NEWS

Cyprus president to speak

President Tassos Papadopoulos of Cyprus will address the nation at 8 p.m. to present his views on UN General-Secretary Kofi Annan’s blueprint for the island’s reunification ahead of its accession to the European Union on May 1. Papadopoulos will be the first leader on the Greek side to express his position and could play a pivotal role in the outcome of the referendum that is to be held on both sides of the Green Line on April 24. Although he has not made his position known publicly, Papadopoulos is said to be opposed to the Annan plan. Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, supports it, although he noted that Turkey did not get everything that it wanted. «There is undoubtedly a risk,» for the Turkish side, he said. The «prime minister» of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state, Mehmet Ali Talat, is already campaigning in favor of the plan. The veteran Turkish-Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, is not. On the Greek-Cypriot and Greek side, things are just as mixed up. The political bureau of the biggest Greek-Cypriot party, the Communist AKEL party, met yesterday and discussed the plan. Despite denials by the party spokesman, persistent reports said that it had voted by a slight majority to support Annan’s plan. A decision will be made at a national congress of the party on April 14. The Democratic Rally party will decide on April 15. Reports from Cyprus say that there is much soul-searching and debate within parties. Recent polls have shown overwhelming rejection of the plan by the Greek Cypriots. Kathimerini’s Nicosia correspondent, Costas Yennaris, noted that people are anxious to understand what they need to do. «What needs to be clear,» he wrote, «is that if they say ‘yes,’ it will be with tears in their eyes, if they say ‘no,’ it will be with a heavy heart.» Annan’s special envoy, Alvaro de Soto, was on Cyprus yesterday to press for a «yes» vote. «Obviously the plan is a compromise – but it is a principled compromise. We believe the final product is a fair plan… that accommodates the concerns of each side,» he said. He added that there would be no second chance if the plan is rejected. «It does not provide for a second bit of the cherry some time later on,» he said. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis chaired a meeting of his Inner Cabinet on the issue yesterday. «It is the Cypriot people and their leadership who will make the final decision,» Karamanlis noted. His foreign minister, Petros Molyviatis, told the meeting, «Greece has neither the capability nor the wish to impose a solution on anyone.» It was decided that the government will make known its verdict on the plan in due course. Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis and ruling New Democracy party general secretary Evangelos Meimarakis were on Cyprus yesterday for talks with Papadopoulos and party leaders. The opposition PASOK party sent a senior delegation on Monday. PASOK is believed to be in favor of the Annan plan but has not made an official announcement yet.