NEWS

Cyprus shies at written objections

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou said yesterday Nicosia was not ready to make its positions known on changes to a United Nations reunification plan for divided Cyprus, as requested by UN chief Kofi Annan before engaging in a new peace initiative. «We cannot accept the demand to submit written and detailed changes to the plan because we do not know how the secretary-general intends to handle this,» Iacovou told reporters. «Would he give them to the Turkish Cypriots to consider or to reject?» The minister was responding to comments made by US Cyprus envoy Laura Kennedy, who told a local newspaper that Washington backed a UN call for Greek Cypriots to put on paper the changes they seek to the plan. Nicosia wants a deal on how any future negotiations are conducted, with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos in favor of mediation, rather than arbitration. He is also unwilling to commit to any set deadlines, and wants both sides to agree on a solution before any proposed deal is submitted anew to Greek and Turkish Cypriots in a referendum. [According to Iacovou, handing proposed changes to Annan would effectively put the secretary-general in the position of an arbitrator.] Peace talks have been shelved since a UN blueprint failed to reunite the island at a referendum on April 24, 2004, with the Greek Cypriots rejecting the plan and Turkish Cypriots voting in favor of it. One week later, a divided Cyprus joined the European Union. Annan recently called on Papadopoulos to spell out the changes he wanted to ensure that the UN blueprint would be accepted by the Greek-Cypriot side. But the Cypriot president has declined to do so, arguing his bargaining position would be weakened.