OPINION

Need to negotiate

Athens and Nicosia have already made it clear that they will accept UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint as a basis for negotiations on Cyprus. Opposition parties in both capitals have not exercised pressure strong enough to change the stance of Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides. Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots are also expected to give the plan a chance – at least in this phase. Everything seems to point to intensive negotiations starting soon. Each stage in the talks will have to be completed successfully within an extremely tight time frame. On February 28 – little more than three months away – there will be a final settlement in place, or nothing. Hopefully, Athens and Nicosia will do everything in their power to reach a viable solution. This will be no easy task. But the situation is no longer vague or abstract – it has a very concrete shape: the Annan plan. Any further steps first require the political will to embrace it. Then, a sensible, painstaking and persuasive campaign needs to be prepared and coordinated to bring about the best possible amendments to the Annan proposal, especially to some crucial points that undermine the plan’s viability. It’s hard to ignore the decision-making logjams that could result from a six-member executive presidential council in the case of disagreement between the two communities as, according to the plan, at least one of the two Turkish-Cypriot members of the council will have to agree for a resolution to pass. The Greek-Cypriot side has to push for a set of rules that will restrict the veto power which is de facto ceded to Turkish-Cypriots and which will result in excessive use of the Supreme Court to break political deadlocks. This is even more urgent given that in such cases, the final decision will rest with the three foreign judges provided for by the Annan plan. Nor should Cyprus be excluded from Europe’s defense and security policy (which, according to the plan, depends on Turkish consent) or the – drastically undermined – acquis communautaire on free movement and acquisition of property on the island. The plan’s poor provisions for the removal of Turkish settlers, the return of Greek-Cypriot refugees and the right to unilateral military action by the guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and Britain (which was used as a pretext for the Turkish invasion) are justly seen as causes for serious concern.