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Weston says Denktash has hardened his position on UN peace plan
2003-06-17 13:41:54

Nicosia, Jun 17 (CNA) US State Department Coordinator for Cyprus, Thomas Weston said Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash?s attitude against the Annan plan for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem has hardened. However, Weston said he has made some progress during his tour ...

... noting he has made very clear the US commitment for a Cyprus settlement based on the Annan Plan.

Speaking at a press conference Weston said he reiterated the "longstanding position of the US that they foster a settlement in Cyprus based on the Annan Plan", before the island becomes a full member of the EU in May 2004.|

He said there "is no change in the US commitment in fostering a last and durable settlement" on Cyprus.

Weston said he comes away from his meetings in Europe (Brussels, Rome and Athens) with the view that "I think I made some progress".

Asked if he exerted more pressure on the Turkish Cypriot side, Weston said "it is clear that from the Security Council resolutions and the view of the international community is, and the US view too, that the attitude of the Turkish side and in particular in The Hague, was largely to a point responsible" for not putting the settlement to referenda.

Asked if Denktash's position has changed, Weston said he had a very extensive discussion with the Turkish Cypriot leader, noting he cannot report a change of Denktash's positions on the Annan Plan.

He said Denktash has become ''publicly much more critical of the Annan plan than he has been in the past and I think he may also be taking a much harder position than I have seen him take in the past about measures designed to improve the situation with Turkish Cypriots put forward by either the Greek Cypriot government of Cyprus or the EU''.

Weston said there is a "bit of a change", describing it however not positive, but ''a hardening of the position for the worse".

Asked what progress was achieved since he has talked about hardening of Denktash?s stance, Weston replied, "to make very clear what the position of the US is in finding a comprehensive settlement".

''It is the opinion of the United States that negotiations should be taking place right now because we believe it's very important to have a settlement no later than May 2004,'' Weston added.

He noted ''there is no other realistic path through to a settlement than the third Annan Plan".

On his meeting with President Tassos Papadopoulos, Weston said, "the Greek Cypriot leader is very anxious to return to negotiations on the basis of the Annan Plan".

Asked if there is a new US initiative, Weston said he has heard the press reports about this, but explained that there is no US initiative in the sense that an alternative plan to that of the Annan Plan is being promoted.

However, he said a "US initiative is underway in the sense of a continuation and reinvigoration (of the US commitment) to make progress towards a settlement based on the Annan Plan".

Weston said the only way ahead is to encourage a more forthcoming attitude on the part of the Turkish government.

Referring to the Annan Plan, he said it was built on the "many years of efforts by the UN in trying to find a way forward to bridge the incredibly wide gap on the core issues of a settlement".

"We believe that the Annan Plan includes the necessary compromises to reach a settlement" on Cyprus, said Weston, noting it is "very hard to imagine a different plan that would contain fundamental differences from the Annan Plan". Such a plan, he said, would surely look a lot like the Annan Plan.

He further said that the Annan Plan is not inconsistent with either the Convention on the Future of Europe, or the European Convention on Human Rights or the United Nations Convention of Human Rights.

Weston described the crossings of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots over the divide without any incidents as "spectacular and unprecedented".

The latest effort to reach a settlement collapsed when the Turkish side refused to put to a referendum the solution plan proposed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Cypriots started crossing the divide after the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime eased restrictions on free movement which it had imposed nearly thirty years ago, when Turkish troops invaded Cyprus.


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