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Top UN envoy believes enlarged talks ''unavoidable''
2004-03-15 15:18:06

Nicosia, Mar 15 (CNA) -- Alvaro de Soto, UN Secretary General's special advisor on Cyprus, believes that enlarged talks with the participation of Greece and Turkey, in addition to the current participants of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides, are inevitable to help move the peace process forward.

Speaking after his first separate meeting with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, following three weeks of direct talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, de Soto said he hoped that this procedure would help solve pending issues the two leaders are discussing.

The UN envoy said Sir Kieran Prendergast, UN Under Secretary for Political Affairs, arrives on the island tomorrow but his programme of work has not actually been discussed.

Papadopoulos is due to have another meeting tomorrow with de Soto. This afternoon the UN envoy will see Denktash.

Responding to questions, de Soto said his meeting was ''useful'' but also noted that he considered the direct talks useful as well.

''They were useful but this one was a useful meeting and I think we may be able to get some more progress in this procedure,'' he added.

He said the give and take process had not yet quite begun because, as he explained, this was his first meeting with Papadopoulos and a first meeting of this kind with Denktash will follow this afternoon.

Asked what he hoped to achieve by the end of this new process of separate meetings, he replied ''what we would hope to be able to achieve is further moves towards solving the issues that they have before them, as many as possible, before the next stage.''

The UN official said the next stage of the talks, that includes Greece and Turkey was inevitable.

''At this stage yes (it is inevitable), I would say there is a lot of progress being made but I think it is unavoidable that issues would be still pending by the 22 March and that we will have to go on to the other one,'' he said.

De Soto said that preparations are in fact being made for the next stage of the negotiations and he had been in consultations with Greece and Turkey about the question of their involvement.

''So we are moving in that direction,'' he added.

De Soto refrained from any comment on the venue of the enlarged talks but confirmed that the UN would like to move off the island in the next week.

''I do not want to say anything definite until formal proposals or invitations are put to the parties,'' he pointed out.

De Soto, who was accompanied by his assistants, and others at the Presidential Palace observed a three-minute silence in honour of the victims of last Thursday's terrorist attack in Madrid that left about 200 people dead.

Papadopoulos and Denktash have been engaged in direct talks since February 19 with a view at reaching agreement on a UN proposal for a comprehensive settlement by 22 March. If they fail, Greece and Turkey would join in the talks to help conclude a deal but should that attempt fail as well, Kofi Annan would step in to finalise the proposal under discussion, which will then be put to a referendum for the people of Cyprus to decide.

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