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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 April, 2004, 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK
Press pessimism on Cyprus poll

As Turkish and Greek Cypriots voted on a United Nations plan to reunite their divided island, European papers were united in their belief that the plan would be rejected by the Greek side.

"Greeks likely to scupper united Cyprus", reads a headline in the Czech Hospodarske Noviny.

Another Czech paper, Mlada Fronta Dnes, also sees little prospect of a united Cyprus.

"The Greeks will vote 'no' and the Turks will pay the price - that is the likely outcome of this weekend's referendum", the online version of the paper says.

France's Liberation sees "the bitter choice of the two Cypruses" in a "historic" referendum.

But the paper is no doubt about the outcome.

Turkish Cypriots are poised to vote 'yes' because they are "keen to emerge from their isolation", it argues, while Greek Cypriots "who have doubts about the viability of a future federal state" are likely to vote 'no'.

Last chance

The referendum could be "the last chance" to solve "the Cypriot headache," the paper laments.

"The choice is between this solution and no solution at all," it says, echoing the words of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Spain's El Pais shows little optimism that the plan will succeed.

"On the day before its best opportunity for reunification in 30 years, Cyprus seemed to be a country more divided than ever," the daily says.

But Madrid's El Mundo suggests, with a touch of irony, that the two sides agree at least on one point.

"Two leaders and one message: no to the reunification of Cyprus," a headline in the paper says.

"Whoopee! For the first time in 30 years, the Greek Cypriot president and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart are in agreement about something," it exclaims.

"Although what Tassos Papadopulos and Rauf Denktash agree on is no more than the rejection of the reunification plan."

Demise and damnation

The failure of the referendum could spell political demise for the Turkish Cypriot leader, the daily says.

Obstinate in defending the 'no' vote on the reunification and independence of his small 'Turkish homeland', Denktash is losing touch with his people, it suggests.

Sixty per cent of Turkish Cypriots could vote "yes" and this would mean the defeat which would put an end to his political career and a whole era."

Paris's Le Figaro also highlights the likely repercussions of the 'no' vote.

"A defeat of the double referendum in Cyprus today would represent a resounding slap for the UN, the United States and the European Union", the daily says, adding that "years of diplomatic efforts to resolve one of the most complex conflicts in the world would have been in vain".

It adds that hopes for co-existence on the island would be reduced to "nothing", and that "it would stir up tensions in the eastern Mediterranean".

But Germany's Tagesspiegel, which also agrees that the Greek side is likely to reject the plan, says the result could be a blessing in disguise for the Turkish Cypriot side.

"EU will help north Cypriots," a headline in the paper reads.

The daily notes EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana's remarks that the EU would not leave Turkish Cypriots "in the cold forever", if Greek Cypriots rejected the referendum.

Finally, El Pais quotes the exiled bishop Paulos of Kirenia, in the predominantly Greek city in the north where the Turkish army disembarked in 1974, who has threatened "eternal damnation" to all Christians who vote 'yes'.

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.




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