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Media Watch 2004

30 January 2004
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 30 January 2004.
Tassos to Annan: Try again!


PRESIDENT Papadopoulos made a direct appeal yesterday for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to re-launch negotiations to end the island’s 30-year division before it joins the European Union on May 1.

“I think enough time has been lost with various public relations games. Time is really short, so we must aim at talks which are result-oriented and not repeat previous exercises where no progress was made and no serious negotiating process took place”, he said.

Asked whether Kofi Annan had informed him about new talks starting on February 9, Papadopoulos replied: “No, the Secretary-General did not touch upon the subject. He repeated his conditions. We gave him our ideas as to how we can overcome whatever reservations. I hope he will consider them, so that a way will be found to move forward.”

The two men met in a Brussels hotel amid a reviving diplomatic drive to bring the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides together for a fresh round of reunification talks.

SG will decide

But there was no sign that new talks were imminent. “The Secretary-General will decide. I cannot tell you that the SG is going to call the talks immediately,” Papadopoulos told reporters after the meeting.

UN diplomats said that Kofi Annan wanted to get the views of all four parties involved--clearly indicating that he needed assurances from hawkish Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash that he would be forthcoming.

The previous UN-brokered talks collapsed last March, and the international community blamed Denktash for the failure, since he rejected the reunification plan presented by the UN Secretary-General.

“After all these efforts from the UN and others involved, I think we deserve another chance from the Secretary-General. This was my plea to him,” the Cypriot President said.

Papadopoulos reiterated his willingness to take part in substantive negotiations “within the parameters and the philosophy of the Annan plan”.

Invited to say what he thought of the Turkish suggestion to have US Secretary of State Colin Powell assuming the role of mediator, Papadopoulos replied: “I think we had better leave this to be decided by the Secretary-General. He gave us his initial reaction to that and I think it is really a side issue. The main issue is not to waste any more time, to start talks immediately, hopefully to complete them in time so that a reunited Cyprus joins the EU.”

Speaking to reporters ahead of his meeting with Papadopoulos, the UN chief said he would “try and get these negotiations concluded as soon as possible," adding that he would need all sides to “show the will and determination to engage seriously.”

He said a settlement should be reached by the end of March, if a reunited Cyprus was to join the EU on May 1.

“The plan on the table does envisage that the parties may have the possibility of negotiating changes...which means that if you work backwards ideally we should try and have an agreement by the end of March, to be able to have simultaneous referenda in April to meet the May 1 deadline.”

He made it clear that any talks would have to be “on the basis” of his plan. He repeated he had “very good” discussions with Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan who had indicated his desire to see talks resume and to “support and actively play a role in the negotiations.”

Good friend

Asked to comment on reports that Turkey asked for a “strong negotiator” such as Powell to take an active role in the UN process, the SG replied: “I believe my good friend the Secretary of State Colin Powell already has a job and he has his hands full”.

He defended his special adviser, Alvaro de Soto of Peru, who has apparently upset the Turkish side, saying: “I have had a very good negotiator who knows the issues inside out. If we were to resume the process, because of the time factor, I would want to have somebody who knows the issues.”

Pressure for an agreement has mounted as the date of EU membership nears.

In another sign of the building international momentum on the Cyprus issue, Secretary of State Powell met in Washington with Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul and said the US would make every effort to resolve the Cyprus dispute based on Annan’s plan.

Not a mediator

He would get “personally involved as necessary to work with the Secretary-General and the parties.”

But he said the United States would not be a mediator in the negotiations.

“There is a moment of opportunity here that we hope to seize and have referendums and resolve outstanding issues and hopefully get it all done by May 1," said Powell, who was also due to speak to Annan by telephone from Washington.

"I think it’s time for all of us to put pressure on all sides to get a resolution to this difficult situation, it’s gone on for so long. And I think we’re getting close to a solution.

“So to the extent that we can assist the SG in his efforts, and assist all the sides in coming together on the basis of the Secretary-General’s plan, then we will do so.”
Erdogan, who discussed Cyprus with President Bush on Wednesday, said the Turkish side was “determined“ to seek a solution.

Greece’s Foreign Minister George Papandreou, speaking in Thessaloniki, welcomed Turkey’s pledge to seek a settlement in Cyprus but urged for “action” to end the 30-year division of the island. “We welcome this statement, but we want to see it in deeds,” he said during a campaign rally."