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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Reviving Peace Efforts

The Cypriot President will meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Paris on February 28 to discuss reviving efforts to reunite the war divided island nation. U.N. spokesman Mr. Stephane Dujarric today confirmed the Cypriot government’s announcement of the meeting. The spokesman said the agenda will include reviewing the Cypriot issue and discussing ways of moving forward on reunification. Please read below for more details.

Tassos and Annan to meet in Paris


PRESIDENT Papadopoulos and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will meet in Paris on February 28 to explore ways of reviving the stalled Cyprus peace talks.

The crucial issue is whether the UN chief will be persuaded to appoint a special envoy for Cyprus who will shuttle between the two sides in order to see if there is enough common ground allowing the UN to launch a new initiative.

So far, the Secretary-General has been reluctant to do so, noting that there remained a wide gap between the sides.

He now wants to make sure any new effort will have reasonable chances of success.

Presidential Under-secretary Christodoulos Pashiardis said yesterday the President was "ready to listen but also to make concrete suggestions." This was seen as an indirect reply to critics, who have been claiming Papadopoulos is not keen to resume the peace process.

Papadopoulos, who has dismissed the Turkish "action plan" announced by Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul last month, is expected to present counter-proposals, involving the return of the deserted town of Varosha and the joint operation of Famagusta port under EU supervision.

The official announcement about the forthcoming Paris meeting said Papadopoulos and Annan had agreed to meet "in order to review and take stock of the situation in Cyprus and discuss ways of moving forward the process of reuniting the island."

Pashiardis said the two men would examine "effective ways of preparing the ground for the launching by the United Nations of a new effort to conduct meaningful talks with serious prospects of success".

Foreign Minister George Iacovou said that as a means of preparing the ground, the S-G could either appoint a resident representative, or send a high ranking UN official to the island periodically to carry out proximity talks between the sides and report back to him.

He stressed that this did not mean new talks were "imminent."

Reports suggest the aim is to see whether settlement talks, which grounded to a halt two years ago, can get off the ground by the summer, even th0ough most observers believe chances of a possible breakthrough will be better after the Turkish elections next year.

Iacovou said the important thing was to see whether the Turkish side was ready for "substantive" negotiations, after agreeing to consider "substantial changes" to the Annan Plan.

The Greek Cypriot side has already submitted to the UN a detailed list of changes to the Plan, which was rejected by the vast majority of Greek Cypriots in the May 2004 referendum.

The National Council will be meeting today under President Papadopoulos to review developments, following requests by the Opposition who have been expressing concern about the lack of movement, stressing that the protracted stagnation helped cement the island’s division. Iacovou said the Paris rendezvous showed that "there is mobility."

Papadopoulos is likely to tell Annan that any new UN brokered peace process musts see the full involvement of all five permanent members of the UN Security Council, not just of Britain and the US.

He also wants the European Union to play an active role in any new negotiations, since he insists that a settlement must be based on Security Council resolutions and the principles upon which the EU is founded.

President Papadopoulos leaves for Vienna on Sunday for a two-day working visit to Austria, which holds the rotating EU presidency.

He will meet Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel and Federal President Heinz Fischer, to explain Cyprus’s views on EU matters and efforts to resolve the problems of the divided island.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat said yesterday he was ready to resume negotiations "on the basis of the Annan Plan".

He added: "The Secretary General will probably decide after his meeting with Mr Papadopoulos whether he will take a new initiative. I believe the S-G will take this initiative, if the Greek Cypriot leader really desires this, if the meeting is not just for creating positive impressions in view of the election period."

Greek Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis, speaking during a brief visit to Germany, said his government’s policy on Cyprus and other national issues "does not change, is stable."

He said Greece was willing to contribute to efforts to find a just, workable and sustainable solution to the Cyprus problem. The solution should conform with international law, UN resolutions and the principles and values of the European Union, of which Cyprus is already a member.

Meanwhile, US deputy assistant Secretary of State Mathew Bryza has again put off his planned visit to the island, originally set for last summer. Although he said in Brussels he hoped to visit the region later this month, the US Embassy informed the Foreign Ministry this week that Bryza would probably be coming "some time in the spring."

Cyprus Weekly, 18 - 25 February 2006

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