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Cyprus: Greek Leader Ready To Resume Reunification Talks

Brussels, 30 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Tassos Papadopoulos, president of the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot republic, today called for the immediate resumption of talks to reunify the island in time for European Union enlargement.

Papadopoulos is in Brussels for a series of meetings with UN and EU representatives. He said after meeting with European Commission President Romano Prodi that his government is ready to start talks without any preconditions. "I informed Mr. Prodi that I appealed to [UN Secretary-General Kofi] Annan [last night] to call immediate talks," he said. "No conditions [are attached] on our part, and no preconditions, or rather presuppositions. Whenever he calls us, we'd be there to talk."

Annan said in Brussels on 28 January that the Turkish government has also expressed willingness to revive the talks, which broke off last March. He said he is engaged in intricate four-way talks with the leaders of the Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, and what he called the two "motherlands" -- Greece and Turkey. Annan also outlined the time frame he intends to pursue, saying a deal must be place by the end of March for it to come into effect by 1 May.

Prodi said this morning that this leaves a small window of opportunity for a settlement, adding that the EU is also urging all sides to work within it. He said the bloc is prepared to provide more money for a reunited Cyprus and that an international donors conference is possible. "We are ready to give all our technical assistance that is needed at this delicate stage," Prodi said. "It is clear that this means also -- if needed -- a financial engagement and an engagement to call a donors conference if necessary and if it is agreed."

Papadopoulos today said enough time has been wasted on "going around and throwing [about] ideas in interminable negotiations." He said the time has come to "get down to serious, result-oriented talks." He warned that "serious practical problems" will emerge if the reunification of Cyprus does not take place before 1 May, and that a deal will become more difficult in the future.

Papadopoulos today sidestepped questions about whether his government is ready to accept one of the key demands set forth by Annan on 28 January -- that the UN secretary-general be given the authority to "fill in any blanks" that remain in talks after the end of March. Without offering a clear view of his own, Papadopoulos said he has information that the Turkish government does not accept the demand. The main "blank" likely to remain after any talks is the future status of Cyprus and whether it will join the EU as a single state or as two separate political entities.