United push for Cyprus

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos agreed yesterday on the tactics their countries will follow in the next weeks as negotiations aimed at solving the Cyprus problem intensify. Papadopoulos was in Athens to meet with members of the new government following last Sunday’s elections. Both he and Karamanlis stressed that they wanted a united Cyprus to join the EU on May 1. «Our aim is for a united Cyprus to join the EU so that all Cypriots can enjoy the benefits of accession with security,» Karamanlis told a joint news conference. «Our target remains a viable and functional solution by May 1,» Papadopoulos said. He added that the talks he has been holding with Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash under UN mediation since February 19 have been difficult. But Papadopoulos expressed hope that a solution could be found, even at the last moment. «We hope the constructive stand and moderation of the Cypriot response will meet with a response from the other side, even at this late date,» Karamanlis said. The Greek prime minister also said he felt that Turkey should drop its demand that it ratify the deal before it comes into effect, but he added that it was not the time to go into such details. According to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint for Cyprus’s reunification, if Papadopoulos and Denktash do not reach agreement by March 22, representatives of Greece and Turkey will join the talks. If there is still no solution a week later, then Annan will fill in the blanks and put the proposal to referenda on both sides of the island on April 20 so that the island can be reunited before May 1. Annan’s envoy, Alvaro de Soto, said on Friday that if there was no deal by then, there was «no Plan B.» Athens has still not decided on what level it will be represented at the four-party talks. Ankara has proposed the two countries’ prime ministers. Papadopoulos also met with his Greek counterpart, Costis Stephanopoulos, and the leaders of Greece’s opposition parties. «We are present, as always at every initiative, in order to support this national issue,» PASOK leader George Papandreou told reporters. Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga slammed the Annan plan, calling it a «concoction without precedent in history.»

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