Annan set to resume talks on Cyprus

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, after meeting with US President George W. Bush yesterday, said that he was prepared to undertake an initiative for the immediate resumption of talks aimed at solving the Cyprus problem. All indications are that the issue is entering its most crucial phase, with the United States showing great interest in seeing a solution before Cyprus joins the European Union on May 1. «Everyone seems ready to resume» talks, Annan said. He said he had spoken with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou. He had not yet spoken with Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who has described Annan’s plan for Cyprus’s reunification as «dead.» But, Annan said, «everyone seems ready to resume (talks) and I hope to be able to invite them to a meeting shortly.» He stressed that he had made clear he was ready to resume negotiations and offer his good services if all parties involved showed that they had the political will to reach a solution. «President Bush supports my efforts and would like to see the talks resume, and supports the plan we’ve put on the table and urges the parties to press ahead and negotiate and find a settlement on the basis of that,» Annan said. Earlier, Annan had discussed Cyprus with Secretary of State Colin Powell. A US official said that the United States is «especially encouraged by the fact that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister (Abdullah) Gul made clear during their visit to Washington last week that there is a genuine desire on Turkey’s part to accept the UN secretary-general’s terms for an immediate resumption of talks.» In Athens, Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis noted that «we are facing great activity on the Cyprus issue.» He added: «It is possible that by May 1 we may achieve the aim of going ahead and seeking solutions. We are waiting to see how the UN secretary-general will evaluate the intentions and commitments of the Turkish side, which we do not know.»