‘Last chance’ solution

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday briefed his Cabinet on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan for a Cyprus settlement, saying this «might be the last chance to find a solution.» «We are all agreed that the Annan plan constitutes the starting point for a constructive negotiation,» Simitis said at the end of the meeting, according to government spokesman Christos Protopappas. Simitis urged his ministers to «speak with one voice» on the issue. He argued that Annan’s proposal was a rare opportunity to solve the Cyprus problem. «It is an unusual act which will not be repeated easily because the UN cannot jeopardize its image with continued failed efforts. This might be the last chance to find a solution in this way,» he said. «Therefore, we must not approach the Annan plan with emotional reactions but rather with an outlook that sees potential and strategy,» he said. «If, in the end, we reject the plan, we must have persuaded the others that our opinions are correct.» Foreign Minister George Papandreou said: «The discussion in today’s Cabinet meeting was excellent. I am sure that this was truly an historical discussion.» He said Greece was committed to helping to find a solution before the EU summit next month. «But if the issue is not closed by December 12, we will fight tooth and nail and will succeed in getting Cyprus into the EU as is,» he added. However, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, whose country holds the EU presidency, warned, «The question of Cyprus is one of the obstacles on the way» to the EU’s enlargement. The EU, he said, would «clearly prefer a reunified Cyprus to be admitted.» Cypriot Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said that Annan’s Monday deadline would not be met. «Under the circumstances, we don’t have time to reply by Monday,» he said. «If we reply by Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, I don’t know… It’s not the end of the world.» Greece’s New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis said the proposed «structure of the State and the system of government are problematic… it will demand a great effort and and hard negotiations to achieve its viability, to make it functional and to bring it in line with European institutions.» The Communist Party declared that Annan’s plan is «unacceptable, dangerous, not viable, and a trap.» It has organized a protest rally at the Old University on Panepistimiou Street this evening.

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