Annan: Cyprus at ‘critical’ point

A solution to the Cyprus issue depends on the political will of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed yesterday during a visit by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is pushing for a deal by Friday. Annan stressed that this was a «critical time» and an opportunity for Cyprus which might not be repeated. «What is needed now is political will, and the Cypriot and Greek sides have shown a will to take a new step. But they cannot take it on their own,» Simitis told a joint news conference. «The Turkish-Cypriot and Turkish sides must want to follow,» he added. «We believe that if the political will is there, there can be a solution within the framework that has been determined.» In a telephone call with US President George W. Bush (see below), Simitis noted the need for Washington to use its influence with Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots to end the deadlock on Cyprus. Bush promised Simitis that he remained interested personally in the solution of the problem, government sources said. Annan said that he had been encouraged by his contacts with Turkish officials on Monday. Turkey’s ruling party leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told his party’s parliamentary group yesterday that a solution was closer than ever, commenting on revisions to the UN plan that Annan is to present in Cyprus. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, however, has ruled out agreement by the Feb. 28 deadline. Arriving in Athens, Annan said of the problem: «There is an extraordinary opportunity at hand to solve it, and I wish to make every effort in my power to see that the opportunity is not missed.» He stressed that for a united Cyprus to sign an accession treaty with the EU on April 16, a lot of technical work must be done. «If this opportunity is missed, it is not clear whether another will occur any time soon,» he said. «It is, therefore, easy to understand that decision time has arrived, and why the parties should adhere to the goal of reaching agreement on 28 February. Perhaps that goal can slip a few days, but to go much beyond 28 February would doom the prospect of a reunited Cyprus signing the Treaty of Accession,» Annan said. «The revisions I have in mind will not come as a surprise to the parties. They are the culmination of the most intensive process of negotiations that has ever occurred on the Cyprus problem,» he added. «My revised plan represents a best effort by the United Nations to help the parties reach an agreement. The rest is up to them, to Greece and Turkey, and ultimately, to the people on both sides.»