NEWS

Moment of truth comes

The Cyprus issue is entering its most crucial phase since the Turkish invasion of 1974, with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expected to present his plan for a solution on Monday. This could be on a «take it or leave it» basis, giving the two sides until the EU summit in Copenhagen on December 12 to accept it. The general feeling is that the plan will call for a compromise that could be more painful for the Greek side. Annan’s envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, is expected on Cyprus tomorrow to give the proposal of some 150 pages to President Glafcos Clerides on Monday afternoon, sources said. At the same time, Kieran Prendergast, the UN undersecretary-general for political affairs, will present it to Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s aide Ergun Olgun in New York, where Denktash is recovering from heart surgery, and to the UN permanent representatives of Greece, Turkey and Britain. Annan will present a summary to the Security Council. The plan has been worked on by the USA and Britain and was agreed to by France. Athens and Nicosia are concerned by the fact that the USA and Britain are pressing for the two sides to agree to the framework before the EU summit which is to decide on the accession of Cyprus and nine other countries. Athens (and probably Ankara) wants Annan’s plan to be the basis for negotiations between Clerides and Denktash after the EU summit. «The next few weeks will be critical and Europe can play a very important role in helping solve the Cyprus problem,» Foreign Minister George Papandreou said in Paris after a meeting with his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin. Regarding Cyprus, «The French position is within the basic framework set by the UN and the EU,» Papandreou said. He met also with his British counterpart, Jack Straw, and was to hold talks with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. Yesterday, PM Costas Simitis met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin for talks on Greece’s upcoming EU presidency, expansion, Cyprus and other issues. «The UN will present a draft – draft means that this will be discussed further,» Simitis told a news conference. Schroeder said their foreign ministers will examine the proposal together. The plan is believed to include a rotating presidency or prime minister’s post that can be held by a Greek Cypriot for two four-year terms at most before it goes to a Turkish Cypriot.