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OP-ed In the International Herald Tribune by Kofi Annan, UNSG
2003-03-10 16:05:47

Copyright ? 2002 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com March 10, 2003

Kofi Annan: My plan for Cyprus

NEW YORK Last week, I visited Turkey, Greece and Cyprus to propose a third version of my plan to reunify Cyprus. The two Cypriot leaders, Tassos Papadopoulos and Rauf Denktash, have agreed to meet me in The Hague on Monday to say whether they are prepared to put the plan to referendum on March 30. If, and only if, they say yes, the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will be given the chance to vote to re-unify Cyprus. If both vote for re-unification, the co-presidents of a United Cyprus Republic will sign the Treaty of Accession to the European Union in Athens on April 16, and Cyprus will join the EU united.

On each side, some are calling for more time to negotiate. However, the third revision of my plan is the culmination of negotiations that began in late 1999. The leaders have not been able to achieve breakthroughs during the process without UN input. It is hard to see how they could agree to rework the text in time for the March 30 referendum.

The framework of incentives to make the historic compromises necessary for peace in Cyprus will remain strong until the moment when Cyprus signs the Treaty of Accession to the European Union on April 16. Since the referendum must happen before that date, the commitment for it to go ahead is needed now.

If a united Cyprus signs the accession treaty, EU membership will become a cornerstone of peace-building on the island. Turkish Cypriots as well as Greek Cypriots will enjoy the fruits of EU membership. Turkey's European path will be clearer, and Greek-Turkish rapprochement will be cemented.

If a divided Cyprus signs the treaty, the favorable conditions that exist today for a settlement will be radically altered: The division of the island will be further entrenched, Greek-Turkish relations will be set back, and Turkey's European aspirations will be harmed.

That is why putting off any further a decision to go to referendum is tantamount to rejecting any solution any time soon - and why the choice is not between my plan and a radically different one. The real choice is between my plan and no solution at all. And I believe the plan is a fair and honorable compromise bringing real benefits to each side.

For the Greek Cypriots, the plan respects the human rights of those displaced in 1974, and territorial adjustment will allow a majority of them to return to their homes under Greek Cypriot administration. The political structure envisaged for Cyprus would promote unity and avoid many of the less workable features of previous models.

For the Turkish Cypriots, their status as equal partners in a new Cyprus would be guaranteed in a manner far more explicit than in any previous model. The plan gives them cast-iron guarantees of their political equality and of the bi-zonal character of the republic, comprising two constituent states. An agreement would also end the decades-long political and economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.

I welcomed the strong support of the prime ministers of Greece and Turkey during my visit. The motherlands have an important role to play in encouraging the Cypriot leaders to commit themselves to putting my plan to a vote. They will be guarantors of the new state of affairs should the people on each side vote "Yes." I also welcome the offer of the third guarantor, the United Kingdom, to cede almost half of its sovereign base areas on the island to a United Cyprus Republic should an agreement be reached in the time frame laid down in my plan.

As we invite the Cypriots to take this bold step toward a common future, we must assure them that the international community will back up words with deeds. A long-term commitment to a UN presence in Cyprus mandated by the Security Council will be required. International donors will also have to step forward to help finance the implementation of the agreement. The European Commission has already offered to organize a donors' conference.. I very much welcome that.

At a time of tension and discord in the world, the Christian Greek Cypriots and the Muslim Turkish Cypriots have a rendezvous with history - a chance for Cyprus to be transformed from a seemingly insoluble international problem to a beacon of international hope. No one says that re-unification will be easy, but everyone knows that continued division will be much harder.

Decision time has arrived. At the helm on each side are men of thorough experience in the Cyprus problem. The challenge for them now is to become the leaders of the Cyprus solution. A reunited Cyprus should accede to the EU, and Greece and Turkey should work together to bring a new era of peace and stability to the Eastern Mediterranean. Opportunity beckons. It should not be missed.

The writer is secretary-general of the United Nations.

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