NEWS

Annan: Both Cyprus sides must act now

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan set the scene for his talks with the Cypriot leaders in The Hague with an appeal for them to seize the opportunity for a «rendezvous with history.» In a comment published yesterday by the International Herald Tribune, Annan stressed that this was a last chance for the island to be reunited in time for the signing of the EU accession treaty on April 16. «If, and only if, they say yes, the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will be given the chance to vote to reunify Cyprus,» Annan wrote. «On each side, some are calling for more time to negotiate. However, the third revision of my plan is the culmination of negotiations that began in late 1999. The leaders have not been able to achieve breakthroughs during the process without UN input. It is hard to see how they could agree to rework the text in time for the March 30 referendum,» he said. «If a united Cyprus signs the accession treaty, EU membership will become a cornerstone of peace-building on the island. Turkish Cypriots as well as Greek Cypriots will enjoy the fruits of EU membership. Turkey’s European path will be clearer, and Greek-Turkish rapprochement will be cemented,» Annan argued. «If a divided Cyprus signs the treaty, the favorable conditions that exist today for a settlement will be radically altered: The division of the island will be further entrenched, Greek-Turkish relations will be set back, and Turkey’s European aspirations will be harmed. That is why putting off any further a decision to go to referendum is tantamount to rejecting any solution any time soon – and why the choice is not between my plan and a radically different one. The real choice is between my plan and no solution at all. And I believe the plan is a fair and honorable compromise bringing real benefits to each side,» Annan wrote. «At a time of tension and discord in the world, the Christian Greek Cypriots and the Muslim Turkish Cypriots have a rendezvous with history… Decision time has arrived. At the helm on each side are men of thorough experience in the Cyprus problem. The challenge for them now is to become the leaders of the Cyprus solution… Opportunity beckons. It should not be missed,» Annan wrote.