UN’s de Soto optimistic on united Cyprus

The UN special envoy for Cyprus surprised observers yesterday with an optimistic declaration that the island could be reunified within six months. As he was the only third party present at the meetings of President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash this week, this came across as the first hope for a solution to the 27-year-old problem of the island’s division. The two Cypriot leaders sought to play down de Soto’s enthusiasm. I am feeling very hopeful. I think a solution is possible in the next six months and there is determination by the two leaders to reach it, de Soto said at the end of a four-day visit. He did not elaborate. We are entering a new phase that holds a lot of promise and I look forward to coming back in January to continue negotiations, he said. This optimism prompted him to say that when Clerides and Denktash meet again UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan himself might be present. De Soto was present at the breakthrough meeting the two Cypriot leaders had on Tuesday in which they agreed to resume negotiations in mid-January and to work toward a comprehensive settlement without putting forward preconditions. He also attended the dinner that Denktash hosted at his house in the Turkish-occupied part of Nicosia on Wednesday night. The Cypriot leaders, however, expressed caution yesterday. We must not, under any circumstances, allow a state of euphoria to be created that is not justified by political developments, said Clerides’s spokesman, Michalis Papapetrou. Clerides indicated that he did not want any opportunity for a solution to be lost, but also did not want to soften his stand on the basic principles held to by the Cypriot government. Nobody maintains that the Turkish policy on Cyprus has changed because Mr Clerides and Mr Denktash met for an hour (on Tuesday). This remains to be proven at the negotiating table, said Papapetrou. Denktash, in turn, said, It is not correct to create an atmosphere assuming everything is done and there is nothing left to resolve. That could be harmful. Denktash told the Anatolia news agency yesterday that For us, human rights, equality and our right to sovereignty are at stake. If some of those are resolved in these negotiations, it would be great. Daughter freed. A 47-year-old woman, Eleni Nikolopoulou, allegedly kept locked up by her mother for 30 years in Loutsa, north of Athens, was recovering in an Athens hospital yesterday after being found bedridden and virtually paralyzed on Wednesday. Nikolopoulou’s ordeal was revealed by neighbors who called a private radio station. Police found Nikolopoulou in the basement of a makeshift chapel in the grounds of the home. Neighbors said the woman had developed health problems after her parents broke up a love affair and the young man married another girl.

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