Prime ministers arrive for talks to unite Cyprus

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis arrived at a Swiss Alpine resort last night and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected there today for talks aimed at ending Cyprus’s division ahead of the island’s accession to the European Union on May 1. Today UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to present Greek, Turkish, Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot negotiators with the fourth draft of his blueprint for the island’s reunification at noon (Greek time) today. Annan’s plan, which is said to comprise 150 pages with an additional 9,000 pages of annexes, is aimed at bridging the gap between the two sides before his proposal is put to referenda on the island. The major issue of the talks among representatives of the four sides over the past week has been Turkey’s demand that any agreement exclude Cyprus from basic EU laws such as the right to travel and live and buy property anywhere. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots want this to be exempt permanently under EU law. Greek Cypriots and Greece say that a just and viable solution will abide by EU principles and UN resolutions. The European Council on Friday appeared to back the Greek position, saying it would prefer to see a united Cyprus join the EU and proclaiming «its readiness to accomodate the terms of such a settlement in line with the principles on which the EU is founded.» The Greeks are willing to discuss a temporary exemption from EU principles but rule out a permanent one. Dimitris Christofias, speaker of the Cypriot Parliament, said that once the sides have Annan’s document, «we will embark on two very heavy days and nights of give and take.» If there is no agreement by Wednesday, Annan will fill in the blanks of the agreement that will be put to Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots in referenda on April 20. Annan held discussions last night at a cocktail reception at the Buergenstock resort on Lake Lucerne. Karamanlis arrived by car from Zurich shortly before 10 p.m., the Athens News Agency reported. He was to be briefed by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis on the minister’s contacts with UN mediator Alvaro de Soto over the past few days and on Annan’s cocktail party. Karamanlis is expected to return to Athens on Wednesday as reporters said that the plane which took them to Switzerland was instructed to return on Wednesday. It is not clear what form the meetings between the negotiators will take these days. De Soto has confirmed a Greek position that the framework of the negotiations does not imply representatives of all four parties sitting down together. Reports said that US Secretary of State Colin Powell was expected to call Molyviatis yesterday, following Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul’s appeal to Powell, a Turkish diplomatic source told Reuters. Meanwhile, in another indication of skepticism on Cyprus over Annan’s plan, the newspaper Simerini published the results of a poll which found that 94 percent would reject the plan if the UN did not accept President Tassos Papadopoulos’s proposed changes.

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