Commissioner Verheugen defends Annan Plan
Brussels, Dec 3 (CNA) - Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen, in an intervention before the Belgian Senate, defended the Annan Plan for a Cyprus settlement, describing it as the best foundation for negotiations.
He added that the UN Secretary General had said he would become involved again in the negotiations provided political will is ascertained from both sides.
Verheugen pointed out that it is in Turkey's interest to find a solution before 1st May 2004. ''The solution is not in Mr. Denktash who thinks that he can drag the rest of the world with him for too long. Developments can come from New York, Ankara, Athens, Nicosia and Brussels'', he said.
Verheugen was speaking before the Belgian parliament within the framework of hearings organised by the Foreign Affairs Committee, on the Cyprus problem and in view of the report, which the Committee will draft on Cyprus.
Senator Francois Roelants du Vivier said the Senate would hand the report to the Belgian government early next February.
He said the aim of the report would be to use the window of opportunity, which exists until 1st May 2004, to find a solution to the island's division, adding that on 1st May, the EU would be confronted with a member state of which a part of its territory will be under a unique situation since it will have troops of another state, which is seeking to enter the EU.
Du Vivier said this was a unique situation that constitutes a problem as far as the EU's security is concerned and for this reason the Senate wants to help the interested parties find a solution.
Verheugen said that with the Annan plan a window of opportunity has opened and there is no alternative. He said whoever thought there was another plan that could be acceptable, was doomed to fail. There cannot be other proposals or possibilities, Verheugen said, adding that the plan is balanced, it is the best foundation for a solution and he fully supports Kofi Annan's view that the UN should not be involved again before political will is exhibited by both sides in a credible manner.
He said Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos has informed all his visitors that he is ready to resume the negotiations and that he is looking for a solution within the framework and parameters of the Annan Plan. However, he said he could not say the same thing for Denktash who in a very clear manner has said the Annan Plan is dead and buried and a solution cannot be found on the basis of this plan.
The German Commissioner expressed the view that the peace process should continue. He said on 14th December there would be ''elections'' in the Turkish occupied areas of the island, which are recognised only by Turkey. Politically speaking, they have no value. Without recognising the illegal regime, he added, these ''elections'' will possibly have value if the Turkish Cypriot opposition wants a reunification, a solution. At that moment, Verheugen noted, the road to a solution will open because the Turkish Cypriot opposition wants a reunification, a solution based on the Annan Plan and they want to enter the EU.
''We have signs that these elections will not be like the elections we know, regarding their democratic framework, but we insisted that Turkey should not be involved in Cyprus issues'', Verheugen added.
He noted that often persons who have been given the right to vote are of Turkish origin. The Commissioner said that a solution by 1st May 2004 is desirable and that the opposition's victory would allow the resumption of the peace process.
Regarding Turkey, the Commissioner said a Cyprus settlement is not a precondition for accession to the EU, noting however that there is a political relationship between the two issues. He said Turkey does not hold all the keys to a solution in its hands, but if no solution is found by that time, then the issue will become complicated. It is a legal problem and Turkey will not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, ''therefore we have a candidate country (Turkey) which will not respect the rules'', he said.
Verheugen noted that the UN Security Council has repeatedly said that the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus is contrary to international law and an accession agreement with a country with troops in another is incomprehensible.