NEWS

US presses for ‘yes’ vote and rules out fresh involvement

Much is being written and said these days regarding the active involvement of the US administration in Cyprus negotiations, which manifests itself as «pressure» on Athens and Nicosia to promote the Annan plan. One can tell by talking with Washington-based officials that they approve of the proposed solution. This is why they are undertaking all possible initiatives – so that if the plan is rejected, they will not feel that they have neglected to do anything which might have helped persuade the two communities to vote for it. In addition, this is the first time that Bush and his team have occupied themselves with Cyprus and they feel this is an opportunity which should not be wasted. For Washington, a solution to the Cyprus problem is a less significant regional issue than the Middle East and Iraq. But it is a problem at a stage where it could be solved, thus showing the international community that diplomacy is often more powerful than weapons. Of course, a Cyprus solution is not unrelated to Euro-Turkish relations, which are of particular interest to the US leadership. But, as the USA appreciates, Ankara has shown a willingness to cooperate, which is boosting its own EU bid. As regards the imminent referenda on Cyprus and the majority of Greek Cypriots who oppose the proposed solution, the US administration realizes that the people have not been prepared for the prospect of cohabitation by their leaders and that they do not relish the prospect of doing so on the basis of Annan’s plan. But they appreciate that, despite pressure from both Greece and the international community, it will be very difficult to prevent a «no» vote. That which they categorically rule out is Washington’s involvement in fresh negotiations in the case of a «no» vote as they will have done all they can during this phase. A rejection of the Annan plan will not necessarily bring disaster. But the division which has characterized the island since 1974 will continue, and Turkish troops will remain in the north. At any rate, after Cyprus’s EU accession – which will take place on May 1 whether there is a solution or not – the island will be the concern of Europe which, according to US officials, has maintained a neutral stance up until now.