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UN top envoy on Cyprus: compromise seems ''hard to digest''
2004-04-14 16:25:06

by Rebekah Gregoriades

Brussels, Apr 14 (CNA)-- The UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto said today that Cypriots are only now beginning to realise that a solution of the Cyprus problem will be a compromise that may be hard to digest but warned that if the solution plan proposed by UN chief Kofi Annan is rejected in April 24 referenda, then one would wonder if there could ever be a settlement.

Addressing a joint meeting of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee and the Delegation of the European Parliament to the Joint Parliamentary Committee with the Republic of Cyprus, that took place in Brussels, de Soto said one of the reasons there has not yet been an agreement is that the people have not come to understand that a settlement could not satisfy their aspirations fully.

He also spoke of ''massive distortion and misrepresentation of the plan'' in view of the April 24 referenda, noting that although the leaders of the two communities achieved substantial improvements to the Annan plan, they did not reach an agreement on the plan as a whole, but said ''there is little hope that the leaders would be able to come to terms even if they had an infinite amount of time at their disposal.''

The Peruvian diplomat made an extensive reference to the UN effort that led to the final solution plan proposed to the sides by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and which is set to be put to simultaneous separate referenda on April 24 in the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides.

He also referred to the main points and provisions of the Annan plan, specifically regarding governance, the supreme court, human rights, citizenship, property, territory, and security.

De Soto said ''it is no secret that, as we speak, a debate is raging on the island regarding whether the plan should be accepted or rejected in the referenda.''

''The opposition to the settlement plan of the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Rauf Denktash, has been known for some time. It has continued unabated despite the improvements for the Turkish Cypriot side contained in the 31 March final revision,'' he said.

He added that ''the strong opposition of the Greek Cypriot leader, Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos, voiced in an address to the people on the night of 7 April, in which he called on the people to respond with a resounding 'no', was a more surprising development and a source of disappointment for the Secretary General.''

De Soto noted that ''this is despite the improvements for the Greek Cypriot side in the final plan of 31 March,'' adding that ''Mr. Papadopoulos is of course aware that the UN does not agree with his analysis of the plan or the conclusion he has reached.''

The UN envoy also mentioned calls from the Greek Cypriot side for a postponement of the referenda for a few months, noting that forces in the Turkish Cypriot side are ''campaigning strongly in favour of an affirmative vote in the referendum and do not want the referendum postponed.''

He added that though the leaders ''achieved substantial improvements'' to the Annan plan during their talks, ''they did not reach an agreement on the plan as a whole.''

''Based on recent experience, there is little hope that the leaders would be able to come to terms even if they had an infinite amount of time at their disposal,'' he noted.

Referring to the reasons why no agreement has been reached yet, de Soto said ''part of the problem has been that over the years, indeed the decades, it has not been explained to the people, clearly and convincingly, that a settlement cannot satisfy their aspirations fully,'' adding that ''expectations and illusions remain as if preserved in amber, largely untrammeled by information of reality.''

''It is only now, when the people actually have to take a decision, that the reality is sinking in,'' de Soto said.

He noted that ''on the Greek Cypriot side, people are having to accept that a settlement will not magically bring about a return to the situation that existed prior to 1974, with all Turkish settlers and soldiers going away and everyone recovering their houses, and the re-establishment of majority rule.''

''The Turkish Cypriots are having to accept that a settlement means that all but the Treaty-allowed Turkish troops must in due course leave, that the state they created in 1983 will not be recognised by the wider international community as a separate entity, that many will have to leave their dwellings, and that they will have to give up territory,'' he said.

De Soto added that ''for both sides, the concept of a federal solution, long advocated by the Greek Cypriot side as a compromise and accepted by the Security Council, seems difficult to digest.''

The Peruvian diplomat noted that the Annan plan ''confronts the people with a realistic basis for a settlement,'' adding that ''people are disoriented.''

He said the people have to make a decision and ''are receiving precious little impartial guidance in taking that decision.''

''To the contrary, massive distortion and misrepresentation of the plan is occurring and people have little resource but to actually read a long and complex text. People are being misled into thinking that if this plan is not accepted another will come along after it. People do not understand that rejection of this plan is tantamount to indefinite continuation of the status quo,'' he noted.

The UN envoy said ''rejecting a settlement involving compromise is, in a sense, a low-risk route but rejecting the plan that is now before the people, which is undeniably a substantial improvement on the plan that received the backing of the UN Security Council as a unique basis for a settlement, and which the EU is committed to accommodate, raised the question whether there can ever be a settlement.''

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