New Cyprus proposals on the table

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is due in Athens today as part of his push for a solution to the Cyprus problem by Friday’s deadline. But Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who met yesterday with Cyprus’s newly elected president, Tassos Papadopoulos, said it was «most unlikely» a deal would be reached even by the end of March. Parts of a revised blueprint for a «United Cyprus Republic» on the basis of Annan’s plan was leaked to the press yesterday. It included an offer by Britain to hand over 50 percent of the Sovereign Base Areas that it has in Cyprus (or 116 square kilometers), 10 percent of which would go to the Turkish-Cypriot part if the two sides accept the deal. «When I say that it is most unlikely (to reach a solution), I am not talking about February 28, but I am talking about the process itself, which is to be concluded on March 30, the end of March,» Simitis told a joint news conference with Papadopoulos. Cyprus is to sign an accession treaty with the EU on April 16. To do so, Greek and Turkish Cypriots must first accept the plan in referendums that are scheduled for March 30. Simitis stressed that nothing would jeopardize Cyprus’s accession. In Ankara, Annan met with Turkey’s governing party leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and said there was an «urgency to move ahead and try and come to an acceptable solution as quickly as possible. We have a unique window of opportunity to get a united Cyprus into the EU… We hope that with good will and determination we will get an agreement and not miss this unique opportunity.» Annan said he will announce «in the next day or so» amendments to his plan. Erdogan told reporters he believed the changes will make a solution more likely. «I hope that talks between the two sides will bring about the solution we desire in Cyprus and I believe this business can be finished with the referendums to be held on both sides at the end of March,» he said. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash ruled out a deal by Friday. «The two sides are as far apart as before,» he said. «They are offering cake to the Greek Cypriots and peanuts to us,» he said of the planned amendments.