‘End of the road’ for Cyprus plan

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s effort to reunite Cyprus after 29 years of division collapsed in the early hours yesterday after 20 hours of intensive, last-ditch negotiations at The Hague. But the Cypriot government, the Turkish-Cypriot leader, Greece and Turkey said negotiations should continue. The European Union and Greece warned Turkey that the failure to end Cyprus’s division could complicate Ankara’s efforts to join the Union. Cyprus is to sign an accession treaty with the EU on April 16. Without a deal, only Greek Cypriots will join the Union next year. Annan, stressing the finality of the talks’ failure, said that the office headed by his special envoy on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, would close. But he added that his plan remained on the table. Annan did not apportion blame but asked de Soto to draw up a report for the Security Council. The United States and Britain, however, joined the Cypriot government and Greece in laying blame squarely at the door of Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. At 6.30 a.m. yesterday, de Soto read a statement by Annan to journalists at The Hague. «Efforts have continued in the course of yesterday and during the night to salvage the process and keep open the prospect of a reunited Cyprus acceding to the EU,» the statement said. «Regrettably, these efforts were not successful.» Annan had summoned Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to The Hague on Monday in a last-ditch effort to get them to agree to his plan or to commit themselves to letting their people vote on it in separate referenda on March 30. «We have reached the end of the road,» Annan’s statement said. «I share tonight with all peace-loving Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Greeks and Turks a deep sense of sadness. I am not sure another opportunity like this one will present itself again any time soon,» Annan said. «My plan remains on the table, ready for the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to pick it up and carry it forward to a solution if they summon the will to do so… Let us hope that that day is much closer than it seems this morning.» Washington said it was «deeply disappointed» at the talks’ failure. «Despite the setback, we remain committed to seeking a just and durable settlement to the Cyprus problem,» State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters. «We find it very regrettable that Mr Denktash denied Turkish Cypriots the opportunity to determine their own future and to vote on such a fundamental issue,» he said. Lord David Hannay, Britain’s special envoy for Cyprus, told Reuters, «I am sad about it but I do not think that Mr Denktash left him (Annan) any alternative.» Returning to Cyprus, a gloomy President Papadopoulos said he hoped the UN efforts would continue. «Maybe not at today’s pace and with such great drive, but certainly efforts will continue,» he said. «There are no last chances.» He blamed the talks’ failure on Denktash’s insistence on sovereignty for his breakaway state. Denktash said negotiations were over «for the moment.» He added, «If there is a way out, we will find it.» In Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, «Annan’s plan is neither totally acceptable nor to be rejected.» Greek government spokesman Christos Protopappas said, «Turkey’s road to Europe passes through the solution of the Cyprus problem, and the Turkish side should understand this well.»

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