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President leaves for The Hague to meet UN chief
2003-03-09 09:33:35

Larnaca, Mar 9 (CNA) - President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos departed for the Hague today for a meeting tomorrow morning with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who has invited the two sides in Cyprus to tell him whether or not they would sign a commitment to put to the people of the island his plan for a comprehensive settlement at separate simultaneous referenda on March 30.

Speaking on departure from Larnaca Airport, the President said the reply to the UN chief would depend on the positions of the two sides, as they will be presented in The Hague.

He added that the National Council has convened twice to discuss the matter and that he has asked the political parties comprising the Council, top advisory body to the President on the Cyprus problem, not to express their views publicly until just before tomorrow's meeting. Papadopoulos added that his own decision would depend to a great extent on the views and decisions of the National Council members.

Papadopoulos said ''times are extremely serious and we will examine everything placed before us'' with the sole criterion being ''that which serves the long-term interests of Cyprus and its people''.

The people, he said, ''should not worry, because the National Council and I will look at the issues with all the seriousness and attention demanded by the circumstances''.

Replying to questions, Papadopoulos said only one meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow, which however may continue in the afternoon.

Commenting on a statement by the UN chief's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, that Kofi Annan asked a simple question that requires a simple answer, the President said ''the Secretary General has not concealed that this is his intention''.

''However, whether or not it a question that can be answered in one word, with a yes or no, will depend on the positions of the two sides, as they will be presented in The Hague'', he added.

Replying to questions, Papadopoulos said ''my decision to a great extent will be based on the views and decisions of the members of the National Council''.

He also said that negotiations on the Annan plan are ongoing and noted that ''whether or not these negotiations will lead to amendments or not we will find out in The Hague''.

Papadopoulos pointed out that Annan considers his peace plan to be balanced and thus any changes ''in favour of one side will have to be followed by something respective for the other side''.

He added that there were certain aspects of the plan on which changes did not necessarily mean taking away from one side and giving to the other. These aspects, he said, ''add to the workability and substantive implementation of the plan after signing it''.|

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Annan presented the two sides with a peace plan on 11 November 2002, followed by a revised one a month later. His third plan for a settlement was submitted during his visit to Cyprus in late February, shortly before his February 28 deadline for an agreement expired.


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