NEWS

Athens, Nicosia back UN plan

President Tassos Papadopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met in Athens yesterday to discuss the next steps in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem and stressed that they supported UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint for the island’s reunification. Last Saturday, Greek Cypriots voted overwhelmingly against Annan’s plan, whereas Turkish Cypriots approved it. «We confirmed that our opinions coincide with regard to the situation that has developed after the democratic expression of the Cypriot people’s will,» Karamanlis told a joint news conference. «We remain steadily committed to our joint target, in full cooperation and coordination with the government of the Republic of Cyprus. Our target is no other than the achievement, in the soonest possible time, of an agreement for a viable and functional solution of the Cyprus issue on the basis of the UN secretary-general’s plan which will also provide the Cypriots with the necessary sense of security.» The issue of security guarantees, as well as other crucial elements of the Annan plan, are the basic points that the Cypriot government will raise in order to persuade the international community that the 76 percent «no» vote was based on the fact that the plan was weighted against the Greek Cypriots. According to Kathimerini’s sources, Papadopoulos told Karamanlis that he believed the strong «no» might seem at first glance to imply total rejection of the plan but, in the midterm, it would give Papadopoulos the ability to argue in favor of points he had raised during the negotiations in Lucerne but the UN had rejected. Papadopoulos is also said to believe that the strong Turkish-Cypriot «yes» showed how much they were in favor of the plan and this could help achieve changes that would allow the Greek side to see it as more viable and functional. Karamanlis is said to have agreed with these analyses and the initiatives that Cyprus will undertake. But he stressed that the next few months will be crucial, in view of the EU summit in December which will decide whether Turkey is to be given a date to start accession talks with the EU. In Brussels, the permanent representatives of EU members reached an agreement regarding goods from the Turkish-Cypriot sector crossing the Green Line. The ministers of justice and home affairs are to finalize it today. The deal is a compromise between the Republic of Cyprus’s demand that it maintain control over what goes on at the Green Line and the pressure (mainly from Britain) for the sidelining of Nicosia in relations between the EU and the Turkish Cypriots. Mehmet Ali Talat, who heads the Turkish-Cypriot administration, said in Brussels yesterday that he welcomed the EU’s decision to open an office in northern Cyprus, saying this would be very useful. He repeated his position that his people were in favor of the island’s reunification and not the punishing of the Greek Cypriots for their rejection of the UN plan. At the United Nations, Annan told a news conference he remained convinced his plan was «the only realistic basis for reunifying the island.» He said he hoped the Greek Cypriots would have another chance to «judge it on its true merits.» Annan said also that he expected UN peacekeepers to stay on Cyprus «in some form.»