NEWS

Cyprus ‘wave’ rises

President Tassos Papadopoulos of Cyprus arrived in Athens last night for talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis today, as Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash consulted with Turkish political and military leaders, in view of the Cypriot leaders’ scheduled meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in The Hague on Monday. Simitis met with Foreign Minister George Papandreou and other senior aides to prepare for today’s and Monday’s meetings. Sources believe that much will hinge on the outcome of Denktash’s talks in Turkey. Annan, speaking in New York late on Tuesday, urged the Cypriot leaders to agree to his proposal for referendums on his plan to reunite the island. Denktash said he had already replied «No.» Papadopoulos met yesterday with the National Council, which brings together the leaders of Greek-Cypriot parties. They will meet again on Saturday after the president returns from Athens. «What must be clear is that if this opportunity is missed, I’m not sure when it is going to come around again,» Annan said after briefing the Security Council on his talks. «We have a wave and if we ride that wave now, I think we’ll be successful. If we let it pass, I’m not sure the opportunity will come around again, if ever,» he said. «I would urge the leaders not to be closed-minded, to undertake very serious and constructive consultations with their own people, with the two motherlands, and come to The Hague in a constructive mood,» Annan said. «They have a chance to make history and I hope they will not let it pass.» He said the deadlines «are real and genuine» and can’t be changed, because if there are no referendums on March 30 «I don’t see how they can get into the EU jointly on (April) 16th.» Annan stuck to his policy of directing his reunification proposal at the two communities of the island if their leaders do not agree to it. «What is required is political will and determination to make it happen and I know that the leaders can summon the wisdom and the courage to let it happen,» Annan said. «The people would want to see a united Cyprus enter the European Union and I hope the leaders will give them a chance to speak up and not deprive them of a voice.» The European Commission said yesterday that it will hold an international conference of potential donors on March 21 to back a peace deal.