NEWS

Cypriots split over UN plan

A day after President Tassos Papadopoulos called on Greek Cypriots to say a «resounding ‘No’» in the referendum on Cyprus’s future later this month, Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash urged the United Nations to postpone the vote and allow further negotiations on the island’s proposed reunification. But the leaders of both communities, though united in their rejection of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan, found themselves at odds with other political leaders in their own communities as well as in Greece and Turkey. Papadopoulos’s rejection of the plan, in an hour-long speech on Wednesday night, was certain to bolster proponents of the ‘no’ vote, who are believed to be the vast majority among Greek Cypriots. It will also make things difficult for political parties and leaders who would like to see a solution to Cyprus’s division. Annan yesterday expressed disappointment at Papadopoulos’s decision. «He reiterates that Cypriots have a unique opportunity to reunite their country and he hopes that they will seize it while it is before them,» Annan’s spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said in a statement. «The opposition of Mr Rauf Denktash has been known for some time. The secretary-general is disappointed to learn that Mr Tassos Papadopoulos has now called for rejection of the plan,» he added. «The secretary-general has welcomed the fact that a number of political leaders on both sides in Cyprus, as well as in Greece and Turkey, appear to be moving in the direction of encouraging the people to vote to build a common future in Cyprus.» Mehmet Ali Talat, «prime minister» of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state, commented on the «strange and sad similarity to the ‘No’ voiced by Denktash.» Talat is in favor of the plan. The EU yesterday declined comment on Papadopoulos’s rejection of the plan. The bloc supports the Annan plan and has made clear that it would like to see a united Cyprus join on May 1. If there is no deal until then, only Greek Cypriots will enjoy the benefits of membership. «If the UN is wise enough, it should postpone the referendum and the negotiations should continue,» Denktash told reporters. «Papadopoulos says ‘No’… I say ‘No.’ How is this going to work then? This is equivalent to transferring the conflict to the aftermath of May 1 under the name of ‘peace.’» He added, «If the Annan plan protected our state then we would not say ‘No.’» One of the reasons Papadopoulos gave for rejecting the plan was that «24 hours after a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum, the Republic of Cyprus will cease to exist.» The Communist AKEL party, which backed the right-wing Papadopoulos’s bid for the presidency, is tending toward supporting the Annan plan, as is the center-right Democratic Rally (DISY). Together they represent some 70 percent of the electorate, but opinion polls show over 60 percent of Greek Cypriots currently oppose the plan. AKEL will make its decision on May 14 and DISY a day later. Newspapers on Cyprus were split along party lines. Supporters of the plan accuse Papadopoulos of scaremongering and focusing on negative aspects of the plan while not mentioning its benefits. Former Cypriot presidents Glafcos Clerides and George Vassiliou are in favor of the plan.