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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 March, 2004, 06:04 GMT
Crucial Cyprus talks set to begin
By Tabitha Morgan
BBC, Nicosia

A Turkish Cypriot wearing a badge on his chest that says 'no' in Turkish, Greek and English during a demonstration against the UN reunification plan in the Turkish section of Nicosia
There is still much work to be done ahead of EU membership in May
Four-way talks on the reunification of Cyprus are expected to begin later on Wednesday at the Swiss resort of Buergenstock near Lake Lucerne.

The Greek and Turkish foreign ministers will join the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.

They will attempt to overcome differences on the latest UN plan to reunite the island.

EU membership will in effect apply only in the Greek part of Cyprus if no deal has been struck by 1 May.

These talks have been carefully choreographed to gradually increase the pressure on the Greek and Cypriot leaders to accept an agreement before the end of this month.

But there is little expectation of any breakthrough before the arrival of the Greek and Turkish prime ministers, along with the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, on Sunday.

Even after more than a month of face-to-face negotiations in Cyprus, the two sides have a great deal of work to do if they are to reach a deal themselves.

They still have serious differences on key issues to do with the constitution, territory and finance, and the rights of refugees to return to their former homes.

But both sides have agreed in advance that Mr Annan should arbitrate on any outstanding areas of disagreement, so it seems that on paper, at least, a deal is guaranteed.

Greek and Turkish Cypriots will then vote on whether to accept this document in separate referendums towards the end of April, just 10 days before Cyprus joins the EU.

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