Marathon peace talks to pave the way for the reunification of Cyprus have collapsed, heralding the end of the UN's peace mission there.
Many Turkish Cypriots want a deal
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan held talks late into Monday night in a final attempt to reach a deal ahead of a UN deadline.
But he admitted defeat after 15 hours of talks. Even an offer to extend the deadline failed, when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said there was no immediate prospect of further discussions.
I share tonight with all peace-loving Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well as Greeks and Turks a deep sense of sadness
UN Secretary General
The talks, at The Hague, were a last-ditch attempt to reunite the Mediterranean island before it signs a treaty in mid-April to join the European Union next year.
It now looks almost certain that membership will, in effect, apply only to the southern, Greek Cypriot part of the island.
The collapse could also hit Turkey's own EU membership hopes.
"If... at the end of 2004 there is
still no settlement on Cyprus, we will be facing this rather
weird situation where a candidate country knocking at the door
does not recognise one of our own member states," said European Commission spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori.
"It appears difficult in this situation to envisage the
start of accession negotiations with Turkey."
Mr Annan announced that the UN special envoy's office was now being closed.
"Regrettably these (peace) efforts were not a success. We have reached the end of the road," said a statement from Mr Annan.
"I share tonight with all peace-loving Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well as Greeks and Turks a deep sense of sadness.
"I'm not sure another opportunity like this will present itself again any time soon."
Both sides had been unhappy with key aspects of the plan.
Turkish Cypriots thought they were being asked to cede too much land, and the Greek Cypriot side thought too few refugees were being given the right to return home.
But ultimately it was the Turkish Cypriot side which refused to even talk further, and which was blamed for the failure of the peace process.
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos confirmed that the talks had produced "no agreement", although he had been willing to continue talks.
"Denktash is not ready to accept the Annan plan," he said.
Mr Denktash said that he would not put the proposals to his people in referendums which would have been held on 30 March.
VIEWS FROM CYPRUS
Cypriots give their opinion of the peace process
"The plan was unacceptable for us. This was not a plan we would ask our people to vote for," Mr Denktash said.
The UN plan had undergone several revisions in an attempt to win support.
Mr Annan had hoped that a united island could join the EU.
Even an offer during the talks to extend the referendum date to 6 April, and to keep talking until 28 March, failed.
"We always stated that we wanted to join (the EU), but not as a minority of a Greek Cyprus," said Mr Denktash, after the talks had failed.
The leaders could not bridge the divide
The UN plan would have created a Swiss-style federation of Greek and Turkish Cypriot constituent states.
Mr Denktash has been under public pressure to agree to the UN plan, with growing numbers of Turkish Cypriots hoping for a boost to their economy through EU membership.
The failure of the talks marks the end of 18 months' work for UN special envoy Alvara de Soto.
Mr Annan said the talks could still be resumed at a
"My plan remains on the table," he said.