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Annan: defining moment for Cyprus
2003-02-24 19:36:48

Ankara, Feb 24 (CNA) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Sunday that Cyprus was the question uppermost in his mind, stressing that the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem had reached a high point, and that this was the defining moment for the island.

According to the Turkish news agency Anadolu, Annan, who held a news conference at Ankara's Esenboga Airport, said that there were many issues that were of common interest to Turkey and the United Nations, not least the Iraq crisis. |

Highlighting the fact that Turkey was his first stop on a tour that would also take him to Greece and Cyprus, Annan noted that it was a critical moment in the region and Turkey had a central role to play in tackling the issues that confronted them.

He said the European Union was due to meet for the signature of the Treaty of Accession of ten new members, including Cyprus, on April 16, adding that he devoutly hoped that the Treaty would be signed on behalf of a united Cyprus.

Stating that this was also the strong preference of the EU, Annan said Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots had to decide, in separate simultaneous referenda on March 30, to approve a comprehensive settlement and bring about a new state of affairs.

The UN chief said he wished to do all he could to encourage the leaders to muster the spirit of compromise, courage and leadership of which they were capable.

He added that the aim of his visit to Ankara was to discuss with the Turkish government how he would contribute to this last effort pertaining to Cyprus.

Answering to questions Annan pointed out that, the parties accepted to negotiate on the basis of the revised proposal that he put to them on December 10, 2002. He said it did not prove possible for the parties to come to an agreement before the Copenhagen European Council last December.

Pointing out that his Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto had carried out intensive consultations in Nicosia, Ankara and Athens, Annan said, ''in light of what we have been hearing from the parties, we have been carefully examining whether and how it might be possible to improve the plan, while preserving the overall balance that it contains. The parties are aware of what we have in mind.''

Annan said the purpose of his visit was to discuss with the Turkish government, as he would do in Athens with the Greek government, ''how the two motherlands can rally in support of this last effort, and assist the parties in coming to terms.''

''The opportunity is open. It is clearly in the interest of all -Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Greece and Turkey - to seize this opportunity now. There is little time. Let us take advantage of it,'' Annan said.

Asked if he came to Ankara with a third plan for Cyprus, he did not give a clear answer but said that he would discuss settlement of the issue with Turkish officials.

Replying to another question, Annan said that he was still hopeful for a solution and that ''they could do it.''

Asked about the role of the United States in a solution of the issue, Annan said that there was no pressure on neither himself nor the UN.

On contrary, he noted, there was great support from the United States and Europe to settle that issue.

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

Annan will be in Cyprus from 26-28 February in an effort to secure a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem, based on his revised plan.


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