Annan cites Denktash as culprit

NICOSIA (Combined reports) – UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has criticized Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and Turkey for the failure of his plan to reunify this war-divided island. In a 40-page report on his bid to settle the long-running Cypriot stalemate, Annan praised the Greek-Cypriot contribution to the talks, but said Denktash «bears prime responsibility» for the failure of the effort launched in late 1999. «Except for a very few instances, Mr Denktash by and large declined to engage in negotiations on the basis of give and take,» Annan said in his report released Saturday to Cypriot leaders. «This complicated my efforts to accommodate not only the legitimate concerns of principle, but also concrete and practical interests of the Turkish Cypriots,» he said in his report, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. The UN Security Council is expected to discuss the report today and to issue a resolution on the basis of this on Thursday. The Cypriot government welcomed Annan’s report. «We repeat our commitment to strive for a settlement based on the Annan plan,» spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said, according to the Agence France-Presse. The Greek Cypriots have also rejected two letters by Denktash calling for a deal, saying these were a «smokescreen» aimed at getting him «off the hook.» Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who was in the occupied part of Cyprus, held out hope for a settlement and urged the EU not to sign an accession treaty with Cyprus on April 16. «The doors are not yet closed,» Gul said before talks with Denktash. «April 16 is not the final date for this to happen,» Reuters quoted Gul saying. «The EU on April 16 should not kill efforts for peace.» Denktash and Turkey have been insisting on a settlement based on the «reality» created by the Turkish invasion and occupation of the north. Annan’s plan was rejected because it ruled out recognizing the breakaway state before reunification as a confederation of two independent states. In his report, Annan said, «I was never able to convince Mr Denktash that the ‘realities’ of the Cyprus problem are not only the realities on the ground, but the realities of international law and international politics.» The UN-sponsored talks between Denktash and Greek-Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos collapsed last month when Denktash rejected Annan’s plan, which provided for the return of half the 200,000 Greek-Cypriot refugees to territory under Turkish occupation. Annan wanted his plan approved through separate referenda by late March, paving the way for the EU to accept Cyprus’s membership as a united country on April 16. «Faced with Mr Denktash’s adamant opposition to consider credible ways to meet that deadline, I was left with no alternative but to terminate the (reunification talks) process,» Annan said in his report. Annan said Denktash «was strongly resistant to the United Nations playing a substantive role (in the peace effort) and in this he received the full support of Turkey.» Gul said it was «a great injustice to accuse Mr Denktash only.» He reiterated support for Denktash and portrayed an anti-Denktash rally only hundreds of meters away from Denktash’s residence as an expression of «different thoughts and democracy.» «But when it comes to make a decision, we all should be in unison,» Gul said, apparently backing Denktash’s hardline policy. (AP, AFP, Reuters)