NEWS

Ten momentous days for Cyprus

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan ended five days of intensive negotiations in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus yesterday, missing yesterday’s deadline for agreement on the island’s reunification but he said that President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash had agreed to meet with him in The Hague on March 10. If they do not agree to his plan for an end to Cyprus’s division, he will want a commitment that they will allow their communities to vote on his proposal in two referendums. «We are reaching the end of the road and I am not sure if such an opportunity will ever come again,» Annan said at Larnaca airport before he left for New York. «I think we should consider this very carefully,» he said of his idea for the people to give their verdict on his plan even if their leaders reject it. Annan said it would be a «sad day for the island» if his plan failed. He wants the referendums to be held by March 30 to give a reunited Cyprus the opportunity to sign an accession treaty with the EU on April 16. The United States, which has supported Annan’s efforts, came out strongly in favor of his proposal. The State Department called for support from both sides but noted a mass rally by Turkish Cypriots in favor of the plan on Thursday, putting pressure directly on Denktash. «Many Cypriots fervently desire» a solution, spokesman Richard Boucher said. «The United States strongly supports this initiative by the secretary-general and believes that the United Nations’ revised settlement plan represents a just, viable and durable solution to the division of Cyprus,» he said. «Putting the UN plan to referenda is the most democratic and constructive way to determine the future of the people of Cyprus… Cypriots should have a chance to say ‘yes’ to their future together and in Europe.» Like Annan, he warned, «This is an opportunity which may not come again.» Papadopoulos said he would discuss Annan’s revised proposal with the National Council of Greek-Cypriot party leaders. It will meet on Tuesday. Papadopoulos will visit Athens on Thursday. Denktash referred to the plan as «rotten» and called for a completely new one – something that Annan has ruled out. «What we want is… the outline of a formula within the framework of new parameters,» Denktash told Turkey’s CNN Turk channel hours after Annan’s departure. Asked whether he meant the Annan peace plan should be dropped, he said, «I think so.» He claimed that revisions to the plan, first presented on November 11, had not been enough. «Most changes were in favor of the Greek Cypriots, and a few were in our favor, but the essence of this plan is rotten,» Denktash said. But he said he would go to the meeting with Annan in The Hague. «We agreed to go to tell him whether we would go to a referendum or not,» he told reporters. Before leaving, Annan said, «I haven’t asked Mr Denktash to sign the plan. What I have clearly asked both leaders is that they put the settlement to referenda and let the people decide.»