Annan gives nod for Cyprus drive

Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday agreed that progress on a number of issues, including the disengagement of military troops on the divided island, would improve the climate for a new peace initiative. However, the relaunch of negotiations with Annan’s backing «will have to take place at the right time and be based upon careful preparation,» according to a joint statement issued by the two men following their one-hour meeting in Paris. The statement also highlighted the importance of progress in removing land mines from Cyprus and returning a section of the Turkish-occupied port of Famagusta to the Greek Cypriots. In the same declaration Annan notes «with satisfaction» that the leaders of the two communities have agreed to appoint experts to conduct talks on various subjects «of potential benefit to all Cypriots.» «The secretary-general and President Papadopoulos both expressed the hope that these talks will lead toward the re-establishment of trust between the two communities and that preparations for the full relaunch of negotiations get under way as soon as possible,» the statement said. Annan said that Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, who is recovering from a heart bypass operation, has expressed his support for exploratory talks aimed at renewing peace negotiations. The United Nations secretary-general was the architect of a blueprint for the reunification of Cyprus – dubbed the Annan plan – which was embraced by Turkish Cypriots but rejected by Greek Cypriots in a May 2004 referendum.