UN’s Cyprus plan in the public eye

President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash discussed technical issues yesterday on the second day of talks in the latest UN-mediated effort to solve the Cyprus problem. They will continue on Tuesday, after the Orthodox Clean Monday holiday. Denktash, defying a UN call for a blackout on the talks, said the two sides had discussed the issues of a flag and anthem for the new Cypriot state, the number of Supreme Court judges and accommodation for government offices. Papadopoulos told reporters Denktash raised points that were outside the framework of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan «and cannot consequently be considered.» The two leaders will negotiate until March 22. If they do not reach agreement, they will be joined by representatives of Greece and Turkey. If this still does not result in a deal, Annan will fill in the blanks of an agreement and put it to referenda on both sides of the island on April 21, in the hope that Cyprus will be united when it joins the EU on May 1. But the overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots would vote against Annan’s plan as it stands, according to a poll conducted among 800 Greek Cypriots across the island from Feb. 16-18. It found that if there were no major changes to Annan’s plan, 61 percent of those asked said they would reject the plan, 27 percent would support it and 12 percent did not answer. The poll, by the Communications Services Bureau, was published by the daily Simerini yesterday. Denktash said yesterday’s talks were held «in a good atmosphere.» He expressed optimism «that in the end there will be a result and a referendum will be held.» This was also the reason why he rejected mediator Alvaro de Soto’s appeal for a news blackout on the talks. «I want the people to go to this referendum knowing everything about the plan. So that nobody can blame anyone in the end,» Denktash said. US Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke with Greek Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis on the telephone yesterday and assured him that the USA would make every effort to help solve the Cyprus issue.