Agreement near on timetable for Cyprus solution

Efforts to end Cyprus’s division appeared to move forward yesterday as the Cypriot government prepared to set the terms under which it would agree to a Turkish-Cypriot amendment to the procedure proposed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash were to meet with Annan at 10 p.m. (Greek time) last night. This would be their third meeting in three days and was aimed at reaching agreement on how the reunification talks will proceed. Annan told the two sides on Tuesday that the talks were conditional on their agreeing that he would fill in the blanks where they did not reach agreement on his blueprint for reunification, and that he would call referenda by the island’s two communities in order to have a solution in place before Cyprus joins the EU on May 1. On Wednesday, Denktash proposed that the two sides try to reach a solution by March 15. Failing that, the secretary-general should call a meeting of Greece, Turkey and the two Cypriot communities to fill in the blanks. If this was fruitless, then Greece and Turkey should try to solve the differences. If this too failed, then Annan should decide the outstanding issues and call the referenda. President Papadopoulos was to present his proposal last night. According to this, Annan should not only call a meeting of the four sides but this should be under his auspices, with Greece and Turkey playing the role of facilitators. Also, the European Union should play a role in such a meeting in order to ensure that the solutions be in keeping with the acquis communautaire. If Annan were to be given the authority of a referee, this should come after the Security Council is informed, Papadopoulos proposed. If all sides agree on these conditions, negotiations aimed at bridging differences will begin in Nicosia on Wednesday. The talks at the UN set off a flurry of consultations in Athens. Prime Minister Costas Simitis chaired a three-hour meeting with Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis and several aides. «We are in very close contact with President Tassos Papadopoulos of Cyprus to secure that these procedures truly lead to a just and viable solution of the Cyprus problem in the framework of UN decisions and the EU’s acquis communautaire,» Papandreou told reporters. «Precisely how the procedure will go ahead is the subject of negotiations,» he added. Simitis and Papandreou later visited President Costis Stephanopoulos and briefed him. Simitis and Papadopoulos spoke with New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis by telephone and the opposition leader expressed his backing for the Cypriot president. Yiannitsis briefed Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga and Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is to visit Cyprus briefly for talks with Papadopoulos on Tuesday.