Annan presses for Cyprus solution

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders yesterday to resolve the bitter dispute over the divided island as quickly as possible – «and hopefully by the end of the year.» «I genuinely believe that there are answers to the issues they are grappling with,» Annan said after returning to New York from talks in Paris with Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. Annan had initially set a deadline of June for resolving the long dispute over the island’s future, and there is a compelling need for progress before the end of the year when Cyprus and nine other nations are expected to join the European Union. Greece has warned that if Cyprus is not granted EU membership, it will veto the entry of other countries. Turkey, which is bidding to become an EU member, has threatened to annex the Turkish-controlled north Cyprus if the EU accepts the island before a settlement. Annan said he had asked Clerides and Denktash to make progress ahead of the next round of talks at UN headquarters in New York on October 3-4. Those talks, he said, would «see where we stand and what further steps need to be taken.» The Paris talks «were frank and they were useful even though I cannot say that there was a breakthrough,» he said. «I had not expected a breakthrough.» Clerides said after returning from Paris on Saturday that Annan may submit his own plan to settle the conflict if talks on reunifying Cyprus keep faltering. The Greek and Turkish foreign ministers are to meet in New York on Thursday, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.