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Sides in Cyprus not given answer to UN chief yet
2003-03-10 13:26:22

by Maria Myles-- The Hague, Mar 10 (CNA) - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said today that the two sides in Cyprus have not yet answered his question as to whether they would sign a commitment in The Hague to put to the people of the island his plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem at separate simultaneous referenda on March 30.

Speaking at a press conference in The Hague, after a series of meetings with the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides, as well as the representatives of guarantor powers Britain, Greece and Turkey, Annan said a simple yes or no took a lot of doing and reiterated that there was now a unique opportunity to solve the Cyprus problem which may not come around again for a few years.

In his opening statement, Annan said ''many of you would like me to say something about the Cyprus talks but I cannot give you much because the talks are still going on''.

''I may be able to tell you something later but let me say that one of the difficulties we had to face in this stage of the search for a Cyprus settlement is that our work has been overshadowed by the atmosphere of crisis and great anxiety that is affecting the whole world, the question of Iraq and its disarmament'', he added.

Replying to questions, Annan said he would be meeting with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash ''later on and after that you will have an answer''.

He added that ''sometimes, to get to what you call a simple yes or no takes quite a lot of doing''.

Invited to say what the chances were of reaching a settlement, Annan said ''this is a real opportunity, a unique opportunity, which if it is missed I am not sure it is going to come around for a long, long time and as I have indicated I doubt it will come around again during my term as Secretary General and I have another four years to go''.

On Iraq, Annan said what happens there ''will have a profound complication on other issues in the region'' and noted that ''war must be a last resort''.|

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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