Annan plans to appeal directly to Cypriots if leaders’ talks fail

As 70,000 Turkish Cypriots marched in northern Nicosia, in the biggest demonstration they have held demanding an end to the island’s division, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appeared to be working toward getting Cyprus’s people to give their opinion on his reunification plan, sidestepping their leaders if they reject it. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who has rejected the demands of mass demonstrations, yesterday rejected Annan’s second revision for a federal United Cyprus Republic modeled on Switzerland. «There is trickery. It is a sleight of hand,» Denktash said after a meeting with Annan, outgoing Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and newly-elected President Tassos Papadopoulos, who will be invested today. Papadopoulos said the 450-page blueprint needed time to be evaluated in its entirety. In Athens, Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who had met with Annan on Monday, told his Cabinet, «Between March 10 and 14, the representatives of the two sides (on Cyprus) will be summoned to The Hague and will be asked to sign a declaration that they will put this plan to referendums by the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities.» Annan’s blueprint is for two separate referendums to be held by March 30 so that a reunited Cyprus can sign an accession treaty with the EU on April 16. Sources in Athens say that Annan was led to believe by his contacts in Ankara that a referendum that Denktash has proposed for next Sunday could be a way of getting him to relinquish the Turkish-Cypriot leadership. This would open the way to the Turkish Cypriots accepting Annan’s blueprint. But the idea of holding a referendum without the political leadership having signed onto the proposed solution creates problems for Papadopoulos. The president-elect has been in constant contact with Simitis in the past few days. Athens and Nicosia have agreed that the Greek Cypriots will not announce their verdict on the plan unless this is done simultaneously with the Turkish Cypriots. «And this will be achieved only when both are convinced that there is no more room for negotiations,» Simitis told the Cabinet. «The next 10 days will be critical,» he added. The second revised plan was made public yesterday, the deadline that the UN had set for the two sides on Cyprus to reach a deal. The blueprint concedes a key demand by Denktash, that the United Cyprus Republic be made up of «constituent» states rather than «component» states. Greek-Cypriot sources said that the plan was not as bad as purported leaks had suggested, but that there were many murky bits that needed clarifying. Among its new provisions, the return of all Greek-Cypriot refugees and the departure of Turkish troops will be delayed until Turkey joins the EU one day, a European affairs minister will represent Cyprus’s presidential council at the EU, assisted by a foreign minister, and the leaders of the two communities will be co-presidents for a transitional 30-month period.