UN presses for deal

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday called for a negotiated end to the partition of Cyprus before its May 1 accession to the European Union. Speaking in Brussels following a meeting with European Commission President Romano Prodi, Annan told reporters that «we want to settle (the Cyprus issue) before May 1.» «Ideally, we should try and have an agreement… by the end of March to be able to have simultaneous referenda in April to meet the May 1 deadline,» Annan said. Annan’s call for simultaneous referendums by the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities has received a cool response from both sides. Both the government in Nicosia and Turkey, which has occupied the northern third of the island for the last 30 years, said they backed the idea of the resumption of negotiations using as a blueprint a plan submitted by Annan last year. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash regards this with disfavour. Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, speaking at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg yesterday, said he was ready to resume negotiations «under the auspices of the secretary-general.» «At any time that we may be invited to a new round of negotiations… we shall be there, without any conditions on our part,» he told the legislators. The European Council yesterday adopted a resolution calling on Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot «authorities» to resume negotiations and on Greece and Turkey to show their «good will» and support. It additionally called on the Turkish Cypriots to avoid a policy of setting up a separate state and on Turkey to withdraw a significant number of its 40,000 troops from northern Cyprus before a final agreement. Papadopoulos will meet with Annan in Brussels today. Annan last Saturday met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, a meeting he called «very encouraging.» Erdogan, currently on a visit to Washington, met yesterday with US President George W. Bush. Bush said he appreciated Turkey’s efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue. Erdogan said that it was the Turkish side that is determined to push for a solution and would always be «a step ahead of the Greek side» on this issue.

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