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Cyprus: Annan Presents Changed Peace Plan In Switzerland

  • Eugen Tomiuc --> Kofi Annan Prague, 29 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today presented his latest -- and likely final -- plan for the reunification of Cyprus. It's a last-minute attempt to strike a deal between Turkish and Greek Cypriots to allow a unified Cyprus into the European Union on 1 May.

Annan handed the 220-page document -- along with some 9,000 pages of annexes -- to the two Cypriot sides, as well as representatives from Greece and Turkey, during a ceremony in the Swiss resort of Buergenstock. The plan was presented after negotiators failed to bridge any of their differences over the previous five days of talks.

Annan told negotiators he believes the last-minute proposal is a "win-win" deal, and said he hopes it will give them the "courage to seize the chance for peace."

The Cypriot negotiators, as well as Greek and Turkish officials, have until 31 March to hammer out their differences over the document. Annan has a mandate to fill in any disputed gaps if the sides fail to reach a consensus by the deadline.

Complete details of the changes proposed today by Annan are not immediately available, but news agencies report that the plan maintains as its centerpiece the provision that Cyprus become a loose federation. It also reportedly give Greeks more land but allows fewer to return to what after a 1974 partition became the Turkish zone of the island. It also provides for the Turkish side to reduce its present territory by around 5 percent to a little more than 29 percent of Cyprus.

The plan is due to go to separate referendums in both Cypriot communities on 20 April. The revised document is the fourth version of a reunification blueprint the UN first presented in November 2002.

Annan's spokesman, Alvaro De Soto, said Annan expects the parties to give their views on the new plan by tomorrow. "[Annan] has asked [the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides], in any case, to be ready to come back to him with a formed reaction -- overall reaction -- by tomorrow morning," he said. De Soto said Annan will then decide how to proceed with the talks. "[After] having heard the reactions of all concerned, the secretary-general will make an evaluation and see whether it is possible and necessary to work out further adjustments to the plan, in close consultation -- I would call it a form of negotiation -- with the parties," he said.

Demetrios Christofas, president of the parliament of Greek Cypriots, noted yesterday in Buergenstock that the plan will be voted on by both communities, regardless of whether a consensus is reached in Switzerland. "The two leaders are committed to putting the final result to separate simultaneous referenda," he said. "This is the commitment -- nothing more, nothing less."

Serdar Denktash, foreign minister of the Turkish Cypriot state in northern Cyprus, said negotiations are at a point where "we cannot be optimistic or pessimistic -- we have to be realistic."

Denktash said he is aware that there is a need for compromise. Denktash said both sides have gone through agonizing times. "Whatever is written in the plan can be practically viable. As the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots went through days of agony for a long time in the past, I believe we both don't want to go through the same period again," he said.

Kypros Chrisostosides, a spokesman for the Greek Cypriots, said the good of the people of Cyprus -- both Greek and Turkish Cypriots -- must be the overriding priority for the negotiators. "We are always trying to achieve the best for the people of Cyprus -- both the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots," he said.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis, who is already in Buergenstock, is due to hold talks today with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was to arrive there today. Erdogan says he will try to speed up the negotiations. EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen is also expected to join the talks today.

If either of the two communities votes to reject the eventual plan, only the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot republic will join the EU.

Cyprus was divided in 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the north of the island in response to an Athens-backed Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. The unilaterally declared Turkish Cypriot republic is recognized only by Turkey, who maintains some 30,000 troops on the northern side of the island.