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Media Watch 2004

15 February 2004
Source: Sunday Mail
Author: Jean Christou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Sunday Mail of Nicosia on 15 February 2004.
Papadopoulos warns of tough times ahead

PRESIDENT Tassos Papadopoulos yesterday pledged the government would seek the best possible solution under the circumstances, but warned there were tough times ahead over the coming weeks.

Papadopoulos was speaking at Larnaca Airport on his return from New York, where he agreed on Friday to a UN roadmap for talks based on the Annan plan, beginning on Thursday in Nicosia.

If the talks reach deadlock by March 22, guarantor powers Greece and Turkey will be called in, and if that yields no result by the end of the month, UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan will fill in the blanks on unresolved issues. The plan will then be sent to separate referenda before the end of April.

But, replying to reporters’ questions, Papadopoulos insisted the process was not a one-way street: “It is a procedure of negotiations with timeframes which aims to end in a solution.

“If there is no conclusion, then there cannot be a solution without an agreement,” he added, in an apparent contradiction to the agreement to allow Annan to fill in the gaps if there is no agreement, and put the plan to referendum irrespective.

Papadopoulos admitted that, under the circumstances, a solution might not necessarily be “as fair as it should or certainly as we wanted”, insisting, however, that it should be “functional and viable within the framework of the Annan Plan so that a reunited Cyprus can function within the EU”.

“If the solution is not good, the political leadership will decide how to handle it at the end of the final stage of the procedures and everyone will undertake their responsibilities,” he said.

“But in my view, the significant difference from the previous situation is that these talks will be broad, and we will have the backing of Greece, Turkey and the EU.”

The Greek Cypriot side put in a last-minute request in New York for the EU to be involved in the negotiations, a requested rejected by the Turkish side.

In the end, the UN included a reference to a financial and technical role for the EU, but the Secretary-general ruled out any political involvement.

Papadopoulos nevertheless insisted that the EU’s role had significantly been upgraded and that he had been given assurances by Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen and the Secretary-general that the EU would be active at all stages of the negotiations.

Significantly, Verheugen is due on the island on Wednesday on the eve of the resumption of the talks.

“The road is long, and hard,” Papadopoulos added, “but from our side, we will work day and night very intensively in the coming days and weeks to achieve the improvements we seek on the Annan Plan so that this round of negotiations will reach a conclusion on which the people of Cyprus will finally make a decision,” Papadopoulos said.

“Our weapon in the negotiations is our faith in the justice of our rights, our argument over the precision of the changes which we pursue in the Annan plan, and unity.”

The President said his sole aim was to improve the Annan plan to achieve a solution that would serve the interests of all people in Cyprus, whose interests would not be sacrificed “for any expediency or under any pressure”.

He said he had been assured by Annan that the changes being sought by the Greek Cypriot side were within the Secretary-general’s parameters.

Papadopoulos said the Greek Cypriot side had been asked in New York to prove its declaration that it wanted the resumption of talks was genuine, and that that was what it had done.

Whether or not the talks would be successful, he said would depend on the positions of the two sides during negotiations, and more importantly on whether the Turkish side had changed its policy on Cyprus.

“This was not made completely clear from the New York discussions,” he said, adding that some of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s demands were completely outside the scope of the Annan plan and that the Greek Cypriot side had no intention of accepting them.

“I believe that, with the efforts we have undertaken and the understanding from the part of the foreign factors and the Secretary-general, we have managed to restrict the arbitrary role which the S-G had claimed, so that issues which are outside the framework of the Annan Plan will not be discussed,” he said.

Papadopoulos thanked the party leader who had accompanied him to New York and also thanked Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

“I want to publicly express my sincere thanks to Mr. Simitis for his wise advice, continued, steady and warm support in our efforts and I believe all the political people in Greece support our effort,” Papadopoulos said."