NEWS

Cypriot president says ‘No’

President Tassos Papadopoulos, in an emotional televised statement, called on Greek Cypriots yesterday to reject the UN proposal for their island’s reunification, urging them to voice a «resounding ‘no’» in the April 24 referendum. Papadopoulos, his voice choking and with tears in his eyes, argued the dangers of accepting the plan proposed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan far outweighed the dangers posed by its rejection. He declared «history does not stop on April 25» and noted Cyprus would become a full member of the European Union on May 1 anyhow. «We believe the dangers of ‘yes’ are far greater and non-reversible than the consequences of a ‘no’ vote,» Papadopoulos said. «I call on you to reject the Annan plan. I call on you, on April 24, to voice a resounding ‘no,’» he added. The Turkish-Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, has also rejected the Annan plan. The Turkish government and the «prime minister» of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state, Mehmet Ali Talat, have accepted it. Papadopoulos argued that the blueprint was «dangerously vague» and gave Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots everything they wanted straightaway, from the day after the two referenda on Cyprus. In exchange, he argued, the Republic of Cyprus would be scrapped while waiting without guarantees for gradual benefits from the plan. «What we achieve is that we buy hope in exchange only for the expectation that Turkey will have the good will to stick to the agreement,» Papadopoulos said. Referring to Cyprus’s EU accession, he said, «We are called on to abandon our only shield, our state entity, at precisely the moment that it gains greater power.» He added, «I was given a state to lead, I will not hand over a community.» In an hour-long speech, he argued that Cyprus, within the EU, could negotiate a better solution. And, in a statement that was sure to ring alarm bells in Brussels, he said, «Turkey will be under pressure in the EU, from us as well, to show that it behaves according to EU principles.» UN and EU officials have said that if the Annan plan falls through there will not be another. Papadopoulos described this as a «false dilemma» and scaremongering. The Cypriot president’s decision could be crucial to the outcome of the Greek-Cypriot vote, where sentiment is strongly opposed to the Annan plan. A Metron Analysis poll to be published in Athens’s Imerisia newspaper today shows that among Greek Cypriots in Nicosia, 64 percent oppose the plan and 13.3 percent oppose it while 22.7 percent are undecided. Among Turkish Cypriots in the occupied part of Nicosia, 61.5 percent were in favor of the plan, 30.5 percent opposed and 7.9 percent undecided. Among Turks in Istanbul, 42.5 percent opposed the plan and 40.7 percent approved of it. In Athens, 57.7 percent were opposed to the plan, 22.1 percent in favor and 20.3 percent undecided. The two largest parties on Cyprus, the Communist AKEL and right-wing Democratic Rally, had indicated that they would back a «yes» vote. AKEL will decide on April 14 and Democratic Rally a day later. Former presidents Glafcos Clerides and George Vassiliou are said to back the plan. Greece’s PASOK, which governed Greece for 20 of the past 23 years and whose founding charter begins with a reference to the «tragedy of Cyprus,» came out in support of the plan yesterday. The Communist Party has already rejected it. The government says it will speak when the time is right and has called for a meeting of all party leaders under President Costis Stephanopoulos. Yesterday, PASOK Chairman George Papandreou called on the government to stop sitting on the fence. The Greek and Turkish governments yesterday sent letters to Annan saying they accepted the holding of the April 24 referenda. US Secretary of State Colin Powell called his Greek and Turkish counterparts and urged support for the Annan plan.