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Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 14:34 GMT
EU urges Cyprus to make peace
Kofi Annan looks on as Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash shake hands (file photo)
Kofi Annan met the two Cypriot leaders earlier this year
The European Union has urged the Greek and Turkish communities to "seize the opportunity" for peace presented by the UN's plan to reunite the island.

As UN Secretary General Kofi Annan handed the plan to the leaders of the two communities on Monday, he said he wanted broad agreement within a month - in time for the EU's Copenhagen summit on enlargement.

The EU's enlargement commissioner, Guenter Verheugen, welcomed the peace plan, which proposes the creation of a Swiss-style confederation, and said he was hopeful of a settlement before the summit - when Cyprus is due to complete its EU membership negotiations.

However, some Cypriot newspapers, on both sides of the Green Line that has divided the island since 1974, denounced the plan, and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said reaching agreement in a month would be "very difficult".

EU catalyst

In a statement, Mr Verheugen said: "All efforts should be undertaken to make use of the very limited time left, and to bring the process to a positive outcome, so that the accession negotiations would indeed have served as a catalyst for a settlement."

The UN's 150-page plan proposes:

  • A common state made up of two equal component states in "indissoluble union"
  • Single Cypriot citizenship
  • A six-member presidential council proportional to the population of the two states, with a 10-month rotating presidency
  • A transitional government for three years
  • A two-chamber parliament composed of 48 members each
  • Cyprus to join the European Union and maintain special ties with Greece and Turkey
  • Cyprus to be demilitarised and barred from purchasing arms, with UN observers to monitor compliance
  • Greece and Turkey allowed to maintain limited military forces on the island
  • Constitution to safeguard civil rights and rights of minorities
  • A reconciliation commission to promote tolerance and mutual respect

Mr Annan has asked the two Cypriot leaders to respond within a week.

Greek and Turkish Cypriot newspapers were divided on the plan.

Our struggle will continue

Volkan newspaper
A banner headline in the right-wing Greek Cypriot daily Simerini condemned the plan as a "Nightmare settlement", while the Mahi newspaper described it as "blackmail".

"Our struggle will continue," said the Volkan daily, in the Turkish north of the island, while the biggest-selling Kibris daily said the plan was not a victory for either side.

'Positive mind'

Glafcos Clerides
Glafcos Clerides: Prudence
Earlier, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said he would view the proposals with a "positive mind".

Greek Cypriot leader Glafcos Clerides called on his compatriots to view the plan as a comprehensive package and not focus on single provisions which may not satisfy their aims.

"We have to face these decisive developments united, with prudence and with a sense of responsibility," he said.

Mr Papandreou said negotiations would have to be intensive, and both sides would have to show good will, but it was not certain that they would produce the desired result.

He indicated that the UN expected Cyprus's two communities to hold referendums on 30 March next year.

Turkish bargaining chip

The island has been divided since Turkish troops occupied the northern third in 1974, in response to a brief Greek Cypriot coup.

The EU is anxious for Cyprus to be fully reunited by 2004, when it is expected to enter the bloc.

Turkey has in the past threatened to annex the northern part of the island if it is not.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason says Turkey's influence over the Turkish Cypriots will be essential to any settlement, but in return it would want European leaders to set a date for starting negotiations on its own EU membership.

The BBC's Greg Barrow
"Despite all the diplomatic efforts Cyprus has remained divided"
The BBC's Panos Polyzoidis
"Cyprus President Clerides called on his compatriots to view the plan as a comprehensive package"
UN special envoy to Cyprus Alvaro De Soto
"This is a rather long and complex document"

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