NEWS

Cyprus plan is given a chance

Political leaders on both sides of divided Cyprus, in Greece and Turkey got down to the tricky task of evaluating a proposal for a settlement of the Cyprus problem yesterday, the day after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented his plan to end 28 years of division. The initial response from all sides was wary but none rejected the plan, seeing it instead – as Annan had billed it – as the «basis for agreement on a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.» Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides presented the 135-page document to the National Council of Greek-Cypriot parties yesterday afternoon. Cyprus’s Attorney-General Alecos Markides said after the meeting in Nicosia that the proposal contained «a lot of unpleasant points that need clarification.» Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis briefed President Costis Stephanopoulos. Foreign Minister George Papandreou gave copies to Greece’s opposition party leaders. The Greek Cabinet will discuss it today and the government hopes that a climate of consensus here and in Cyprus will prevent dramatic denunciations of the proposal by the more «patriotic» members of the ruling PASOK party. «This document is a starting point for negotiations. Many of the points that it contains will be discussed by the Cypriot government with the other side and the United Nations,» Simitis said after briefing Stephanopoulos. «If the negotiations succeed, the final decision will be taken by the Cypriot people in a referendum which, according to the text, will be held on March 30, 2003,» he added. «We must take this opportunity and try to solve the problem with negotiations.» Clerides said on Monday that Annan wanted a reply by next Monday as to whether there was agreement on discussing the text. The EU and the United States would like to see a settlement before the EU summit next month, at which Cyprus is due to be invited to join the union. Turkey’s Anatolia news agency quoted Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash saying, «The Turkish side isn’t pleased with the section about the distribution of land… I don’t think that either of the sides are happy about the parts of the plan regarding land.» Denktash, who was in New York, said he would consult with his advisers. «We’ll study the plan as a whole,» he said. «We’ll look at it very carefully.» The plan got a boost from the leader of Turkey’s biggest political party. «I think solving the Cyprus issue will both speed up (Turkey’s) EU entry and be a beneficial step toward solving several problems between Greece and Turkey,» Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. Greece’s political leaders will also evaluate the proposal. An opposition New Democracy party source said the conservatives’ position was that, «It is clear the plan constitutes the basis for negotiations but it is not the most pleasant of things.» Spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos complained at the one-day delay in informing the opposition. He repeated a call for a meeting of party leaders. Details of Annan’s proposal are on page two, in a Summary/Extract that is the draft Foundation Agreement. EU chiefs hope for a deal European Commission President Romano Prodi and other senior officials said yesterday that they would be happy if a reunited Cyprus joined the EU but that the island’s entry would not be delayed if current efforts to reunite it did not succeed before the EU’s December 12 summit. «I should have been happy to have the whole of Cyprus in. Because of the political division, we have to choose the second best – to have part of Cyprus in,» Prodi told Reuters. «If there are new political events that make possible the first choice, we are happy.» Prodi stressed there was no question of the EU delaying its decision on Cyprus, but said a political solution before the Copenhagen summit would make Europe «absolutely happy.» The EU’s foreign policy and defense chief, Javier Solana, welcomed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan for Cyprus. «There is now a window of opportunity for Cyprus. It will be up to the different actors to take their responsibilities and adopt a constructive approach,» he said. Guenter Verheugen, the enlargement commissioner, said he hoped for a settlement before the summit. «All efforts should be undertaken to make use of the very limited time left and to bring the process to a positive outcome so that the accession negotiations would, indeed, have served as a catalyst for a settlement,» he said.