Cyprus diplomacy at center stage

With Turkey’s elections over, and with the EU summit in mid-December expected to decide on Cyprus’s accession, diplomacy aimed at solving the Cyprus issue will intensify this week. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to present a proposal for a solution within the next few days, with the backing of the United States and Britain. US Assistant Secretary of State Marc Grossman will hold talks on the issue with Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou in Athens today. At the same time, Annan’s special envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, is expected to meet with Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s close aide Ergun Olgan in New York, where Denktash is recovering from major heart surgery. PM Costas Simitis will visit Paris on Wednesday and Berlin on Thursday to discuss Cyprus’s EU accession. Cyprus’s attorney general, Alekos Markides, said in an interview with Athens’s Ethnos newspaper yesterday that Annan’s plan could be expected soon. «Just after the elections in Turkey, the UN secretary-general will decide if he will submit his plan, which is almost ready,» he said. «The time has come to shoulder our responsibilities, not avoid them.» Athens and Nicosia have been trying to work out what Annan’s plan may entail and they have prepared their own proposals. Cypriot government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou raised a storm over the weekend when he presented details of the Greek-Cypriot proposal. Cypriot political parties charged that these details had not been presented to the country’s national council of political leaders. The Athens News Agency reported from Nicosia on Saturday that Papapetrou (who will be holding a news conference in Athens today) had told a seminar on the Cyprus issue in London that a reunited Cyprus could be made up of two constituent states with broad authority and a central government. The central government will be based on the principle of political equality rather than on the basis of population size, he said. Executive decisions will be taken by majority vote but must garner a minimum percentage of votes from the Turkish-Cypriot side, Papapetrou reportedly said. The proposed legislature will be made up of two bodies, one in which the two population groups will be represented proportionally to their size and the other in which they will be equal. Every law will have to be approved by both bodies, he said. The same will apply in the judiciary. On the issue of security, the Cypriots propose demilitarization and the continuation of the guarantees of 1960 which accompanied the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus. This will allow Greece and Turkey to maintain small military contingents on the island. The proposal also calls for an international military presence to oversee the agreement. If this is found insufficient, then the guarantor powers will have the right to intervene. It was this right that Ankara called on when it invaded Cyprus in 1974 in the wake of a short-lived coup by Greek Cypriots who wanted union with Greece. Other sources have said that the Greek and Cypriot sides expect the UN proposal to include a rotating presidency, which will be mostly symbolic. They also expect the issue of territory to be solved by Turkey handing back part of the 37 percent of the island that it occupies, holding on to about 28 percent of the island and returning Famagusta and Morphou to Greek-Cypriot administration. Athens and Nicosia’s greatest concerns relate to the rotating presidency, the way in which Annan’s plan will deal with sovereignty and how the «Belgian model» will work.

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