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Media Watch 2004

14 February 2004
Source: Independent
Author: Stephen Castle
Comment: The following article appeared in the Independent of London on 14 February 2004.
Cyprus talks raise hopes of vote on unification

Hopes of a reunited Cyprus joining the European Union in May rose yesterday when the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders agreed to resume negotiations on reunification and put the result to separate popular votes.

Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, will put forward proposals where the two parties are unable to agree.

The agreement, which came after three days of talks in New York, provides the last chance of resolving the 30-year-old division of the island before the EU's expansion. Only the Greek side will join the EU this year, but yesterday's breakthrough raises the prospect of a reunited island being admitted on 1 May.

The two sides will reconvene on Thursday next week to finalise a plan to reunify Cyprus by 22 March. If that fails, talks would begin to try to resolve the issue by the end of March. If there is still no breakthrough, Mr Annan will intervene to "fill in the gaps".

Mr Annan said: "In the event of a continuing and persistent deadlock, the parties have invited me to use my discretion to finalise the text to be submitted to the referenda."

The Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, blamed for the collapse of talks in April last year, said: "The entire issue is to reach an outcome while protecting our people's rights."

The acting Greek Foreign Minister, Tassos Giannitsis, said: "This day opens a new historic opportunity for the resolution of the Cyprus problem.""