NEWS

Call for flags, anthems as Cypriots talk

The leaders of Cyprus’s two communities may not have agreed on a UN plan to end their island’s division, but the UN and EU are already moving ahead with the details that will accompany any agreement. Yesterday, President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash invited artists and composers to design a future common state’s single flag and national anthem, the UN announced in Nicosia. And the European Commission proposed an international donor conference to provide the cash needed to make a settlement work. Clerides and Denktash have a Feb. 28 deadline to reach agreement. Both want improvements in UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan, but Denktash objects to basic principles, making it unlikely the deadline will be met. Denktash has come under unprecedented pressure from his own people to sign so that Turkish-Cypriots can join the EU next year as part of a united Cyprus. Last week he objected that Annan’s plan would compel the resettlement of some 50,000 people in northern Cyprus and that no help had been planned for them. Yesterday, Guenter Verheugen, the European commissioner in charge of enlargement, presented the EU’s proposal. «In this crucial phase of the UN negotiations aiming to reach a settlement in Cyprus, the international community should express solidarity,» he told the European Parliament’s foreign relations committee. «This means that it should be ready to support the costs linked to a political solution and the reconciliation of the two communities in Cyprus.» He said that the EU itself was ready to provide considerable financial support as soon as a settlement is reached to help overcome economic disparities on the island. The international community’s support would provide the necessary assurances and guarantees for the future of those people affected by a comprehensive settlement, the Commission said. «The conference should be convened as soon as a settlement is reached and endorsed by the Turkish and Greek Cypriots. As a first step, the European Commission would be prepared to make a needs assessment and to contact countries and international institutions which are ready to contribute and to provide their expertise,» it said. Clerides and Denktash announced the flag and anthem competition so as to meet UN deadlines for a comprehensive solution. «The parties agreed that this procedure needs to be set in motion if a flag and anthem were to be ready to be included in a completed agreement by Feb. 28,» the UN said. But, they warned, «it should not be taken as an indication of the state of play in the ongoing negotiations.»