NEWS

Cyprus talks end without agreement

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was last night expected to wrap up an intensive effort to end Cyprus’s 30-year division after Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot negotiators failed to agree on a deal. Annan was to present his final proposal at a ceremony at the Swiss resort of Buergenstock on Lake Lucerne at 11.30 p.m. Greek time last night, followed by a news conference. Annan will now present his proposal to the Greek and Turkish Cypriots in separate referenda in the hope that a reunified Cyprus can join the EU on May 1. Annan held brief last-minute talks in his first joint meeting with prime ministers Costas Karamanlis of Greece and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey just ahead of the deadline. Earlier, the Greek-Cypriot leader, President Tassos Papadopoulos, had told Annan that the negotiations since Monday on the fourth draft of the secretary-general’s proposal had not resulted in a deal that the Greek Cypriots could agree to. «The president expressed the opinion that they were not satisfactory and discussed with Mr Annan the proposals made by the Greek-Cypriot side which were not adopted. He explained the reasons why his proposals had to be taken into account,» Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said. A Turkish diplomatic source said Ankara was ready to sign Annan’s plan, news agencies reported from Buergenstock. Earlier, Karamanlis and Erdogan held separate meetings with Annan. On Tuesday night, the two prime ministers met with each other. The two main sticking points are Greece’s concern over security arrangements on Cyprus (regarding the proposal that Turkish and Greek troops remain on the island) and whether the agreement will exempt Cyrus from EU primary law. European Commission President Romano Prodi told a news conference in Brussels that any exemptions would be temporary. Prodi said the EU planned to accept «exceptions lasting for a specific time period, not permanent derogations.» This would avoid the need for 25 EU parliaments to ratify the deal. «We have obviously worked very carefully with the Commission legal services on this in order to see how variations which might just be for a certain time period might be introduced but without any need to have ratification by all the member states,» Prodi said. The EU’s commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, has been following the talks at Buergenstock. This drew the ire of Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who has stayed away from the talks, saying he did not expect anything from them. «He tries to get what he wants by shouting at our people like a Nazi officer,» Denktash told a news conference. «He puts unbelievable pressure on the Turkish side on behalf of the Greek Cypriots. He is trying to impress UN officials,» he added. Karamanlis yesterday instructed Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis to brief President Costis Stephanopoulos and the leaders of opposition parties in Athens. Main PASOK opposition party sources said that George Papandreou, the party leader and former foreign minister, called Annan’s special envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, and had a highly charged conversation with him on Tuesday night. Papandreou stressed, the sources said, that unless major changes were made to Annan’s fourth draft the Greeks and Greek Cypriots could not accept the plan. Indicative of the opposition the plan has met among Greek Cypriots is a statement by the influential Bishop of Paphos, Chrysostomos, who declared, «Soon they will be calling on us shamelessly to pay for the expenses of the (Turkish) invasion.» But the Greek and Greek-Cypriot negotiators came under intense international pressure. Molyviatis had telephone conversations with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Britain’s foreign secretary, Jack Straw, yesterday. «What I have been saying to all the parties is that this is a historic opportunity,» Powell told a news conference in Berlin. «This is the time for leaders to show flexibility, for leaders to be ready to compromise for the greater good of the Cypriot people,» he added. «I have been telling them this is an historic opportunity. It must not be lost.» Prodi, in Brussels, said: «I have urged them (Greek and Turkish Cypriots) to be flexible and not to miss this opportunity, which is a unique opportunity for peace. If we miss this chance, history will not judge us kindly.»