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Annan assures of continued UN assistance to peace effort
2002-05-16 11:08:54

Larnaca, May 16 (CNA) -- UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said the UN will do "whatever it takes" to help the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides to successfully conclude the peace talks they embarked on earlier this year, telling both parties repeatedly that if they want to they can bring peace to their island.

Speaking on departure for Indonesia and East Timor, after talks with both sides, Annan said he leaves satisfied with his talks here and pointed out that the two sides need to move away from their entrenched positions and show will and inspiration to achieve substantial progress by the end of June.

The UN chief said he has asked Greece and Turkey to contribute to this effort and said the people in Cyprus have expressed to him their desire for peace and encouraged him to work towards this goal.

"In the discussions I had, my sense is that the two men can do it if they find the will, and the timetable of June in my judgment can be met if they focus on the core issues now in a spirit of give and take," Annan said replying to questions from the press.

He said having spoken to both sides, he believed it could be done and called on Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who has indicated that June might be too soon, to find the will and the inspiration to work for peace.

Asked whether his Special Adviser Alvaro de Soto would play a more energetic role in the talks, Annan said he would stay on the island as long as it takes, until the end of June when there will be assessment of the situation to see how far the core issues have been cracked and then look ahead.

He assured, however, that he himself, in the spirit of his good offices, will be helping the process along, and both de Soto and himself will assist the parties as they move forward.

Invited to clarify the ways the UN would apply to assist the parties, he replied "we will do whatever it takes to help the parties get to a successful conclusion", noting that at times one does a lot and at other times less in a negotiating process.

Asked if the UN intend to put concrete ideas on the negotiating table, he said "I am prepared to help them, assist them and facilitate the talks, my representative here, de Soto, who is on the ground, will help them in the coming months and I myself will stay close to the process from New York."

Replying to questions, he said wherever he went people encouraged him to convince the two leaders to work for peace and referred once again to an "historic opportunity" for a solution.

"I think both sides need to move away from their entrenched positions, then proceed on a genuine, determined basis, and on a give and take basis we will make progress," he said.

He assured the people of Cyprus that "I and the organisation are going to work with the two leaders to bring peace as soon as we can."

"I still believe we can make substantial progress by the end of June and I would urge everyone concerned to really focus on the core issue so that we can move forward," he said, and urged personally Denktash to focus on the core issues, despite his doubts about meeting the June target date for progress, which Denktash first mentioned when talks began. "I genuinely believe that if they focus on the core issues and put the interest of the people first and are determined to make peace, it can be done, and it can be done this year," he added.

He promised to return to Cyprus to lift a glass of champagne and celebrate if the leaders succeed.

Asked if European Union accession can help the peace effort, he said if a reunited Cyprus were to join the EU, it would be in the interest of the island and the region.

"I have also urged the neighbouring countries to sustain and support this effort," he said, referring to Greece and Turkey.

Invited to say whether he was leaving empty-handed, he said he was going away "satisfied."
Asked if he leaves the island more confident that a solution can be reached by June, he replied "if you resolve the core issues by June and begin to put them in writing, you are beginning to see the end of the tunnel" but explained that he did not mean that by June they should have a signed and sealed agreement but at least they should be able to have resolved the core issues.

The Secretary General refused to comment on Turkish Cypriot demands for separate sovereignty, saying it would be inappropriate to say what he thinks the two leaders should do, noting also that the two men are discussing all issues.

Annan was the first Secretary General to have visited Cyprus in the past 20 years or so. Kurt Waldheim was here in 1979.|

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