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Annan stresses need for referenda on 30 March
2003-02-28 11:12:24

Larnaca, Feb 28 (CNA) -- UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has said he believes ''it will be a sad day for the people'' of the island and for the region if the current opportunity for a political settlement in Cyprus was lost.

He also said it was important the ''people are given a chance to decide'' on their future in separate referenda.

Speaking on departure at Larnaca airport, at the end of his three day visit to the island, Annan said this was a unique opportunity that must not be missed and added that he believed a UN peace plan for a settlement that is on offer is ''fair and balanced''.

In his opening statement, Annan said ''I am very satisfied with the outcome of the mission which I have conducted over the past few days in Ankara, Athens and Nicosia, in relation to a Cyprus settlement''.

He said, ''in particular, I am glad that the two leaders, Mr (Rauf) Denktash and Mr (Tassos) Papadopoulos, have agreed to meet me again in The Hague on 10 March''.

''I have asked the two leaders to arrive at The Hague prepared to tell me, there and then, whether or not they would sign a committment to submit the Foundation Agreement to approval at separate simultaneous referenda on 30 March in order to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem,'' he said.

The Secretary-General said he has also asked ''the two leaders to arrive in The Hague having completed all necessary internal consultations and processes so that the response on 10 March is definitive''.

''At the end of my visit'', said Kofi Annan, ''I am convinced that all concerned - Greece, Turkey and the two parties in the island - understand that the holding of referenda on 30 March is the key to a reunited Cyprus signing the Treaty of Accession on 16 April''.

''I myself am absolutely certain that a Cyprus settlement which brings about a new state of affairs, would be a great benefit to all the people of Cyprus, as well as to the motherlands, the region and the entire international community'', said the UN Secretary-General.

Annan said that ''there is a unique opportunity that must not be missed. As I said on arrival, Cyprus has a rendezvous with destiny. I believe very strongly that the Plan for a Settlement that is on offer is fair and balanced''.

''Of course it is a compromise. But all negotiated settlements require compromise. I urge all concerned to catch the tide before it turns, perhaps irreversibly'', Annan noted.

Annan said he would pray and hope that ''you will soon have the settlement so long hoped for and so long denied''.

Asked what would be the purpose of the meeting in The Hague given that Denktash said he would not sign the plan, Annan said that he made it very clear in the statement he issued this morning ''and in my discussions with the leaders, that I want them to come to The Hague, to tell me that they are going to put the settlement plan to a referendum and that they will let the people decide''.

''I think it is important that the people are given a chance to decide,'' he added.

Annan said, ''I have not asked Mr. Denktash to sign the agreement. What I want is a committment from him when we meet, that the issue be put to referenda on 30 March''.

Asked what would happen if the people say no at the referenda, Annan replied ''if one party or the other says no, there should be no doubt we are at the end of the road''.

''We have put lots of effort in it and I am not sure this opportunity will come again soon, if it ever comes again. I think it will be a sad day for the people of this island, for both communities and for the region,'' the Secretary General said.

''We have an opportunity to reunite this island, and get them into the EU, a development that would improve the Turkish-Greece relationship, the Turkish- EU relationship and relationships in the region. And so I think we should all consider the downside very carefully,'' he added.

Invited to say what would happen if one party tries to put off its response to his call beyond 10 March, Annan responded, ''no one has that choice. I have stated to them very clearly that if a reunited Cyprus is to enter the EU to sign the Accession Treaty on the 16th April, we must have that referendum on the 30th of March. They don't have the time.

''I know this process has taken a very long time, but we are really at the end of the road, and I think we have to be very careful not to think there is lots of time and one can continue business as usual'', he concluded.|

Leaving with Annan were Britain's special representative for Cyprus, Lord David Hannay, who has been having contacts here over the past week.

CNA EC/MM/2003

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