NEWS

Monday is UN deadline for Cypriots

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to meet with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in The Hague on Monday. He has asked them to tell him whether they accept his proposal for their island’s reunification or to commit themselves to holding referendums on it. If there is no deal, only Greek Cypriots will sign an EU accession treaty on April 16. The Greek-Cypriot side is to decide on how it will reply to Annan when Papadopoulos chairs a meeting of the National Council today. But, according to government spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides, the Greek Cypriots may take their final decision on Monday, at The Hague, where the National Council members will accompany Papadopoulos. Foreign Minister George Iacovou downplayed the chances of a breakthrough at The Hague. «We want a solution to the Cyprus problem and we are willing to engage in serious negotiations, but it’s practically impossible to finalize this within the narrow time frame,» Iacovou told Cypriot state television, Agence France-Presse reported. In the Turkish-occupied part of Nicosia, Denktash yesterday addressed a mass rally of his supporters, saying that he would go to The Hague to tell Annan that he would not accept his plan, that it should be changed radically or a new one submitted which recognizes the «reality» on the island; in other words, Denktash insists on international recognition of his breakaway state. Denktash claimed that 100,000 people took part in yesterday’s rally, prompting him to call out: «Where is Thomas Weston to get the message? The people vote today and they say no to the referendum.» This was a reference to the US Cyprus mediator’s presence at a demonstration last week by some 70,000 Turkish Cypriots demanding Denktash’s agreement to Annan’s plan. Agencies put the number of people at Denktash’s rally at about 25,000. The pro-Denktash party that holds half the seats in the breakaway state’s «parliament» boycotted a session aimed at deciding on a reply to Annan yesterday, preventing a debate.