen summit «had made official the division of Cyprus as only 62 percent of the island has acceded to the EU.» She also criticized Annan’s proposal. Left Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos said conditions were now better for relations between Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.