Annan, in Ankara, sees hope for deal

Kicking off a week of intensive efforts to save his proposal for the reunification of Cyprus, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Ankara yesterday and said he was optimistic a deal could be reached by Friday’s deadline. Cypriot President-elect Tassos Papadopoulos arrived in Athens for talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis today, and Annan’s Cyprus envoy, Alvaro de Soto, gave Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots a new framework for dialogue resulting from his recent mediating efforts between the two sides, the Greek government spokesman said. «I’m still hopeful and I think we can do it if the will is there,» Annan said at Ankara’s Esenboga Airport. He will meet with Turkish officials today before visiting Athens tomorrow and going to Nicosia on Wednesday. «The European Union is due to meet for the signature of the treaty of accession of 10 new members, including Cyprus,» Annan said, referring to the April 16 ceremony. «I hope that the treaty will be signed on behalf of a united Cyprus. This is also the strong preference of the EU,» he added. «For that to happen, the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots have to decide in separate simultaneous referendums on March 30 to approve a comprehensive settlement and bring about a new state of affairs,» Annan said. «For this to happen, the leaders must come to terms in time for those referendums to go forward. «My purpose here is therefore to discuss with the Turkish government, as I will do in Athens with the Greek authorities, how the two motherlands can rally in support of this last effort and assist the parties in coming to terms,» he said. «The opportunity is open. It is clearly in the interest of all, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Greece and Turkey to seize the opportunity now.» Regarding de Soto’s intensive negotiations in Nicosia, Athens and Ankara, Annan said, «In light of what we have been hearing from the parties, we have been carefully examining whether and how it might be possible to improve the plan while preserving the overall balance that it contains. The parties are aware of what we have in mind.» US and British envoys Thomas Weston and David Hannay are also in the region to push for a deal.