OPINION

Historic opportunity

Prime Minister Costas Simitis praised the plan by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan as an «historic opportunity for a solution» to the Cyprus issue, adding that «we have proposals for a comprehensive settlement.» Although the prime minister said that the proposals contain some «difficult points,» he nevertheless stressed that we should not examine each provision separately but instead the plan as a whole. «Over the next few days, it will become clear whether we can surmount the walls of the past,» Simitis said. «The negotiating process is now entering its most delicate and decisive phase,» Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides stated. He avoided answering questions on whether the UN plan is in line with the UN Security Council resolutions, saying he first needs to study it in depth. Clerides has said that there are certain limits which the Greek-Cypriot side is morally and politically entitled to stick to, without this meaning that it is not striving to reach a settlement. The Cypriot president emphasized Athens’s «strong» and «solid» backing for Nicosia and the continuous cooperation between the two capitals. Both leaders referred to the need for sobriety, solidarity and responsibility in the light of the tough negotiations. The remarks by conservative opposition leader Costas Karamanlis were in the same spirit. He spoke of the need for «consensus on the highest level,» though he was obliged to comment without having read the Annan plan. «There is no room for painful compromises,» he said, asking the president of the republic to summon the country’s political leaders forthwith. The need to develop a sober and unbiased stance on the UN plan must be stressed. There are many difficulties and both sides must make mutual concessions and compromises. We were already aware of this. Annan dramatically underscored this by giving a seven-day deadline to both sides, if his proposal is accepted as a basis of negotiations. There are some crucial issues, such as a single sovereignty, a single international voice, a single nationality and the new state’s viability, on which Athens and Nicosia cannot back down. The proposal must be examined, to see if it is tolerable. Simitis was right – this cannot be done under pressure. The bitter experience of 1960 proves this. The times may be different, but a search for solutions that will not be undermined from the outset is needed. Hopefully, all will go well.