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De Soto says talks must be concluded by 28 February
2003-02-17 16:50:26

Constantinople, Feb 17 (CNA) ? UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, said that negotiations for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem had to be concluded by the end of this month.

Speaking on arrival in Ankara, where he will hold talks with government officials, de Soto said the newly elected Cyprus President, Tassos Papadopoulos, told him he is aware of the time limitation and that he would be ready to participate in the talks in a few days.|

Noting he met Papadopoulos and outgoing President Glafcos Clerides earlier in Nicosia today, de Soto said that the former told him he would start the talks with a positive spirit.

De Soto said "Papadopoulos told me he would be ready to participate in the talks in a few days, because he also does not want the talks to be interrupted. He is aware of the time limitation", he said, and reminded of the importance of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's visits to Athens and Ankara next week.

Invited to comment on Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's statements that de Soto is putting pressure on both sides at the talks, de Soto said that he did not want to make comments without knowing fully what Denktash had said. However he said, "I suppose he (Denktash) exaggerates my power a little bit".

He stressed that negotiations had to be concluded by February 28 for a united Cyprus to sign the Accession Treaty with the European Union on April 16.

De Soto will meet Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal at the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of the island's territory.

CNA/EC/MM/2003
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY

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