Papadopoulos and Simitis welcome UNSG's initiative
by Christa Nicolaou
Athens, Feb 9 (CNA) - Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis expressed here today identity of views on the handling of the Cyprus problem.
Simitis and Papadopoulos have welcomed the UN Secretary-General's new initiative to invite the two sides on the island to talks in New York tomorrow and reiterated their countries' readiness to resume negotiations aimed at a Cyprus settlement immediately.
''Following the invitation by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the immediate resumption of the Cyprus peace process, we deemed necessary with Mr. Papadopoulos to meet today. We welcome the Secretary- General's new initiative that aims at a reunited Cyprus joining the EU on May 1'', Simitis told a joint news conference.
He noted that the UN chief's deadline is very slim and coincides with the pre-election period in Greece.
Simitis said, however, ''we are responding to the invitation because Greece and the Republic of Cyprus remain focused on the UN peace process, according to Security Council resolutions''.
Referring to the question of security, which directly involves Greece, Simitis said ''the issue will be handled by the new Greek government to emerge from the March 7 elections''.
The Greek Prime Minister said he exchanged views with Papadopoulos on the negotiating procedure and the substance of the talks, noting that ''our common aim remains a viable and functional comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of UN and Security Council decisions, the fundamental principles of the acquis communautaire, the full respect of human rights''.
Commenting on the stance of the Turkish side, Simitis said ''it is up to Turkey and the Denktash regime to prove that they really want a settlement of the political problem within the UN framework''.
Simitis said there was now an opportunity to solve the Cyprus problem in a manner that would allow the lifting of the Turkish occupation and the accession to the EU of a reunited island.
Papadopoulos said the Cypriot government's firm policy was to respond to every invitation from Kofi Annan for talks. ''We are also ready this time to resume negotiations'', he added, noting that there has been a serious preparation to fill in the gaps.
The Cypriot President also noted the contribution of the Greek government to fulfilling Cyprus' EU accession course.
Replying to questions, Simitis said ''the international community and all parties involved want us to propose those issues that would lead to peace in the region''.
Referring to tomorrow's discussion at the Greek parliament to ratify the Accession Treaty of the 10 new EU members, including Cyprus, Simitis said ''tomorrow's decision is the conclusion of a long effort and takes on a special significance'' and expressed hope that the Cyprus talks would lead to a positive end.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The UN Secretary General has invited the two sides to New York for talks tomorrow. Both President Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash will be at UN headquarters tomorrow to meet with Kofi Annan.