NEWS

‘UN plan’s good outweighs bad’

Greece’s political party leaders discussed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal for Cyprus’s reunification at a meeting chaired by President Costis Stephanopoulos. Three of the four, including Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, expressed support for the Annan plan with various degrees of emphasis but all said they would abide by the vote of the Cypriot people in next Saturday’s referendum. «During the discussion, useful and important opinions were expressed, all of them with the common aim of serving the national interest,» the presidency said. Karamanlis expressed support for the Annan plan without urging Greek Cypriots, who are strongly opposed to it, to back it. He also played down the consequences of a «no» vote. He promised that whatever the result, Athens would support the Greek Cypriots and would also back Turkey’s bid to join the EU. On Cyprus, a poll released on Wednesday showed that 78 percent of Greek Cypriots are thinking of voting «no» or will definitely do so, making the result of the April 24 referendum all but inevitable. Polls show Turkish Cypriots are mostly in favor of the Annan plan. In a statement to journalists, Karamanlis spoke of Cyprus’s accession to the EU on May 1 and how this would help improve the Annan plan. «In the light of (Cyprus’s) future in the EU, the positive points may prove stronger than the negative ones. Of course, the final responsibility for their country’s future lies with the Cypriot citizens. We will respect their decision fully,» Karamanlis said, sticking to the dogma that Cyprus decides and Greece supports it. «If the plan is not accepted, the expression of popular will must be respected by all. But, in this case, the potential for solving the problem must not be lost… And reunification must be pursued once again, as soon as the suitable conditions are created,» Karamanlis said. «As for Greek-Turkish relations, they must be improved and strengthened. No one must interpret any expression of the Cypriot people’s sovereign will as a precondition or as an obstacle for the development of friendly relations and confidence between Greece and Turkey… Our neighbor will find us supporting it in every effort which brings it closer to the constitutional, political and economic acquis of Europe and brings it closer to Europe,» he added. Karamanlis said that «a united Cyprus remains the big target,» adding, «What is important, irrespective of the result, is to protect the unity of Hellenism but also to keep alive the possibility of solving the Cyprus issue.» Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, who opposes the Annan plan, ignored Karamanlis’s support for it. «The (Greek government’s) respect and full support for the decisions of the Cypriot people, as it was categorically expressed today, is for us particularly significant,» he said. At the same time, Papadopoulos’s predecessor in the presidency, Glafcos Clerides, told a national congress of the center-right Democratic Rally party that a rejection of the Annan plan by the Greek Cypriots would have dire consequences for Greeks on the island. «I place my hand on the Holy Bible and swear that I make these forecasts without any self interest. I have no property in the occupied territory nor anywhere else and I hope my forecasts are wrong. But I am 85 years old and I prefer to die than to see such an end to the struggles of the Cypriot people,» Clerides said. PASOK leader George Papandreou expressed satisfaction at the support for the plan, but said the government’s delay had harmed the effort for a «yes» vote. «Precious time has been lost from (the talks in) Lucerne to today. And during this time, a climate of confusion, of defeatism, of fear was created,» Papandreou said.