Bush presses UN’s plan for Cyprus

In a telephone conversation with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, President George W. Bush reiterated that the United States supports a solution to the Cyprus problem based on a UN proposal. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush and Erdogan had discussed Iraq, Afghanistan and Monday night’s terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, as well as Cyprus. «Both leaders welcomed unprecedented freedom of movement between the Turkish and Greek sectors of Cyprus in recent weeks, and noted their hope for a lasting Cyprus settlement,» Fleischer said. «President Bush reiterated the United States’ support for a Cyprus settlement, based on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s fair and balanced plan,» he added. Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos noted yesterday that though Turkey says it is working toward a solution to the Cyprus problem, it insists that the correct solution would be one based on two separate states. Annan’s plan is for a loose federation. The United States, Papadopoulos added, approves of the Annan plan as it is, while Nicosia accepts it as long as the necessary changes are made to reflect the new circumstances, the Athens News Agency reported Papadopoulos as saying. Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, also referred to the Cyprus issue on Wednesday. «We obviously have an interest in dealing with the Cyprus problem. We had made some progress on Cyprus. The UN secretary-general has made heroic efforts to try and resolve that, and we would hope that Turkey would put its weight behind a settlement of the Cyprus issue,» she was quoted as replying to a Turkish reporter’s question. Since Turkish Cypriots eased restrictions on travel on April 23, 267,000 Greek Cypriots and 111,000 Turkish Cypriots have crossed the island’s buffer zone, a total of 378,000 people, the Athens News Agency reported yesterday. The Cypriot government protested to the UN after a Cypriot bishop and his congregation were expelled from the north for holding a service in their Turkish-occupied church, Aghios Mamas, in Morphou.