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Media Watch 2003

19 September 2003
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Alex Efthyvoulos
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 19 September 2003.
Tassos gets full Greek backing

PRESIDENT Papadopoulos received full backing from the Greek government and opposition, during his visit here this week, that the search for a Cyprus settlement must remain within the UN framework and comply with the UN resolutions and the EU acquis.

But prospects for a breakthrough in the stalled UN-sponsored peace talks appeared as dim as ever. This was made clear by President Papadopoulos on his return to Cyprus on Wednesday when he said that while he accepts the Annan plan as a basis for negotiation, the UN Secretary-General himself insists that his plan must be accepted as it is and placed to separate referenda by the two sides.

The Greek support for Papadopoulos came in clear separate declarations by both Prime Minister Costas Simitis and opposition leader Constantinos Karamanlis. These were were aimed, on the one hand, at neutralising the attempt by Rauf Denktash for direct talks with Papadopoulos bypassing the UN, and, on the other, to stress that the Annan reunification plan needs to be amended to comply with the EU acquis.

“We reaffirmed with Mr Papadopoulos the attachment of Greece and of Cyprus to the UN procedure. We are opposed to any effort seeking a settlement ... outside this procedure, outside the U.N. framework,” Simitis told a joint news conference with Papadopoulos at the end of their talks on Tuesday.

“Our joint objective remains as always the conclusion of a viable, just and functional settlement on the basis of the UN resolutions and the EU acquis, now that Cyprus is a member of the European Union,’’ he stressed. There was also agreement , he added, that the readiness of both the Greek and the Cypriot sides must be maintained for the immediate resumption of the talks, “when the opportunity arises, on the basis of the existing plan of the UN Secretary-General, the Annan plan, as it is known.’’
Crucial election

Simitis ended his brief opening remarks saying that the elections in the occupied north on Dec. 10 “will clarify the situation in connection with further developments,’’ adding that the result “will be crucial’’ if there is a change in the present ruling scheme. In any case the intransigence of Denktash continues, “with Ankara supporting him fully,’’ he said.

Papadopoulos had little to add to the clear opening statement of Simitis apart from thanking him for the support during their talks “for the coordination of action, the correct evaluation of developments and the determination of further action.’’

“I am glad that in this effort we appear to have the support from others who are connected with the search for a settlement abroad,’’ he said. This in turn was a clear reference to the unambiguous recent public statements by the US Cyprus mediator Thomas Weston agreeing that the Annan plan needs to be amended in view of the developments since its presentation such as the accession of Cyprus to the EU.

Beyond the main emphasis on the reunification talks Simitis said that he and Papadopoulos also discussed “the European path of Cyprus, the harmonisation with the EU acquis which is proceeding, and the organisation of the relevant services of the Cyprus Republic. Everything is proceeding smoothly.’’

Replying to questions Simitis said even after Cyprus’ formal accession to the EU next May Turkey will continue to utilise all means to gain from the EU a date for the opening of its own accession negotiations.

Papadopoulos in turn, responding to a question on the likely presence of foreign observes at the elections in the north, said that their presence “must not provide validity, to the outsome of the election, that the result of the vote leads to the emergence of a legal and democratically elected represenative of the Turkish Cypriot community.’’

“I agree completely,’’ Simitis chipped in.

Papadopoulos went on to say that what is important is the terms of reference of the observers, and whether they will be able to check the electoral rolls during the few days that they will be there. Withiut saying so he inferred that the outcome of the election may be determined by the tens of thousands of Turkish mainland settlers who are granted citizenship of the breakaway statelet and voting rights on arrival, and whose numbers continue to be increasing even as the election date approaches, a development denounced strongly by the anti-Denktash Turkish Cypriot parties.

In his backing for changes in the Annan plan Karamanlis said that “the plan can lead Cyprus to a new era. Cyprus is now in its natural space, the European Union. This demands a change of mentality. Complying with these new realities the Annan plan can lead to this new era, which we wish will affect everybody. Eevery initiative of the international community must lead in this direction.’"