NEWS

Annan sees chance of Cyprus deal

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan left Cyprus yesterday confident that the Greek and Turkish Cypriots can solve the decades-old dispute by the end of June if they try. The internationally recognized Cyprus government considers the coming weeks critical for progress on the issue, but believes that the onus is on Rauf Denktash, the Turkish-Cypriot leader and head of a breakaway state in the Turkish-occupied north recognized only by Turkey, to demonstrate sufficient flexibility. Denktash said he was optimistic an agreement would come, but thought it was more likely to happen toward the end of the year. «I told (Annan) that it is impossible to finish everything by June… he knows that we are now given time until the end of the year to finish the process and not waste time,» Denktash said. Annan, the first UN secretary-general to visit Cyprus in over 20 years, said both Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Denktash had agreed to speed up efforts. «Despite their differences on substance and on the time frame, I am still convinced that between now and the end of June they can resolve all the core issues, provided they go about the task decisively and with the necessary political will,» Annan told reporters at Larnaca airport, just before his departure. Annan defined the core issues as governance, security, territory and property. Governance appears to be the most intractable of these issues, with the Cypriot government in favor of a bizonal confederation and Denktash insisting on a loose union of sovereign states. The Cypriot government spokesman, Michalis Papapetrou, said that he wished Annan had made it clear that he supports a unitary state. Cyprus’s political leaders meet today to assess Annan’s visit. Clerides will visit Athens on Wednesday for discussions with the Greek government. Cyprus is scheduled to complete talks for European Union membership by the end of the year. Although Greece’s EU partners have stressed that accession does not depend on a political solution, some may try to block membership. In that case, Athens has warned it would veto EU enlargement in its entirety.