NEWS

Parties evaluate Annan proposal

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday briefed Parliament on the negotiations on the future of Cyprus that were held at the Swiss resort of Buergenstock over the past week and said that he had called on President Costis Stephanopoulos to summon a meeting of political party leaders in an effort to reach national consensus on the issue. Cyprus’s National Council, which brings together political party leaders and senior officials, will meet under President Tassos Papadopoulos in Nicosia today to discuss the preparations for the referendum on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint for Cyprus’s reunification. Voting will take place on both sides of the Green Line on April 24 in an effort to end the island’s division before it joins the European Union on May 1. The Greek-Cypriot parties have begun to evaluate the fifth draft of Annan’s plan and the first indirect support for it came from the Democratic Rally party (DHSY), whose leader Nikos Anastassiadis rejected claims that the fifth draft was worse than the third one which had been presented in Switzerland. The fifth draft constitutes Annan’s filling in the blanks over issues that the parties involved in the talks did not agree upon. «We must all examine the plan very carefully, with clear minds and cool heads, to see what we gained, what we lost, what the other side gained and whether all these things tilt the balance,» Anastassiadis said. The Greek-Cypriot parties were expected to make clear their positions in the next few days. Annan’s special envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, last night briefed the Security Council on the talks, without calling on the Council to adopt the Annan plan. «Attention is now focused on the domestic debate and on persuading the two sides to sign on to the plan,» a diplomatic source at the Security Council said. Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou said that the Greek Cypriots were expected to come under international pressure to approve of the plan in the referendum. But he stressed that his government was prepared to deal with the pressure and was following international developments carefully. In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, «Turkey, as a guarantor power, became involved in the negotiations aimed at solving the Cyprus issue with good will and no one can cast doubt on that.» He added: «The talks were held on a win-win basis and so Turkey’s efforts were focused on solving a long-term problem so as to turn the Eastern Mediterranean into a basin of peace.» Erdogan said that Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who had not attended the talks, had been kept informed of progress continually. In a climate of rare unity in Parliament, Greece’s party leaders all agreed that the Annan plan needed careful evaluation, that parties ought to make clear their positions on it, that this evaluation should be tied to whether a «yes» or «no» would be good or bad for Cyprus when seen in the light of Cyprus’s EU accession on May 1, and that the Greek Cypriots are the ones who will decide what position they will take. Prime Minister Karamanlis said that he will make known his government’s views on the Annan plan before the referenda on Cyprus. Opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou appeared to be more in favor of supporting the plan but did not say so yet. Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga said her party was opposed to the plan and Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos said he was waiting to see what position the left-wing parties on Cyprus would take.