UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s revised plan and his request that both sides put the settlement to separate referendums will most likely accentuate the divergence between Athens and Nicosia. Even a quick read of the remarks made by Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and newly elected Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos makes it clear that their policies are far from identical. The Greek premier takes a positive stance on the plan’s provisions, which he views as an acceptable compromise, but he also seems to condone the idea of putting the proposal to the two communities in separate referendums. Simitis has also called for a response from Ankara, so as to bypass the obstacle of Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. For his part, Papadopoulos makes no secret of his reservations. He has made it clear that he is ready to negotiate on the basis of the Annan plan but, as he said during a press conference in Athens on Monday, he rejects the idea of a Camp David type of meeting. The March 10 meeting that the UN secretary-general has set for the two leaders in The Hague is not exactly a Camp David type of discussion but, according to inside sources, Papadopoulos is not willing to allow himself to be bypassed. However, he will not lay his cards on the table before consulting with the National Council and before the situation in Turkey has become clear. At this crucial period, it is in the vital interest of Athens and Nicosia to walk hand in hand, even though they are not always in agreement. Besides, Greece’s political leaders have repeatedly said that Greece will back any decision made by Cyprus. As a result, the Greek government should let Cyprus be aware of its opinion but not impose it. The UN chief is delivering an ultimatum that is unacceptable. We should note here that in spite of contrary information made public over the last few days, the issue of acceptance of the Annan plan has not been separated from the issue of the island’s EU membership. Greek Cypriots are being blackmailed to say yes to the proposed solution because rejecting it would effectively torpedo the much-craved accession.

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