NEWS

UN chief pushes, pulls

Faced with objections and demands for clarification from the leaders of Cyprus, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday gave the leaders of the two communities of Cyprus a deadline of March 28 to say whether they agreed to hold separate referenda on April 6, news agencies quoted Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot officials saying in The Hague. Earlier, Annan had said he wanted an answer as to whether the two agreed to his proposal or committed themselves to putting it to their communities in separate referenda on March 30 so that Cyprus could be reunited by April 16, when it is to sign an accession treaty with the EU. A Greek-Cypriot official accompanying Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos at The Hague yesterday told The Associated Press that the Greek Cypriots had agreed in principle to hold a referendum, pending further clarification of Annan’s plan. Annan, Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash were meeting late into the night, following a day of intensive meetings. On Sunday, Papadopoulos met with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and the Cypriot National Council, which is accompanying him. He also held talks with US special coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston and British envoy Lord David Hannay. Denktash, citing sudden illness, called off meetings with Weston and Hannay, who have been pushing him to accept Annan’s plan. Before leaving Istanbul on Sunday, Denktash repeated his opposition to the plan. «There are some important points in the Annan plan which have to change,» he said. «If these changes are not made we will not accept the plan.» Annan has repeatedly warned that this could be the last time the UN concentrates so intensively on Cyprus and has said the plan cannot change radically. Denktash received strong backing from Ankara in recent days. After a five-hour meeting on Sunday with ruling party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul and senior Foreign Ministry officials, Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis argued for more time. «Turkey cannot sign any document before it evaluates the results of the referenda,» he said. «There are gaps in the Annan plan which are expected to be filled by the two sides by March 24. If Turkey signs such a document at this time, this means that it accepts these gaps.» Erdogan, in remarks published yesterday by the liberal daily Radikal, accused Annan of breaking promises regarding his latest revision to his plan. «Promises were not kept,» he charged. «In the beginning we were hopeful on this third plan, because we were told certain things on the sovereignty of the Turkish side and the issues of territory and immigrants,» he told Radikal. «But when the plan came before us we saw that the situation was not the way it was said to be.»