Cypriots observe 31st anniversary of island’s division

NICOSIA – Any settlement to reunify war-divided Cyprus must be based on respect for human rights and basic law, the president of the Mediterranean island said yesterday as Greek Cypriots observed the 31st anniversary of the coup that was the pretext for the Turkish invasion that led to its division. Tassos Papadopoulos also said fellow Greek Cypriots rejected an April, 2004, UN plan to reunify the island because it offered numerous advantages to Turkish Cypriots and to Turkey «while ignoring the just and logical demands and concerns of the Greek-Cypriot side.» «Thirty-one years after the invasion, we are still striving for a viable and workable settlement that must be based on respect for human rights and basic law,» said Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos claimed his side wanted «a mutually acceptable settlement, (while) the aim of the Turkish side is the political dissolution of the Republic of Cyprus, the establishment of two separate legal entities and the maintenance and deepening of the division.» UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the UN Security Council last month that he saw no point in resuming reunification talks in view of what he described as the deep gap in the positions of both sides. Papadopoulos said that despite its rejection, «the (UN) plan remains a basis for negotiation,» adding that Greek-Cypriot proposals «aim at agreed amendments to the plan so that the settlement will safeguard the legal interests of our people as a whole, in a common, prosperous and unified motherland which is now a member of the European Union.» Cyprus became a full member of the EU on May 1 last year, but EU laws and benefits apply only to the government-controlled south of the island. A main reason for the Greek-Cypriot rejection of Annan’s plan was because it restricted the rights of Greek-Cypriot refugees to return and to regain their properties in the Turkish-occupied north. Since Cyprus’s EU accession, Papadopoulos has been telling the European body that any reunification must comply with basic EU laws and principles, particularly the right of citizens to move freely and live and work anywhere within the Union. This would automatically clear the way for the refugees return. United Nations efforts for the reunification of the island collapsed in April last year after the Greek Cypriots rejected a reunification plan by Secretary-General Annan. Turkish Cypriots accepted the plan. Cyprus has been split into a Greek Cypriot-controlled south and the Turkish-occupied north since 1974, when Turkey invaded in the wake of an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece, backed by the junta then ruling Athens.

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